You want to buy a new computer monitor but get confused by all the technical jargon. Terms like TN, VA, and IPS may sound like alphabet soup.
Well, I suggest IPS displays which generally provide the best all-round picture quality and viewing angles, though they cost more. TN panels are the most affordable option but suffer from washed-out colors. VA screens excel at contrast and bold colors, ideal for video and graphics work.
This blog will explain these monitor panel technologies in simple terms, comparing their strengths and weaknesses, so you can pick the best display for your needs.
A Monitor’s Main Job
A monitor’s main job is to clearly show images and text from a computer. How clearly it does this depends on its panel technology – TN, VA, or IPS. Think of these panel types as different ways for a monitor to project light and color.
Each technology has strengths and weaknesses. And prices also vary quite a bit! We’ll break down how they differ, so you can decide what monitor characteristic is most important for you.
Understanding Refresh Rate
But first, some key terminology. You may see specs listing a monitor’s “refresh rate.” This measures how many images (or “frames”) a monitor can display per second. It’s measured in hertz (Hz).
Higher refresh rates make motion look smoother. For gaming or video, you’ll want at least 60Hz. Fast-paced competitive games demand even higher refresh rates for the smoothest possible visuals. Refresh rates of 144Hz or 240Hz are ideal for competitive play.
But for general use, 60Hz is fine. Office work and web browsing don’t need fast refresh rates.
To take full advantage of higher refresh rates, you need the right connection cables as well. As covered in this guide on cables for different refresh rates, higher Hz monitors require cables like DisplayPort or DVI-D for 144Hz or above.
TN Panels – Affordable and Fast
TN stands for “twisted nematic.”
- TN panels are the most affordable and widely used display technology.
- They also have the fastest response times – usually around 1 millisecond (ms). This prevents “ghosting” or motion blur.
- TN screens have higher refresh rates too, all the way up to 240Hz.
So TN displays are great for fast-action gaming and video. Their high refresh rates and quick response give smooth, lag-free imagery. Plus they don’t cost too much.
Downsides of TN Displays
However, TN panels have some notable disadvantages:
- Their color accuracy and viewing angles are pretty poor.
- Colors get washed out if you view the screen from the sides or above. So TN displays are not ideal for design work, photo editing or groups huddling around a single monitor.
- Also, TN monitors simply can’t display the wide, accurate color ranges needed for media creation work.
So gamers love TN for their speed. But for color-critical tasks, TN can’t compete with VA or IPS.
VA Panels Offer Strong Contrast
The next option is VA – vertical alignment displays. As you may guess, these panels align liquid crystals vertically for different results than TN displays.
- VA screens offer much higher native contrast ratios – often 3000:1 or higher. This produces very deep blacks.
- So VA monitors deliver vivid images with bold color and shadow detail. Movies and video content really pop on VA displays.
- VA panels also provide good color accuracy and wide 178° viewing angles. So groups can view them comfortably, and their colors stay true even from the sides.
What’s the Catch With VA Monitors?
VA panels aren’t flawless though:
- Their pixel response times are slower – around 4 to 8 ms typically. So you may see some motion blur in high-action games.
- Also, VA monitors only come with refresh rates up to 165Hz. That’s good for gaming, but not quite as fluid as the fastest TN displays pushing 240Hz.
So in summary, VA monitors are excellent for video, photos, graphics work, and casual gaming. Just expect a little motion blur if playing fast esports titles competitively.
IPS Displays – The Gold Standard
Finally, we come to IPS, short for in-plane switching. Seen as the gold standard in monitor panels, IPS displays switch liquid crystals in a horizontal plane. And this unlocks superb color and clarity.
- IPS monitors boast outstanding color accuracy – nearly 100% of sRGB coverage. This makes them exceptional for design, photo, and video work needing precise color rendering.
- They also deliver very broad 178° viewing angles, so colors stay vivid when viewing the monitor off-center. IPS is fantastic for sharing content with groups.
- Additionally, IPS panels offer strong static image quality with bright, accurate color and good contrast around 1000:1.
So with excellent all-round image quality, wide viewing angles and impressive color precision, IPS monitors are hugely popular for both work and play.
What Holds Back IPS Monitors?
IPS isn’t completely without drawbacks though:
- Response times are slower than TN displays, in the 4 to 5ms range typically. You may notice some ghosting in fast gaming. As this article on 1ms vs 5ms response times explains, the difference may not be noticeable to most users.
- Also, IPS screen’s contrast and black levels can’t match the inky blacks from VA monitors. Shadow detail suffers somewhat.
- And finally, IPS panels are more expensive than TN and VA alternatives with the same features. You really pay extra for that superb color handling.
But for most users, IPS displays offer the best blend of color precision, viewing angles, and responsiveness. That’s why IPS dominates color-critical professional industries like design, photography, and content creation.
