iPad Air 2 glass cover has 2.5% screen reflectance vs. 8% reflectance for sapphire

Posted:
in iPad edited November 2014
Apple fans still hoping the company will adopt a scratch-resistant sapphire cover for the iPhone in the near future should temper their expectations, as one display expert believes the impressive anti-reflective glass coating on the iPad Air 2 display is instead the way of the future.




In a new commentary, Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies noted that the new anti-reflection screen on Apple's iPad Air 2 has a screen reflectance level of just 2.5 percent. He said that's by far the lowest level he has ever measured on a tablet or smartphone, with previous record holders not able to beat around 4.5 percent.

The display expert said he doesn't expect Apple to utilize sapphire in future iPhone screens because the material by itself has a very high 8 percent reflectance rate. If Apple were to put the same anti-reflective coating found on the iPad Air 2 onto a mythical sapphire iPhone, it would defeat the purpose of the sapphire by placing a softer coating on top that is more susceptible to scratches.

In short, a sapphire cover with an anti-reflectance coating would lose main selling point over traditional glass: superior scratch resistance.




"Anti-reflection coatings are used in just about all high-end lenses and related optics," Soneira explained. "The problem is that most coatings scratch easily and show fingerprints easily. Apple (or more likely one of its suppliers) has found something that doesn't scratch easily or show fingerprints and works well on tablet and smartphone touch screens."

Soneira's tests show that the lower reflectance rate on the iPad Air 2 improves screen readability, image contrast, and color saturation in ambient light by a margin of nearly two to one over its predecessor.

Rumors of sapphire screens from Apple came about after the company signed a $578 million contract with GT Advanced Technologies, a maker of advanced sapphire material. Apple uses sapphire to protect the Touch ID fingerprint sensors found on the iPhone and iPad, as well as the rear iSight camera on some devices.

The deal with GTAT fueled hopeful speculation that the iPhone 6 would feature a scratch-resistant sapphire display, eschewing the Gorilla Glass that Apple has used up until now. But those wishes didn't pan out, and Apple's deal with GT Advanced collapsed earlier this month when the company filed for bankruptcy.

In addition to Soneira's notes about reflectance and scratch resistance made Tuesday, AppleInsider also noted back in June that sapphire was an unlikely candidate for the entire display of an iPhone or iPad. In addition to being costly and allowing less light to travel through, larger pieces of sapphire are also prone to shattering when dropped, and is harder to work with in the manufacturing process.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    blah64blah64 Posts: 928member

    One need look no farther than my signature here to understand how pleased I am that they're making progress on anti-reflective coatings.

    I'm still using a mid-2009 MacBook Pro because Apple doesn't make a newer laptop that I can readily use.  Yes, they've had the custom anti-glare displays, but the pixels are so small that it adds a different kind of strain.  The iMacs have been making small improvements in recent years, but still look like mirrors to me, and I need a laptop in any case, because I work in multiple locations.

     

    I haven't yet put my hands/eyes on the iPad Air 2, but looks like I'll need to go check it out in person soon.  If it's as good as it sounds here, then I expect that in time this new tech will migrate to laptops.  Please please please please please!

  • Reply 2 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    I'm not going to speculate about sapphire vs. class and anti glare coatings, but as I said yesterday, my Air 2 is much easier to read in direct sunlight than my original Air, when directly comparing them side to side, with the same thing open on the page, despite the disappointingly lower maximum brightness. If brightness was 10% higher, to match the Air, it would be even easier to read.
  • Reply 3 of 34
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,471member

    The Air 2 does show fingerprints more, likely in part because the coating attracts more oil and partly because it's more visible against the blacker background. It's not the end of the world, though. The display cleans easily.

  • Reply 4 of 34
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

     

    The Air 2 does show fingerprints more, likely in part because the coating attracts more oil and partly because it's more visible against the blacker background. It's not the end of the world, though. The display cleans easily.


     

    I like my screens oily.

     

    It leads to improved and smoother performance when gaming. I tend not to clean my iPad display too often. If I'm just reading a book or watching a movie or something, then I'll clean it, but if I'm gaming, then hell no!

  • Reply 5 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    sog35 wrote: »
    And yet these clowns at DisplayMate still rate the Galaxy Note as the best screen for a tablet.

    They aren't clowns, and you should look at their tests for the other screens. They have a link at the bottom of the page.
  • Reply 6 of 34
    jusephejusephe Posts: 108member
    cpsro wrote: »
    The Air 2 does show fingerprints more, likely in part because the coating attracts more oil and partly because it's more visible against the blacker background. It's not the end of the world, though. The display cleans easily.

