Sharp's IGZO display tech: Think iPad Mini -- and Dell's XPS 15

Sharp is best known for supplying the display for Apple's iPad Mini Retina. But at CES, Sharp was showing off its IGZO tech on the latest laptops.

Sharp makes the IGZO display on the 3,200x1,800 Dell XPS 15.
Sharp makes the IGZO display on the 3,200x1,800 Dell XPS 15. Dell

LAS VEGAS -- The iPad Mini Retina isn't the only product out there using Sharp's IGZO tech.

Sharp was showing off the 3,200x1,800 IGZO display on the 15.6-inch Dell XPS 15.

For those keeping track, that edges out the resolution on Apple's 15.4-inch MacBook Pro Retina. Dell's comes to 229 pixels per inch, while the MacBook Pro's is 220.

Sharp was also parading the 3,200x1,800 display on the Fujitsu UH90/M laptop.

(That said, Samsung wins the laptop pixel density wars with its Ativ Book 9 Plus , which shrinks a 3,200x1,800 display to 13.3 inches.)

Sharp's booth at CES was decked out with signs and banners touting IGZO. Sharp claims IGZO has "higher electron mobility" compared to conventional amorphous silicon displays, which means that more current can pass through the thin-film transistor. That allows Sharp to build smaller transistors, which, in turn, allows more light to come through the back of the display.

Translation: thinner, lower-cost displays that can still deliver high pixel densities.

Which brings us to the 326-pixels-per-inch iPad Mini Retina.

While neither Sharp nor Apple will comment on the Mini Retina, analysts have pointed to Sharp as one of the principal suppliers of the IGZO display on the Apple tablet.

"Sharp is still ramping up [IGZO] production," said Paul Semenza, an analyst at DisplaySearch, in response to an e-mail query.

"They have sold some panels for mobile phones but the main focus now is the iPad mini with Retina. We expect the production to increase significantly this year," he said.

But IGZO has its detractors. Apple's Mini Retina was beaten handily by Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 in a display shoot-out by DisplayMate Technologies.

Apple failed to deliver an adequate color range -- referred to as color gamut -- on the Mini Retina, according to Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate.

Sharp at CES: The Japanese company was showing a 14-inch display with QHD+ (3,200x1,800) resolution.
Sharp at CES: The Japanese company was showing a 14-inch display with QHD+ (3,200x1,800) resolution. Brooke Crothers
About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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