In terms of contrast, however, the VA panel is significantly better than the other two. They often have a 3000 to 1 contrast ratio which outcompetes even the most modern IPS monitors. Naturally, the TN panels are the worst in producing deep blacks, while the IPS panels with their usual 1000 to 1 contrast ratio are slightly better.
Choosing Between TN vs VA vs IPS for Gaming
Gamers have special monitor needs – namely high refresh rates and fast response times for smooth, fluid gameplay. TN and IPS displays are best suited for gaming, while VA screens appeal more to casual gamers.
TN panels offer extremely fast 1ms response and high 120Hz, 144Hz, or 240Hz refresh rates. This eliminates motion blur for crisp sharpness when gaming. Their affordable prices also fit most budgets.
However, TN displays don’t have the best colors, contrast, or viewing angles. Visuals appear washed out if not viewed head-on. Still, competitive esports players will gladly sacrifice some image quality for buttery frame rates.
On the other hand, IPS monitors provide gorgeous colors and wide 178° viewing angles – ideal for immersive single-player adventures. Their 4-5ms response and 60-144Hz refresh rates also handle rapid gaming action very well. IPS strikes a great balance between visuals and performance.
Finally, VA displays deliver incredible 3000:1 contrast and vibrant color thanks to their vertical alignment. This creates inky blacks and depth that make games look truly cinematic.
However, VA screens only offer 165Hz maximum refresh rates. And their slower 8ms average response time leads to some motion blur during fast-paced play.
In summary, here’s how the monitor technologies stack up for gaming:
|Very Fast (1ms)
|Up to 240Hz
|Up to 144Hz
|Washed out if not head-on
|Excellent colors and clarity
|Highest contrast and vibrancy
|Moderate due to slower response
|Excellent due to vibrant visuals
|Inexpensive models available
So TN panels are best for esports and multiplayer titles needing every frame advantage. IPS strikes an ideal balance for serious gamers wanting immersion. And VA screens really make single-player games shine visually. Choose a gaming monitor based on your priorities!
Choosing the Right Display
Phew, that’s a lot to digest! Let’s recap the core strengths of each panel technology:
- TN – very affordable, extremely fast response, highest refresh rates
- VA – excellent contrast and colors, great for video
- IPS – accurate color, wide viewing angles, favored for design work
So what’s the best display for you? It depends on your priorities:
- For PC gaming, TN and IPS monitors are best for their moderately fast pixel response. VA displays work well for slower-paced games though. A high refresh rate matters most here.
- For console or casual gaming, a VA monitor will provide beautiful colors and contrast for immersive play. Response times are less critical.
- For animation, video or graphic design work, an IPS display is strongly advised for its color precision across wide viewing angles.
- Anyone working with photos or print media should also choose IPS for its ability to match real-world colors closely.
- If you just need an affordable monitor for office work or web browsing, a budget TN display offers decent quality for the price. Business users don’t require perfect color or contrast.
There you have it! A breakdown of TN vs VA vs IPS monitor technologies. Let their strengths guide you toward the best display for YOUR needs and budget. Feel free to post any questions in the comments!
We also have a helpful video explaining this in more detail, you can find it here:
Frequently Asked Questions
Do TN panels have better or worse viewing angles than IPS displays?
TN panels have very narrow viewing angles of around 170° horizontally and 160° vertically. So colors get washed out and invert when viewed slightly off-center. IPS monitors offer much wider 178° viewing angles with more color consistency.
Are glossy or matte screens better for picture quality?
Glossy screens provide more vibrant colors and contrast. But they also reflect light sources and glare very badly. So matte displays are better for well-lit rooms. Glossy is preferred only in dark, controlled lighting where reflections won’t be an issue.
Is panel type or resolution more important?
For general use and gaming, a FULL HD (1920 x 1080) resolution is fine on 24-27″ monitors. But for professional media creation work, a higher QHD or 4K resolution matters for sharper detail. Panel quality becomes more important on larger 32-43″ monitors viewed up close.
Do IPS panels use more power than VA or TN?
IPS monitors are inherently more power-hungry, requiring up to twice as much backlight brightness to match VA/TN displays. Newer IPS panels are improving energy efficiency though through dimming zones and compensation. Still, high-end IPS displays use slightly more power overall.
Why do some VA panels mention curved screens or 1800R curvature?
A curved VA screen helps sustain color and contrast at extreme sideways viewing angles off the center axis. The 1800R spec refers to the exact radius curve measured – the lower the number, the sharper the curve. 1800R is common as it matches the curvature of the average human eyeball for a surround effect.
How much do panel types actually vary in price?
Budget monitors under $250 are almost universally TN panels. In the moderate $250-$400 range, you see more IPS options. And high-end professional IPS displays run $700+. VA monitors overlap both midrange and high-end price points depending on features. But TN is decidedly the most affordable.