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Sharp starts punching out IGZO LCDs for retina screens

Apple 'iTV' contender?

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They came too late for the iPad 3, but Sharp has now begun producing ultra-high resolution LCD panels based on its IGZO technology.

Sharp today said it was making available 32in, 3840 x 2160 panels - that's 140 dots per inch - for monitors, plus 10in, 2560 x 1600 (300dpi) and 7in, 1280 x 800 (217dpi) for tablets.

IGZO stands for Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide, and it's the semiconducting material Sharp is using for its transparent thin-film transistors, the core component of today's LCDs.

IGZO's advantage over the amorphous silicon found in most existing TFTs - and many of those from which new screens are still being produced - is greater electron mobility. IGZO TFTs are up to 40 per cent more efficient than amorphous silicon transistors.

The upshot: IGZO screens can contain smaller pixels that are able change their state more quickly than those made from amorphous silicon can.

Smaller pixels also mean that more light can pass through them, so backlights need not be so bright. That makes them less power hungry - 33 per cent less for a given screen size, Sharp has said.

But more relevantly, it makes "retina display" resolutions available to large and small screens. The 32in panel's 140dpi may not sound much, but a 21.5in 1920 x 1080 display works out at 103dpi. Given a 32in screen would sit further back, that's going to give you what is near-as-darnit a retina display.

Sharp actually started production last month, but it has now ramped up output sufficiently to start shipping screens to customers. It said it would be "expanding production scale through April to meet market demand".

It's tempting to tie Sharp's news in with ongoing Apple 'iTV' rumours, the latest of which have the Mac Maker looking to ramp up production through Q2 - perfect timing, according to Sharp's schedule - and earlier claims that it'll be a 32in job.

A nice thought, but there's nothing here that gives any weight to the claims. ®

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