In this guide, we’ll go over the differences between the most common monitor panels. We’ve compared IPS panels, TN panels, and VA panels to help give you more insight on your upcoming purchase.
Most gamers are aware of the fact that monitors come in different resolutions and screen sizes, or that monitors can have either a glossy or matte screen surface, and can offer other features such as 3D capabilities and 144HZ refresh rates.
However, the average consumer is clueless on the LCD panel technology used in their LCD monitor. A monitor’s panel type is a crucial feature that dictates how it performs as well as the kind of tasks it is best suited to accomplish. Therefore, it is important to understand panel technology so that you can be sure to choose the appropriate monitor for your gaming needs.
While choosing the appropriate monitor panel type may seem confusing, the different panel technologies are not too difficult to understand.
And, it is important for gamers to become familiar with these various panel technologies so that they can understand the variety of marketing buzzwords that companies use to describe the different LCD panel monitors on the market.
For instance, phrases like “grey-to-grey response time” and “contrast ratio” are important to understand. There are also other specifications such as “color bit-depth” and “input delay” that are good to know as well.
But ultimately, this guide will help give you a better understanding on what you should consider when looking for a gaming monitor.
1. How much do you have to spend?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. Because, if you’re working with a budget of $150 or less for your monitor, your options will be much more limited than if you were working with a ~$500 budget.
For instance, if you have $150 or less to spend, you’ll likely be forced to choose a TN panel. However, if you have more to spend, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will want to avoid a TN panel monitor, it just means that you will have more options.
2. What will you be using the monitor for? Gaming? Graphic design?
This is an important question because the type of usage your monitor will see will be a big determining factor in which type of panel you can get. If you are going to use your monitor solely for competitive gaming—I’m talking CS:GO, LoL, COD, Dota 2, etc.—then a TN panel with a high refresh rate and low response time will be your best bet.
On the other hand, if you are more of a casual gamer, or you are planning on doing a lot of graphic design work on your monitor, you might want to look into a VA panel or an IPS panel. These panels don’t quite perform on the same level as a TN panel (in terms of response rate) and they cost a lot more for the same refresh rate. However, their picture quality is much better than TN panels and therefore, they are better-suited for graphics design work.
3. Are you a competitive gamer or a casual gamer?
This kind of ties into the question above, but it is worth considering as well. As I mentioned above, if you are a serious gamer and you are playing competitive games where every split-second could be the difference between victory and defeat, you might want to forego better visuals for a better performing monitor.
And, for that, a TN panel is your best bet as they offer lower response rates and higher refresh rates (at least, for the price you pay) than IPS or VA panels.
On the other hand, if you’re not playing super competitive games and you really enjoy the visual aspect of gaming, you’d be better off going with a VA or IPS panel as they offer better technology for displaying richer and more detailed visuals.
The other bit you ought to understand is that it is quite difficult, if not completely impossible, to find a monitor that is the best solution for every individual.
Some display types are appropriate for gaming, while others are best suited for graphics design. Other monitors are good for gamers who want the best visuals, while a different set of monitor panels work better for competitive gamers who need the most performance possible.
In this guide, we have broken down the different panel types and have explained their key features, as well as have compared them to their counterparts to help you better understand which type of panel would best meet your needs.
TN (twisted nematic) display is one of the most common types of LCD monitors currently on the market. They are built with a nematic liquid crystal that sits between two sheets of polarized glass.
Almost every LCD monitor you’ll come across on the market today has a TN panel in it.
They’re the most affordable panels there are and, as such, are the most readily available.
If you are looking at a monitor and it doesn’t clearly state what kind of panel it is, it’s probably safe to assume it’s a TN panel. What I mean by this is that, in most cases, for IPS panels and VA panels, the monitor manufacturer will include the panel type in the name of the monitor in an effort to make them stand out.
However, since TN panels are so common, manufacturers typically don’t state the fact that they are TN panels, as it is not a major selling point.
As I mentioned above, TN Panels owe their popularity to low manufacturing costs.However, they are also known for being able to deliver much higher response rates than IPS or VA panels. However, they are also known for being able to deliver much higher response rates than IPS or VA panels.
