What are IP ratings and how much protection do they offer

By Swapnil Mathur | Published on 22 Apr 2018
What are IP ratings and how much protection do they offer
HIGHLIGHTS

Ever wonder what the difference between IP65 and IP67 was? What do those number even mean? Here' a quick guide to everything you need to know about your device' IP rating

Plenty of smartphone and other device manufacturers are now toting water and dust resistance as a key selling point for their devices. Device specifications now list IP67 or IP65 or similar ratings, corresponding to water and dust resistance, but have you ever wondered what these numbers are and what they signify? Not all ratings are created equal, and hence they should not give you the same amount of peace of mind. These ratings, which may appear to be just numbers, do carry significant meaning and it is essential to understand what each of them means before you decide to get adventurous with your smartphone. However, before we get into explaining what they mean, lets first understand why we need these ratings in the first place.

Why The Ratings
Okay, so the manufacturer says the phone is water resistant, but how “resistant” is it? Can you take it underwater for a swim or can it only withstand gentle rainfall? Will it survive an accidental spill? Similarly, just how much dust (and of what kind) infiltration can your device withstand without frying its circuits? There are so many different scenarios, so there was a need to standardize the level of abuse a device could withstand. Each rating tells you not only how much water or dust it can withstand, under what conditions. This standardization is what allows manufacturers equal footing when it comes to claiming water and dust resistance.

Understanding IPXX
When you see an IP67 rating, each character has a meaning of its own. IP stands for Ingress Protection, a code that must comply with the international IEC 60529 standard for a “device enclosure.” If a code begins with IP, its talking about water and dust resistance. The two numbers that follow “IP” also denote very different things.

The First ‘X’
The first number after the IP code denotes the device’s degree of protection against the entry of foreign solid objects. It ranges from 0-6, sometimes the 0 being replaced by an X. In this case, the device was not evaluated for dust resistance, and does not neccessarily signify a lack of dust resistence.. Interestingly, the 0-4 rating for particulate matter is a fairly simple test based on particle size, but for a rating of 5 or 6, the test is fairly complex. In order to have a rating of 5 or 6 for dust resistance, the device is hung in a dust-test chamber containing specially sized grains of talcum powder. Then, a vacuum line is introduced which will either create airflow (if the seals are leaky) or negative pressure (if they hold). The test runs of 8 hours or 80 volumes of air exchange and requires that the vacuum line does not exceed a rate of 60 volumes per hour. Depending on the results of the test, an IP5X rating is given if some talcum powder gets inside the device but does not impact its performance and an IP6X rating is given when no powder breaches the device surface.

Numeral Characterization of Ingress Limit
0 No Protection
1 ≥50.0 mm diameter entering casing with force of 50 N
2 ≥12.5 mm diameter entering casing with force of 30 N
3 ≥2.5 mm diameter entering casing with force of 3 N
4 ≥1.0 mm diameter entering casing with force of 1 N
5 Some talcum permitted inside the enclosure provided it does not impact safety or operation.
6 No talcum permitted inside

The Second X
 Interestingly, the second X in the IP code actually caters to four distinct categories of tests; determining protection against dripping (IPX1, IPX2), spraying and splashing (IPX3, IPX4), jetting (IPX5, IPX6), and encompassing water (IPX7, IPX8). The criteria to pass these test is that in the event of a moisture breach, the safe and normal functioning of the device should not be impacted. Of these, let’s just consider the last ratings, IPX7 and IPX8, which deal with submersion of the device in water. In order to have an IPX7 rating, the device is submerged under water in such a way where the lowest point of the enclosure should be 100 cm below the surface of the water, and the highest point at least 15 cm below the surface. The device is then kept there for 30 minutes. Ideally, this is the highest level of standardized water resistance you can get on a phone, but an IPX8 rating ‘could’ be higher. In order to have an IPX8 rating, the test time and submersion depth are according to the manufacturer’s specifications and must be marked on the product. For example, a smartphone may have an IPX8 rating, but if it does carry one, it must specify the test conditions, along with having passed them as well.

Numeral Characterization of Ingress Limit
0 No Protection against water
1 Water dripping from above for minimum 10 minutes
2 Water dripping from above when the device is rotated 15-degrees in any direction for minimum 10 minutes
3 Spray of water from any direction when the device is rotated up to 60-degrees from vertical for up to 10 minutes.
4 Splash of water in any direction for at least 5 minutes
5 Spray of water (12.5 litres per minute) in any direction for up to 3 minutes
6 Spray of water (100 litres per minute) in any direction for up to 3 minutes
7 Complete submersion up to 1 meter for at least 30 minutes
8 Defined by the manufacturer, must be higher than IPX7 with clearly defined conditions 

But there is STILL a Catch
Interestingly, the IPXX rating system does not account for liquids, but only water. The system does not even account for seawater, which contains salt. What this means is that liquids such as milk, or hot liquids like tea or coffee could, in some consideration still cause liquid damage. Furthermore, if liquid (even water) isn’t completely removed from internal ports such as the charging port of the headphone jack, it will most definitely cause a short-circuit if you connect your charger or even a pair of headphones. Dust could have a similar impact if it is conductive in nature (such as fine rock dust). So here are the most common IP rating you will see on various devices, along with what they mean. 

IP Rating Common Device Type Dust Protection Water Protection
IPX2/IPX3 earphones not rated Bassic protection from dripping water, ideal for gym use
IPX4 earphones/headphone/watches not rated Protected from splashing water, such as accidental sills
IPX5 Buletooth Speakers not rated Protected from stream of water and splashing water, but not rated for any protection against dust.
IPX7 Watches & Smartwatches not rated Protected even when submerged in water up to 3 feet
IP66 CCTV cameras Dust cannot get inside Completely protected heavy jets of water like heavy rain
IP67 Smartphones, Bluetooth speakers Dust cannot get inside Device will survive being submerged in water3 feet deep for up to 30 minutes
IP68 Smartphones Dust cannot get inside Manufacturer must specify, must be higher than protection offered by IPX7

 

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Swapnil Mathur

Digit's resident camera nerd, (un)official product photographer and the Reviews Editor

Digit caters to the largest community of tech buyers, users and enthusiasts in India. The all new Digit in continues the legacy of Thinkdigit.com as one of the largest portals in India committed to technology users and buyers. Digit is also one of the most trusted names when it comes to technology reviews and buying advice and is home to the Digit Test Lab, India's most proficient center for testing and reviewing technology products.

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