Closer Look at Samsung’s Super PLS Matrix
Although the Super PLS technology (I will call it simply “PLS” below) was introduced by Samsung back in December 2010, there is still very little information disclosed about it. PLS matrixes were first showcased as displays of mobile devices. It was even rumored that Apple took a fancy to PLS and would use it in its iPad 2 (the rumors were wrong; the iPad 2 comes with IPS matrixes). In February, some scraps of information about the first full-featured PLS-based monitor, specs and photos, emerged.
We could only make guesses as to what the new matrix was like. PLS stands for Plane-to-Line Switching which sounds similar to IPS (In-Plane Switching), so PLS was supposed to be Samsung’s version of IPS. Samsung itself compared PLS with IPS, but that didn’t prove anything. The various versions of PVA matrixes were compared to IPS as well, just because IPS matrixes are manufactured by LG, Samsung’s largest competitor. Anyway, the comparisons put an emphasis on such facts as excellent viewing angles, lack of off-angle color distortions (tonal shift), a higher brightness and a lower cost.
It must be noted that we’ve already got a successor to the IPS technology which features a higher brightness and a lower cost. It is e-IPS which is manufactured by LG and is quickly gaining in popularity. The main downside, and not a very serious one, is that black gets lighter when the screen is viewed from a side.
For you to better understand the numerous types of modern LCD matrixes, I’ll just put down their highs and lows in this brief list:
- TN: low price, low response time (below 5 milliseconds GtG), average contrast ratio (600:1), poor viewing angles (especially vertical ones), significant off-angle color distortions.
- IPS: high price, average response time (5 to 10 milliseconds GtG), average contrast ratio (600:1), excellent viewing angles, minimal off-angle color distortions.
- PVA: high price, high response time (over 10 milliseconds GtG), high contrast ratio (over 1000:1), good viewing angles, noticeable off-angle color distortions.
- C-PVA: average price, high response time (over 10 milliseconds GtG), high contrast ratio (over 1000:1), good viewing angles, noticeable off-angle color distortions.
- E-IPS: average price, average response time (5 to 10 milliseconds GtG), average contrast ratio (600:1), good viewing angles, minimal off-angle color distortions.
As you can see, e-IPS matrixes are not rivaled directly by any other technology. They are comparable in price to C-PVA matrixes but have different properties. C-PVA matrixes boast a high contrast ratio but are limited in their applications due to their imperfect color rendering and high response time. I wouldn’t dismiss them altogether, yet an LCD matrix with a response time as high as 75 milliseconds can hardly be viewed as suitable for a versatile home monitor.
So, what does Samsung offer us under the name of Super PLS? To answer this question I’ve made macro photographs of pixels of different LCD matrixes.
This is the TN matrix of a Samsung SyncMaster SA950 monitor. We see subpixels of solid colors with slanted corners. When the monitor’s brightness is reduced, the whole of a subpixel keeps on glowing. The photo lacks sharpness a little due to the antiglare coating of the screen (it’s glossy in the SA950, yet affects the quality of the photo anyway).
Here is the PVA matrix of a Dell 2407WFP at full brightness. We can see intricately shaped subpixels with a “waist” in the middle and diagonal segmentation. It’s hard to mistake this one for anything else.
This is the same PVA matrix at half brightness. Again, this matrix type is absolutely different from other technologies. We can see that only the ends of the subpixels are aglow while the middle is turned off.
That’s the e-IPS matrix of a Dell U2311H. The picture is blurred by its antiglare coating, yet we can see that each subpixel consists of two parts with a black line in the middle. The two halves of each subpixel are slightly segmented diagonally, like with PVA. As opposed to PVA, each subpixel is square and does not split in two parts at reduced brightness but keeps on glowing as a single whole.
And this is the PLS matrix of the Samsung SyncMaster SA850. It is obvious that its subpixels are closest to e-IPS. They have the same rectangular shape with a barely visible black line in the middle. It is hard to discern the details because of the monitor’s antiglare coating which, coupled with the small pixel pitch (0.233 millimeters), hindered my photographing. The subpixels of this matrix keep on glowing as a single whole at reduced brightness.
Thus, PLS matrixes do resemble e-IPS in terms of the subpixel structure as far as we can discern it. Let’s see if they also resemble e-IPS (or IPS) in technical properties. I’m going to give you an overview of the monitor’s exterior first.