TN vs IPS vs VA: Which is the Best Monitor Display for Gaming?

IPS vs TN vs VAIn 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.

Picking a new monitor can be tough. There are all kinds of specs and metrics to consider: response time, refresh rate, panel type, resolution, VRR tech, and the list goes on. Panel type affects most of these things, though, so deciding between an IPS vs VA vs TN display is a great first step to picking a monitor.

Unfortunately, deciding on a panel type isn’t as simple as it used to be, though. Years ago, TN panels were pretty much the only option the ordinary gamer had. Now, IPS and VA panels can be affordable, and their previous drawbacks—poor response times, for example—have been reduced. There’s little in it between many monitors these days.

Nevertheless, there are still differences between IPS, VA, and TN monitors on average, and understanding these can be a useful starting point for deciding on a new monitor.

In this guide, we explain what distinguishes these different panel types, and which ones should be best for different use cases, whether that’s gaming, editing, or office work.

Also Read:

What is Display Panel Type?

There are all kinds of different monitors, and one thing that distinguishes them is which kind of LCD panel they use.

Monitors work by shining a white backlight through some polarizing filters. The color that’s displayed in any pixel on the screen depends on whether the light behind that pixel passes through a red, green, or blue color filter.

What distinguishes different LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor panel types such as TN, IPS, and VA is the method used to allow or prevent light from shining through different parts of the filter. The polarizing agent and the liquid crystals used to allow or prevent light from passing through vary depending on the display panel type.

Which panel a monitor uses can affect all kinds of things, from viewing angles to contrast ratios and response times. And, of course, which one is used will affect the cost of the monitor.

What is a TN Monitor and How Does It Work?

TN monitors are the most common and cheapest of the three main types (TN, IPS, and VA). They were the first mainstream alternative to old-fashioned, bulky CRT monitors.

A TN monitor uses TN (twisted nematic) technology to allow light from the monitor’s backlight to pass through and polarize to the correct color on the screen. TN panels allow light to pass through until voltage is applied.

The liquid crystals between the two filter layers work in such a way that, when they’re at rest, they twist the light and allow it through the front filter. But when voltage is applied to the crystals, they turn perpendicular to the filters, and the light gets blocked by the front filter.

Their twisted nematic tech is cheap and easy to implement, but TN monitors come with drawbacks such as poor viewing angles and color gamut coverage. They do, however, have some of the quickest response times and are capable of very high refresh rates.

What is an IPS Monitor and How Does It Work?

An IPS monitor uses IPS (in-plane switching) panel technology to allow light to pass through the front polarizing filter. It works in the opposite way to a TN panel: light isn’t allowed through until voltage is applied to the liquid crystals.

The liquid crystals in IPS panels are twisted in their resting state just like with TN crystals, but the filters are oriented in the same way so that light doesn’t pass through by default. When voltage is applied, the crystals rotate 90 degrees, from horizontal to vertical, to allow light through.

The crystals in IPS monitors are always parallel to the filter—”in-plane” with it—which gives IPS monitors the best viewing angles of the bunch, as well as the best color accuracy. They tend to have slower response times and lower refresh rates than TN panels, but improvements in the tech have made differences slim. They do usually cost more than TN monitors, though.

What is a VA Monitor and How Does It Work?

A VA monitor uses VA (vertical alignment) technology to allow light to pass through the front filter. Just like with an IPS panel, light isn’t allowed through until a voltage is applied to the liquid crystals.

VA panels work in essentially the same way as IPS panels, except by default, the crystals are aligned vertically and turn horizontally when voltage is applied.

The default vertical alignment of VA panels blocks out much more light than the horizontal alignment of IPS panels, which gives them the best contrast ratios of the bunch, making them much better in dark rooms.

They also have a better color gamut and wider viewing angles than TN monitors but aren’t quite as good as IPS monitors in these respects. They also tend to have the slowest response times out of all three display panel types.

IPS vs VA vs TN: Main Differences

While there are many IPS, VA, and TN display panel types for every PC user, and while differences can vary from model to model, there are some broad differences that set them apart.

The major differences concern:

  • Cost
  • Response time
  • Refresh rate
  • Color gamut
  • Contrast
  • Viewing angles

Below, we’ve presented which panel type does best by each of these metrics. A tick under the panel type’s column means it tends to be better at this metric than its competitor.

IPS vs TN

TN vs IPS Monitor

TN Monitor IPS Monitor
Cost
Response time
Refresh rate
Color gamut
Contrast
Viewing angles

TN monitors are the cheapest mainstream monitors on the market, and they’ve also been around the longest.

