What Does TFT LCD Mean?

Learn what is meant by a TFT display

A 3.2-inch, touch-enabled TFT-LCD designed for the Raspberry Pi. Waveshare

TFT stands for thin-film-transistor, and is used with LCD to improve image quality over older technologies. Each pixel on a TFT LCD has its own transistor on the glass itself, which offers more control over the images and colors that it renders. 

Since the transistors in a TFT LCD screen are so small, the technology offers the added benefit of requiring less power. However, while TFT LCDs can deliver sharp images, they also tend to offer relatively poor viewing angles.

This means that TFT LCDs look best when viewed head-on; it's often difficult to view images from the side.

TFT LCDs are found on low-end smartphones, or feature phones, as well as basic cell phones. The technology is also used on TVs, handheld video game systems, monitors, navigation systems, etc.

How Do TFT LCD Screens Work?

All the pixels on a TFT LCD screen are configured in a row and column format, and each pixel is attached to an amorphous silicon transistor that rests directly on the glass panel.

This setup allows each pixel to be given a charge and for the charge to be kept even when the screen is refreshed to produce a new image.

What this means is that the state of a particular pixel is being actively maintained even while other pixels are being used. This is why TFT LCDs are considered active matrix displays (as opposed to passive matrix).

Newer Screen Technologies

Lots of smartphone manufacturers use IPS-LCD (Super LCD), which provide wide viewing angles and richer colors, but newer ones feature displays that utilize OLED or Super-AMOLED technology.

For example, Samsung's flagship smartphones boast OLED panels, while most of Apple's iPhones and iPads come equipped with an IPS-LCD.

Both technologies have their own pros and cons but are miles better than TFT LCD technology. See Super AMOLED vs Super LCD: What's the Difference? for more information.