Thanks to the Apple iPad, many are aware of what an in-plane switching (IPS) display is and its convenience. Nowadays, the majority of tablets in the market feature an IPS display. A significant advantage of this display is the wide viewing angles, enabling the colors to stay true from any angle.
Displays that are not IPS, such as the TN (twisted nematic) technology that many laptops feature, tend to wash out and distort the colors when you’re not looking at them from a straight angle.
The difference between them is pretty astounding; the same image in an Apple iPad screen, compared to on an Acer Laptop TN screen, shows much better colors at various angles. For those who can’t play videos at work or just prefer images, this is a side-by-side shot of the iPad (on the left) and Acer laptop (on the right) showing how colors are at an angle over 45 degrees from viewing:
After this comparison, one might wonder why won’t all laptops use an IPS screen instead of a TN technology screen. The easy answer is that IPS is more expensive. If you’re buying a $500 15-inch TN-type screen laptop, it’s probably not worth it to you to spend an extra $100–$150 required to upgrade to an IPS style display. Most people buy a laptop based on price and then look at features like the processor, screen size, hard drive size, and RAM amount. The screen quality and type is an afterthought for most customers, so manufacturers have little incentive to make laptops with an IPS display.
So, who might be more interested in and needs to look into an IPS display on a laptop? Photographers, designers, video editors, animation artists, and technophiles, to name just a few. The main advantages to an IPS display over TN are summarized below:
IPS has Better Color Gamut – An IPS display compared to TN has a better color gamut. IPS monitors have accurate 8-bit color representation while TN has only 6-bits. This means a TN panel is limited to 65,536 colors, while an IPS panel is closer to the 16.7-million colors a typical graphics card can produce. This also means an IPS display can give full-color reproduction with no dithering, while TN panels cannot and have to dither the colors it cannot reproduce. Of course, this color gamut advantage is significant to those whose work depends on producing accurate true to life images and video.
IPS has Better Color Accuracy – This goes hand-in-hand with having a better color gamut; it is easier to calibrate an IPS display and get accurate colors. Blacks appear black, reds appear red, and whites appear white.
IPS has Better Viewing Angles – This is the feature most noticeable to the average eye, and it is easy to demonstrate. IPS displays can have viewing angles up to 178-degrees wide, while TN panels might be as little as 10–15 degrees before color shifting occurs.
These advantages of IPS display are all excellent, and you’re probably asking, “great, where can I get a laptop with an IPS display?”. The amount of laptops with an IPS display on the market at this time is limited; that’s why it is not easy to find them. Here’s a short list:
- Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display (15.6″, 2880 x 1800, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
- Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display (13.1″, 2560 x 1600, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
- Asus UX32VD and UX31A (13.3″, 1920 x 1080, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
- Dell Precision M4600 (15.6″, 1920×1080, IPS, matte)
- Dell Precision M4700 (15.6″, 1920 x 1080, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
- Dell Precision M6600 (17.3”, 1920×1080,IPS, matte)
- Dell Precision M6700 (17.3″, 1920 x 1080, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
- HP EliteBook 8560w (15.6″, 1920×1080, IPS, matte)
- HP EliteBook 8570w (15.6″, 1920×1080, IPS, matte)
- HP EliteBook 8760w (17.3″, 1920-1080, IPS, matte)
- HP EliteBook 8770w (17.3″, 1920×1080,IPS,matte) new for 2012!
- HP ENVY Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook 15t-4000 (15.6″, 19280 x 1080, IPS, glossy) new for 2012!
- Lenovo ThinkPad X220 (12.5″, 1366×768, IPS, matte)
- Lenovo ThinkPad X230 (12.5″, 1366 x 768, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
- LG XNote P330 (13.3”, 1366 x 768, IPS, matte) currently not available in North America
- HP Envy 15 (15.6”, 1920×1080, IPS, glossy with anti-glare coating)
- Samsung Series 9 NP900X3B (13.3″, 1600 x 900, IPS, matte)
- Sony VAIO SE (15.6″, 1920 x 1080, IPS, glossy with anti-glare coating)
If we include Windows-based tablets, we can expand the list to more:
- Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet Convertible (X220t) (12.5″, 1366 x 768, IPS, matte)
- Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Tablet Convertible (X230t) (12.5″, 1366 x 768, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
- Lenovo ThinkPad Twist (12.5″, 1366 x 768, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
- Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga (13″, 1600 x 900, IPS, glossy) new for 2012!
- HP Elitebook 2760p Tablet Convertible (12.1″, 1280 x 800, IPS, matte)
- Fujitsu Stylus Q550 Slate Tablet (10.1″, 1280 x 800, IPS, matte)
- HP Envy x2 (11.6″, 1366 x 768, IPS, matte) new for 2012!
So, of the hundreds of laptop models for sale these days, there are only seven dedicated laptops with a confirmed IPS display, and the LG P330 is hard to find anywhere but in Korea, so let’s count just six. There are laptops known for having excellent TN based screens with some IPS-like qualities, but we’ll discuss those along with some disadvantages to IPS in an upcoming article. For now, we can stay focused on IPS availability and advantages.
So why are there so few laptops with an IPS display? You’ll notice that those IPS laptops being sold are mostly business laptops with a high price tag, meaning they’re targeted at a niche audience that is willing to pay up for a better display.
With tablets becoming more popular and people becoming more aware of IPS display advantages, we might see an uptick in offerings. For instance, the ThinkPad X Series did not offer IPS until this year since it could be that the iPad was viewed as competition for a smaller laptop. With 2012 here, we’ll be looking for a refresh of laptops when Intel releases Ivy Bridge in the Spring, and at that time, there will be a flood of new laptops. We’ll see then if IPS screens make it into more of those upcoming 2012 laptops.