    There is still an oleophobic coating on top of that anti-reflective coating.....
  • Reply 7 of 34
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    melgross wrote: »
    sog35 wrote: »
    And yet these clowns at DisplayMate still rate the Galaxy Note as the best screen for a tablet.
    They aren't clowns, and you should look at their tests for the other screens. They have a link at the bottom of the page.

    1) I thought he recently rated the iPhone 6 as the best.

    2) It was weird that he ignored the iPhone 5S last year considering it's the best selling smartphone in the world.
  • Reply 8 of 34
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,471member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jusephe View Post



    There is still an oleophobic coating on top of that anti-reflective coating.....

    That's why it cleans so easily, but the display still picks up oil.

  • Reply 9 of 34
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,471member

    Sapphire may still hold potential. A thinner sapphire cover sheet might be possible, and the electrical characteristics of sapphire are better for a touch display (and Touch ID). Even if the AR coating isn't as durable as sapphire, it's better to have a coating scratched than the underlying glass. Are the coatings on the Air 2 even more scratch-resistant than Gorilla Glass 3? I doubt it--in which case, writing that the AR coating is less scratch-resistant than sapphire doesn't mean much.

  • Reply 10 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    1) I thought he recently rated the iPhone 6 as the best.

    2) It was weird that he ignored the iPhone 5S last year considering it's the best selling smartphone in the world.

    I believe he said that it was the best iPhone screen ever other than for the higher resolution of the 6+.

    But now that Samsung is finally calibrating their AMOLED screens, the color is slightly better. Apple always falls down on their ludicrously high white point. I've never understood why Apple insists in setting this to 7,000K, when the standard is 6,500K. The Air 2 lost points because it's even worse, at 7,300K. The Samsung is close to the ideal 6,500K.

    This is something that Apple sets when calibrating the display. If they prefer 7,000+K, then at least offer the option of setting it to 6,500K in the brightness adjustment section. That's not hard for them to do. Or allow monitor calibrators to connect to the port, and adjust the display. I can make an adjustment with the Spyder calibrator, but it only works with their own app to display photos. And it's complex to do because it works through the Mac.
  • Reply 11 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    cpsro wrote: »
    That's why it cleans so easily, but the display still picks up oil.

    Everything picks up oil. That's not the problem as it can't be prevented. Easy removal is the only solution. The oleophobic coating is the only good solution. Using Apple's cover, or another one with similar properties helps to eliminate the dirt.
  • Reply 12 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    cpsro wrote: »
    Sapphire may still hold potential. A thinner sapphire cover sheet might be possible, and the electrical characteristics of sapphire are better for a touch display (and Touch ID). Even if the AR coating isn't as durable as sapphire, it's better to have a coating scratched than the underlying glass. Are the coatings on the Air 2 even more scratch-resistant than Gorilla Glass 3? I doubt it--in which case, writing that the AR coating is less scratch-resistant than sapphire doesn't mean much.

    That's true. But many of these coatings can recover from a fine scratch
  • Reply 13 of 34
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,510member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    1) I thought he recently rated the iPhone 6 as the best.

    2) It was weird that he ignored the iPhone 5S last year considering it's the best selling smartphone in the world.

    Best LCD screen. The Samsung is best overall, but it uses AMOLED, which Soneira has no objection to. I have not seen him comment on blue pixel lifetime, for example, which is an issue that Apple would definitely factor into their commitment to LCD vs OLED. Five years blue pixel lifetime would be too short for Apple, I think.

    The thing that gets me about Soneira is his simple-minded criticisms of Apple's production decisions. He talks as if Apple could switch to OLED if they wanted to (from whom? Samsung? Fat chance.). He rags on the iPad mini screen, blithely ignoring that there is/was no supply of IGZO or LTPS anywhere that could screen the mini, and lately he takes the troll approach of calling Apple's drive for thinness an "obsession."

    He's clearly got a new editor cleaning up his copy, but he still needs somebody to tell him that he sounds like he's working for Samsung.

    Maybe he is.

    Edit: Mel Gross has an important thing to say about white color temp above, which is an area where Soneira shows his usefulness.
  • Reply 14 of 34
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post



    I'm not going to speculate about sapphire vs. class and anti glare coatings, but as I said yesterday, my Air 2 is much easier to read in direct sunlight than my original Air, when directly comparing them side to side, with the same thing open on the page, despite the disappointingly lower maximum brightness. If brightness was 10% higher, to match the Air, it would be even easier to read.