And the exceedingly high level of responsiveness is thanks to the pixels changing quickly, thus, helping to make the moving images appear smoother.
Because of their affordability, Twisted Nematic Displays with higher refresh rates (a feature you will pay more for) are more readily available than competing panels with high refresh rates.
In fact, there are multiple TN monitors out there that feature a high 144HZ refresh rate.
Some Flaws of TN Panels
The TN technology isn’t without its flaws, though. The most significant drawback of the TN technology is its poor image quality (at least when compared to the image quality of competing technologies).
While a decent TN monitor can produce crisp and vibrant images with a sharp contrast, its viewing angles are quite restricted.
The viewing angles on a TN panel are touted to be 160 degrees vertical and 170 degrees horizontal: these angles are considerably lower than the viewing angles presented by other panel technologies
And taking into consideration the fact these screens come in larger sizes nowadays, the limited viewing angles can even affect people who are sitting right in front of the monitor.
The eyes, for instance, will perceive a different viewing angle if you look at the center of the screen instead of the peripheral regions of the monitor. In this instance, a color shade can be represented to be a different shade depending on its position on the screen. It may appear darker when it is on the upper side of the screen or lighter when it is towards the bottom.
Because of these problems, the consistency and color accuracy on a TN panel will suffer in comparison to IPS and VA panels, which, ultimately, makes this panel type less ideal for color-critical work such as photography and design, or even for gamers who want the best visuals possible.
IPS stands for In-Plane Switching and it is a type of LCD monitor panel. It was manufactured to improve on TN panel technology by improving image quality.
The most notable selling point of In-Plane Switching panels is their consistency, improved viewing angles, and superior color accuracy when compared to other LCD technologies. Every color shade retains its unique identity and distinctiveness regardless of its position on the monitor.
These factors make IPS panels suitable monitors for graphic design work, as well as for gamers looking for the best visuals possible (but who don’t mind a drop in response rate.)
One significant glitch of IPS displays is a glow or sheen on the monitor when viewing dark content. This glitch becomes more noticeable when you are viewing the monitor from wider angles.
A VA (vertical alignment) panel is a type of LCD panel that utilizes liquid crystals and electrical current. They are manufactured similarly to TN panels, but have some improvements to help produce higher quality visuals.
Perhaps the greatest strength of a VA panel is its ability to block light from the backlight when it isn’t wanted. This ability results in higher contrast ratios and deeper blacks which are several times better than that of the other LCD technologies discussed in this guide.
As power users already understand, one problem with LCD monitors is light from the backlight. When an LCD monitor wants to display black, the color filter will be positioned in such a manner that very little light from the backlight will seep through. While they try to do a reasonable job, their filters aren’t always perfect, thus, incapable of rendering the blacks deep as they should be.
Thankfully, VA panels are magnificent at that task. And thanks to the fact that they are susceptible to clouding or bleeding towards the edges of the screen, the screens are often considered as ideal candidates for movie enthusiasts and suitable for general purpose work.
The VA panels also feature improved viewing angles and good color reproduction. Their excellent color reproduction abilities make the monitors ideal devices for color-critical work, or for gamers who want to play their games with the best picture quality possible.
A considerable drawback of the VA panel is its low level of responsiveness with its pixels transitioning from one state to the next. This can cause more noticeable blurring when gaming.
Thankfully, the more modern versions of VA panels use a superior pixel overdrive feature that is not susceptible to the problems of the earlier versions.
As far as price goes, VA panels cost more than TN panels and about on par with IPS panels.
Viewing Angle Comparison: VA vs IPS vs TN
It is quite difficult to state definitively what LCD monitor is better in the battle of TN vs IPS. This is because both TN LCD displays and IPS LCD displays have a share of advantages and disadvantages.
We’ll discuss how the two monitors stack up against each other below across a variety of important factors:
TN Panels have an incredibly fast response time and are capable of hitting response time marks as low as 1ms.
