Learn More About TFT Displays

Thin-film transistors deliver precise images to displays

A 3.2-inch, touch-enabled TFT-LCD
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. The result is that TFT LCDs look best when viewed head-on; viewing images from the side is often difficult.

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, and navigation systems, and in other applications

TFT is also an abbreviation for other technical terms and phrases like time from transmission, text fix test, and Trinitron flat tube, and sometimes TFT protocol (which means trivial file transfer protocol, or TFTP).

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.

With this type of setup, 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 a 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 they each far exceed the capabilities of TFT LCD technology.