IPS panels offer the best color accuracy and the best viewing angles, TN panels offer the best performance i.e. the highest refresh rates and the fastest response times, and VA panels have the best contrast and offer a good balance between visuals and performance, though their response times tend to be a bit higher.
There are multiple factors to consider when getting a monitor: refresh rates, pixel response times, contrast ratios, color gamut, etc.
These factors are heavily affected by the type of panel that the display uses. By knowing exactly what to expect from which type of panel, you can make the search for your ideal gaming monitor a whole lot easier!
In this article, we will offer short explanations regarding the three dominant panel types mentioned in the title, discussing the pros and cons of each.
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IPS stands for “in-plane switching”, and it is a very popular type of panel used by numerous devices, be it monitors, TVs, smartphones, or other devices. Its primary advantage are superb visuals, which come down mostly to better color reproduction and better viewing angles than what TN panels can manage. However, the contrast ratio is more or less equal to what TN panels can do, and it can vary greatly depending on the quality of the panel.
On the downside, IPS panels often have backlight bleed issues i.e. the infamous “IPS glow”. Apart from that, their response times can never be lower than 4ms and while they 144 Hz IPS monitors aren’t uncommon, they tend to be a bit more expensive than those 144 Hz monitors which utilize VA or TN panels.
TN, short for “twisted-nematic”, is the best-performing panel of the three, supporting the highest refresh rates and the lowest response times. Response times, in particular, are something to take note of, considering that no other panel can achieve true 1ms pixel response times yet. Furthermore, 144 Hz TN monitors are usually cheaper than their IPS-equipped counterparts, and only TN panels can go as high as 240 Hz.
But as mentioned above, TN panels don’t offer the best visuals. Colors tend to look washed out and the viewing angles are rather poor, so they won’t be appealing for users who prioritize visuals over performance. On top of that, it should also be noted that very few TN panels support HDR, and those that do rarely have the contrast necessary to make full use of it.
And finally, VA (vertical alignment) panels are something of a middle ground between IPS and TN panels. The color reproduction and the viewing angles offered by VA panels are generally close to what IPS panels can achieve, but VA panels do have superior contrast.
However, VA panels are known for having the highest response time of these three panel types, and ghosting is not an uncommon occurrence with them. This can be particularly distracting in dark scenes or in fast-paced games. Apart form that, some VA panels can have issues with clouding and backlight bleed, but again, this depends on the quality of the monitor itself.
Which Should You Choose?
When it comes to picking the right type of panel, the first thing you should consider is what’s more important to you: visuals or performance? And secondly, there’s always the matter of pricing.
What are Refresh Rates?
Measured in Hertz (Hz), a display’s refresh rate signifies how many frames it can display per second. Most monitors come with a 60 Hz refresh rate, but gaming monitors usually go beyond this. The most common refresh rates that you will encounter today are 75 Hz, 120 Hz, 144 Hz, 200 Hz, and 240 Hz, though 144 Hz is by far the most popular as far as gaming monitors are concerned.
And why are refresh rates important?
As mentioned above, a higher refresh rate means that the monitor can display a higher framerate. So, while a 60 Hz monitor can only display 60 FPS, a 144 Hz monitor can display 144 FPS. Needless to say, a higher framerate means a more fluid and more responsive gaming experience, plus it can prove to be a valuable edge in multiplayer.
Just keep in mind that you’ll need a GPU powerful enough to push such high framerates in more demanding games! Thankfully, eSports games aren’t very demanding, so they can be pushed to triple-digit refresh rates more easily, even with weaker GPUs.
What Are Response Times?
A pixel response time, measured in milliseconds (ms), signifies how long it takes for a pixel to change color from white to black and vice versa, or from one shade of grey to another.
Much like high refresh rates, low response times can contribute to a display’s responsiveness. However, high response times can lead to some potentially problematic motion blur and trails that are commonly referred to as “ghosting”.
Just keep in mind that some people hardly even notice (or simply don’t mind) the several-millisecond difference between 1ms and 4ms. As a matter of fact, generally, people only find a high response time problematic if it’s higher than 10ms, and rest assured, you won’t find a gaming monitor with a response time that high.
The best way to determine if response times are important to you is to test it out personally, but if you haven’t had the opportunity to get used to gaming on a 1ms monitor, chances are you won’t mind having a 4ms response time.
So, ultimately, there is no single right answer. All three technologies have their advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re looking for the best possible performance, potentially at a lower price, TN would be the way to go, since they are the fastest and cheapest type of panel currently available.
IPS is the go-to solution for anyone who prioritizes visuals over performance, though as mentioned in the article, you can always get the best of both worlds with a 144 Hz IPS monitor, provided that you are willing to invest a little more.
And finally, VA panels will be most appealing to those who want both visuals and performance at a more approachable price tag, but keep in mind – a jack of all trades is a master of none, so a VA panel will not quite match an IPS panel in terms of color reproduction nor will it be as responsive as a TN one.
With that said, only you can decide which panel is the right for you based on your needs and preferences.