The quick responsiveness of TN panels makes them suitable for competitive gamers who rely on every split-second to achieve victory. (Though there is a lot of debate surrounding this considering that some believe that the average human brain can just compute about 25 frames per second.) The response time of most TN Panels, save for the high-end and very exceptional ones, is between 2ms and 5ms. This quick response rate is why gamers love TN Panels, as they are perfect for fast-paced games.
IPS Panels, on the other hand, feature a rather sluggish response time compared with TN panels. But the good news is that IPS technology is improving with each new generation of monitors.
IPS Panels owe their popularity to superior viewing angles. They are also not susceptible to color washout when viewing at an angle, which is a problem that is very common with traditional TN panels.
TN panels suffer from limited viewing angles, especially when looking from a vertical position. Colors tend to shift if viewed from an off-perpendicular position. When viewing TN panels from vertical positions, colors will change so much that they’ll invert past a certain angle.
If high resolution is your goal, your best bet is to go with an IPS panel over a TN panel.
The reason is that higher resolution monitors typically cost more and, so, if you’re going to pay all of that money for an ultra high definition monitor, you might as well get the panel that is best suited for displaying high-end visuals.
Of course, if you want a balance between higher resolutions and lower response rates, you might be better off sacrificing some in the visual department and going with a TN panel to get a monitor with a better response rate.
Both VA and IPS panels are commonly used in LED-backlit TVs today. Though they are both Liquid Crystal Display types, there are vast differences between their performances. The differences touch on contrast, viewing angle, response time, and black uniformity.
IPS Panels are a clear winner when it comes to viewing angle. IPS Panels, as already explained, have a wide viewing angle without any noticeable drop in image quality on the monitor.
VA panels, on the other hand, will have a considerable degradation of about 20 degrees to the side, which is seen as a dramatic loss of saturation.
VA panels recoup their losses when it comes to contrast. Contrast, as you might be aware, is one of the most important factors when it comes to picture quality. VA surpasses IPS panels when it comes to contrast.
When in a dark environment, black images or shades will appear gray on an IPS panel, considerably undermining the experience. VA contrast ratios are usually in the range of 3000:1 to 6000:1 while IPS contrast ratios are around 1000:1.
Clearly, the winner here is VA panels.
Neither VA panels or IPS panels are ideal if one of the main features you are looking for in a monitor is response rate. However, of the two, VA panels offer a slightly faster response time than IPS panels.
As already covered above, TN panels are the kings when it comes to response time.
VA panels, on the other hand, were built specifically to address the deficiencies in both TN Panels and IPS panels. Their response time is slightly faster than the response time of IPS panels yet considerably lower than the response time of TN panels.
On the other hand, VA panels have viewing angles that are slightly wider and better than TN panels.
There have been improvements on TN panels to make them more suitable for color-critical work such as photo editing, but even with the said improvements, TN panels are still far from ideal when it comes to these types of tasks.
Graphics and Visuals
From a visual standpoint, VA panels are better than TN panels as they are capable of 8-bit color depth as well as wider viewing angles. They also feature better black uniformity and high contrast ratios as compared to TN panels.
In my opinion, though, the choice between a TN panel and VA panel is somewhat similar to the choice between a TN panel and an IPS panel: choose an IPS panel if you are mostly into competitive gaming and pick a VA panel if you want better visuals.
The panel you opt for will depend on your own personal needs.
If you are a competitive gamer, nothing will serve you better than a TN panel. TN panels might have weaker images, low contrast, and limited viewing angles, but they offer very fast response times.
However, if you are into the best visuals possible and you want images that are more crisp and detailed while you game, then the ideal panel for you is an IPS panel. IPS panels are excellent in reproducing color. They also come with a wide viewing angle, which is a feature well-suited for graphic design artists.
VA panels are the compromise panel. They offer accurate colors and wide viewing angles, almost comparable to IPS panels. Their response time is a little slower than that of TN panels, but also a little faster than IPS panels. So, if you want to get a monitor that brings balance to what a TN panel and IPS panel bring, VA panels are the way to go.
At the end of the day, TN panels are probably the most popular option for serious gamers. They are more affordable and perform better in competitive scenarios.
Ultimately, your choice will come down to the features and aspects that best represent the kind of in-game experience you want to have.