Unfortunately, they’re also the worst for picture quality and vibrancy, both head-on and especially from any off-center viewing angle. Most TN monitors pale compared to IPS monitors when it comes to color reproduction and coverage, contrast ratio, and viewing angles.

On the other hand, TN monitors tend to have the lowest response times and are capable of the highest refresh rates. You’ll be able to find a TN monitor with a quick response time and high refresh rate for much cheaper than a similarly specced IPS monitor.

TN vs VA

TN vs VA Monitor

TN Monitor VA Monitor
Cost
Response time
Refresh rate
Color gamut
Contrast
Viewing angles

The situation comparing TN vs VA is much the same as comparing TN vs IPS. VA monitors usually have better picture quality than TN monitors.

However, the viewing angle and color gamut difference isn’t quite as pronounced as with TN vs IPS. VA monitors are capable of better color reproduction and wider viewing angles than TN monitors, but not as dramatically so as IPS monitors.

Contrast, however, is significantly better with a VA panel, as VA panels allow for the biggest contrast ratios and the deepest blacks. On the flip side, however, they often have the worst response times, making them the polar opposite of TN panels.

IPS vs VA

IPS vs VA Monitor

IPS Monitor VA Monitor
Cost
Response time
Refresh rate
Color gamut
Contrast
Viewing angles

Comparing IPS vs VA monitors is a little more complicated. Most PC users today—gamer or otherwise—who aren’t restricted to a tight budget will opt for an IPS or VA display.

Both IPS and VA monitors can look fantastic and are capable of much better picture quality than TN monitors. But while VA monitors can have a much better contrast ratio, and therefore much deeper blacks, than IPS monitors, IPS monitors can more accurately reproduce a much more extensive range of colors. IPS monitors tend to have much wider viewing angles, too.

And while VA monitors are usually cheaper than IPS monitors, they also can’t quite match IPS monitors’ refresh rates or response times. In fact, VA panel monitors are worse than both IPS and TN monitors when it comes to response times, which usually rules them out for gamers who want to play competitive or possibly even casual games.

IPS vs VA vs TN: Different Use Cases

Which display panel type you should opt for depends on your use case. Whether you should opt for an IPS, VA, or TN display depends on whether you’ll primarily be using it for gaming, editing, or general office work.

pc gaming ips vs va vs tn

Gaming

Winner: IPS

(But TN if you’re on a budget, and VA if you’re in a dark room.)

If you’re planning on using your monitor for gaming, refresh rate and response time will probably be important to you. Because of this, a TN monitor or decent IPS monitor will probably be your go-to.

Of course, picture quality is also important for gamers. For this reason, a decent IPS monitor will probably be a better choice than a TN monitor for most gamers today.

A good IPS display should have a low response time, just like a TN monitor, and it should be capable of high refresh rates. Unlike a TN monitor, however, it should have a much wider color gamut, better contrast, and much wider viewing angles. In other words, it should offer the best of both worlds: great responsiveness and stellar picture quality.

A good IPS monitor will be more expensive than a TN monitor, though, so if budget is a concern, you might opt for a TN panel. You might also consider a TN monitor if you’re playing competitive games at the highest level because high-end TN monitors still beat IPS monitors on ultra-high refresh rates and ultra-low response times. For this reason, many competitive gamers still use TN panels.

While VA monitors tend to have worse response times than IPS or TN monitors, a good VA monitor shouldn’t be significantly worse. If you’ll be gaming in a very dark room often, a VA monitor might be the best option because it can reproduce deeper blacks, while an IPS or especially TN monitor can seem too light in a dark room. And IPS monitors can suffer from IPS glow, which might bother some gamers in darker scenes.

For competitive gaming, however, an IPS or TN panel will probably still be a better option.

photo video editing ips vs va vs tn

Video and Photo Editing

Winner: IPS

IPS displays are the gold standard for image quality. They can cover as much as 98% of the DCI-P3 RGB color space. VA and TN panels can’t match this.

In the same way that an audio engineer should want headphones or speakers that accurately reproduce sound with little equalization, a video or photo editor should want a monitor that reproduces color as accurately as possible. IPS monitors are the best bet for this.

IPS monitors can also maintain accuracy much more at much wider viewing angles, which might become a problem on bigger screens, as viewing angles become wider at the edges. This is relevant to photo and video editors because often such professionals will want a big screen. So IPS wins in this regard, too.

If your work requires deep contrasts, then a VA monitor might be a better pick, but for the vast majority of video and photo editors, an IPS monitor will be where it’s at.

office work ips vs va vs tn

Office Work

Winner: TN

If you’re only planning on using your monitor for general office work, such as typing documents, attending video calls, and browsing the internet, a TN monitor will probably suffice.