    Hey melgross,

     

    Could you elaborate on the 10% lower brightness of the Air 2? Is it noticeable or do you have to have the original Air side-by-side to see the difference? I looked at the new Air 2s at an apple store the other day and just at first glance, didn't notice a brightness difference. But that could change upon getting it home in a familiar environment and then going, "Shit! why can't I turn up the brightness!"

     

    I run my monitors pretty maxed out in the brightness dept. during the day.

  • Reply 15 of 34
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member

    Interesting point about glare and coatings. I wear a Rolex and one of the things that is interesting about the sapphire is its incredibly reflectivity. You can look at your watch and easily see your reflection in full color. It's a good thing you most often look at the time from an oblique angle. You can also annoy the hell out of people by reflecting the sun off your watch onto unsuspecting people's faces. That's a hoot.

     

    If Apple went with sapphire in the future, they'd undoubtedly coat it with something to remove these fun but obtrusive properties.

  • Reply 16 of 34
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    bugsnw wrote: »
    Interesting point about glare and coatings. I wear a Rolex and one of the things that is interesting about the sapphire is its incredibly reflectivity. You can look at your watch and easily see your reflection in full color. It's a good thing you most often look at the time from an oblique angle. You can also annoy the hell out of people by reflecting the sun off your watch onto unsuspecting people's faces. That's a hoot.

    If Apple went with sapphire in the future, they'd undoubtedly coat it with something to remove these fun but obtrusive properties.

    A possible alternative to coating might be doping the sapphire do reduce reflectance. I'm not sure whether that has been fully explored yet.
  • Reply 17 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    flaneur wrote: »
    Best LCD screen. The Samsung is best overall, but it uses AMOLED, which Soneira has no objection to. I have not seen him comment on blue pixel lifetime, for example, which is an issue that Apple would definitely factor into their commitment to LCD vs OLED. Five years blue pixel lifetime would be too short for Apple, I think.

    The thing that gets me about Soneira is his simple-minded criticisms of Apple's production decisions. He talks as if Apple could switch to OLED if they wanted to (from whom? Samsung? Fat chance.). He rags on the iPad mini screen, blithely ignoring that there is/was no supply of IGZO or LTPS anywhere that could screen the mini, and lately he takes the troll approach of calling Apple's drive for thinness an "obsession."

    He's clearly got a new editor cleaning up his copy, but he still needs somebody to tell him that he sounds like he's working for Samsung.

    Maybe he is.

    Edit: Mel Gross has an important thing to say about white color temp above, which is an area where Soneira shows his usefulness.

    I've been thinking about the white point. Remembering problems with calibrating monitors, it occurred to me that Apple has a point to keeping the white point high. It's not as good a reason as I would like, but it is valid, in its own way.

    In the "old" days, we would try to calibrate our monitors to the 5,000K standard. That's because light boxes were 5,000K. That was the graphics standard. But, other than our Barco Calibrator displays ($16,000 in the 1990's), we couldn't do it. The only way it could be done was to lower the blue gun, and then the monitors would turn yellow, because the brightness went down so much. The Barco had enough output to raise the red and green guns.

    So as the output of the Air 2 is already somewhat lower than the Air, they seem to have raised the white point a bit, or it would have been dimmer still. I understand it, but I don't like it. I'm assuming that by making the device even thinner, requiring that smaller battery, also required Apple to turn the brightness down. That's the kind of compromise I'm not happy with.
  • Reply 18 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    muppetry wrote: »
    A possible alternative to coating might be doping the sapphire do reduce reflectance. I'm not sure whether that has been fully explored yet.

    Reflectance is a surface phenomenon. Doping it won't do much, if anything. It could affect the surface somewhat, but it would also color the material. I don't agree with the good doctor on this because multi coatings could reduce that reflectance enough. It's just more expensive to do.
  • Reply 19 of 34
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    bugsnw wrote: »

    Hey melgross,

    Could you elaborate on the 10% lower brightness of the Air 2? Is it noticeable or do you have to have the original Air side-by-side to see the difference? I looked at the new Air 2s at an apple store the other day and just at first glance, didn't notice a brightness difference. But that could change upon getting it home in a familiar environment and then going, "Shit! why can't I turn up the brightness!"

    I run my monitors pretty maxed out in the brightness dept. during the day.

    It's not much. It's hard to see the difference. But if you look closely, you can. I wouldn't worry about it too much because anywhere other than direct sunlight, the screen is way brighter than it needs to be. And the reduction in reflections does make the Air 2 easier to read outside. I'd say that the screen is good enough so that Amazon can stop their Ads showing that you can read the Kindle outdoors, but not the iPad. It's definately readable. In the shade it's fine.
  • Reply 20 of 34
    Wonder if they could do something with ion beam implantation to modify the surface reflectivity?
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