TN monitors can be much cheaper than IPS and VA monitors, so it makes sense to save money by opting for one if you don’t need great response times, high refresh rates, or high-end image quality.

The main thing to consider with a monitor for office work isn’t panel type but screen size and possibly resolution. Some office work can require a lot of screen space, but a 22-inch or 24-inch monitor usually suffices.

One caveat to the above is that TN monitors aren’t the best for vertical mounting. If you’re planning on using a monitor (perhaps a second or third one) in portrait mode, an IPS monitor will fare better. TN monitors don’t have great viewing angles and aren’t suited to sitting vertically. They’re also not suited to sitting off to the side—if you’re getting a TN monitor, make sure you can face it head-on.

How to Choose the Best Monitor for You

While choosing which kind of panel will probably be best suited for your needs is a great starting point for picking a new monitor, it’s not everything, for a couple of reasons.

Also Read: What to Look for in a Gaming Monitor

First, there are other things to consider: required resolution, refresh rate, GSync or FreeSync capabilities, and so on. Second, not all monitors are made equal. While IPS monitors tend to have lower response times than VA monitors on average, sometimes a good VA monitor can have better response times than an IPS monitor.

With this in mind, here’s a useful process to follow to help you pick a monitor.

1. Define Your Budget

First, define your budget. There’s no point deciding on a high-end IPS monitor if you only have $100 to spare.

If you’re on a tight budget, a TN monitor might be your only option. If you have a little more wriggle-room, but not loads, then a midrange IPS or VA monitor might be a good choice.

The most important thing, though, is keeping your budget in mind through the following steps.

2. Specify Your Use Case

Once you know your budget, specify your use case. Will you be using your monitor for gaming? Office work? Editing? Or some combination of these?

Once you’ve got this clear, go through the sections above to decide which panel type might be best for you depending on your use case. Don’t get wedded to this panel type, though, because there might be better options for your budget depending on the specific models in question. Just keep it in mind.

3. Check Out Some of the Best Monitors

Now that you know your budget, use case, and the panel type that will probably be best for your needs, start looking through some lists of the best monitors.

Make notes of the monitors that seem to hit your use case and are within your budget.

Here are some guides you can look through to compile your list:

4. Compare Reviews and Check Deals

Now you’ve got your list of potential monitors, you need to compare them.

Start by making a list of what exactly you want the most out of your monitor. Is it a low response time? Great picture quality? A tall stand?

Then, check out some individual reviews of the monitors on your list. A great place to start with this is RTings. You might notice that, for example, some VA monitors aren’t as bad with response times as you expected—this is why we said not to become wedded to your choice of panel type. A lot depends on the specific monitor model in question, and picking a panel type is just a great starting point and guiding line.

Once you’ve shortened your list, look out for deals for any of them on retailer sites, or just check which one is the cheapest and offers the best performance for the price.

Verdict: Is IPS or VA or TN Better for You?

These days, there are no hard and fast rules for picking a display panel type (other than, perhaps, TN monitors having poor viewing angles). But deciding on one and knowing the broad differences between them is a great starting point.

If you’re a gamer, an IPS or TN monitor will probably be the best choice for you. For most gamers, an IPS will be better than a TN monitor because it offers superior color accuracy, viewing angles, and contrast, all without suffering from the VA panel’s notoriously slow response times.

If you play competitive games, however, you might prefer TN panels for their ultra-low response times and high refresh rates. Or perhaps just for their cheaper price. On the other hand, if you’re gaming in a dark room or really enjoy lots of contrast, a VA panel might be worth it for gaming.

If you’re photo or video editing, you’ll almost certainly want to opt for an IPS panel display. These can reproduce a much wider array of more accurate colors, which is useful for creating the perfect-looking picture or video clip.

For general office work, though, the cheapest option—a TN panel—should be more than enough for most people. Unless you want to mount it in portrait mode, however, in which case an IPS monitor’s viewing angles will make it a better choice.

If you want do to some combination of all three things, an IPS panel will probably be the best choice, since it offers exceptional picture quality without sacrificing much on the responsiveness front, both in terms of response times and refresh rates.

Unfortunately, IPS monitors also tend to be the most expensive. Thankfully, because IPS technology is now very common, a midrange IPS monitor no longer has to break the bank. And if IPS is too expensive, VA and TN improvements have meant that their drawbacks aren’t as big as they once were. There are plenty of good options for all three display types these days.

Jacob Fox

Jacob's been tinkering with computer hardware for over a decade, and he's written hardware articles for various PC gaming websites. Outside of the wonderful world of PC hardware, he's currently undertaking a PhD in philosophy, with a focus on topics surrounding the meaning of life.

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