IPS vs VA vs TN Display Panel Types: Explained

When you’re looking to purchase a new monitor, it can be pretty difficult to decide which monitor is right for your needs. There’s many different things you need to take into account, from your refresh rate to your resolution.

But this isn’t all you want to think about when you’re going to purchase a new monitor. You’ll also want to think about the technology used in the display. Different types of display panel will have their own benefits, with some being perfect for gaming, whilst others suit those that watch a lot of films and need vibrant colour.

For this, currently there are three alternative types of display panels that are used; IPS, VA and TN. Depending on what you’re going to be doing, one of them might be a better choice than the other. They’re all types of LCD display – LCD and LED are different to one another, but not much.

We’re going to look at the characteristics of each of them, and how you can work out which is going to be the best one for your needs.

IPS vs VA vs TN Display Panel Types: Explained

The simple difference between them is that IPS displays are expensive and great for all viewing angles, whilst VA displays are better for high contrast visuals. In comparison to this, TN display panels are a solid option for those looking for low cost monitors.

In the past, both VA and IPS displays were shunned by gamers in favour of TN panels (twisted nematic). This is primarily because they allow the fastest 1ms response times for a fairly cheap price, and this is one of the most important criteria for gaming.

Though TN panels have limited viewing angles in comparison to IPS panels. And now, there are a lot of IPS monitors that can match TN when it comes to response times, meaning that they’re another popular choice for gaming. You’ll probably have to cough up a little extra cash, though.

In comparison to this, the colour reproduction of VA panels makes them the most suitable choice for watching films and television shows. Though they don’t have a high refresh rate and low response time, this isn’t necessary for watching the TV.

This is a short explanation of what the three types of display panel are best used for, but it doesn’t show the full picture. Let’s look at them in more detail to work out more differences between them.

IPS Display

Commonly found in: Laptops, televisions, expensive monitors, smartphones

For those who’ve been searching for a laptop in recent years, you’ll likely have seen the IPS display label before – it’s the most expensive of the three different types. Although in the majority of cases this means that they’re the highest quality, this doesn’t really give us the full picture.

ips-texture
Here’s an example of the texture you’d see powering an IPS monitor.

IPS stands for in-plane switching, and it works in a slightly different way that the original TN display design. Although they’ve come to the fore recently in terms of popularity, they’ve actually been around since the 90s.

However, the last few years have seen many laptop companies using IPS panels for their displays, even using it as a major selling point. There are a couple of major reasons for this, including colour reproduction and solid image quality.

Key Points about IPS Display Panels

IPS displays undoubtedly produce awesome colours, and they manage to look pretty amazing visually. Their colours are more accurate than TN displays, which is one of the reasons why they’ve become more and more popular in recent years.
Probably the main thing people notice when they switch to an IPS display from a different type is that they’re more easily viewed from an angle. This means if you’re not sitting directly opposite your monitor, an IPS will likely be more visible than the other two types. This is why they’ve been used for widescreen TVs in the first place.
An IPS display panel will use more energy than a TN display panel. This means that it’s going to use more power, which will cost more over the time that you own it.
The other areas where IPS panels are typically weak is the response time. However in recent years, a lot of improvements have been made in this regard. They’re also typically not as good at producing a high contrast as a VA display.

So if you have a big living room and a lot of people will be watching your TV, then it could be worth looking at one with IPS panels. Though some IPS televisions tend to struggle when it comes to their low contrast ratio, which tends to make them inferior to VA panel televisions.

viewing-angles
As mentioned, a key difference with IPS panel monitors is that they can be viewed easily from different angles.

Both IPS and VA panels are the most commonly used in LED televisions in the modern day. But in recent years, we’ve seen more and more manufacturers making televisions with VA panels as opposed to IPS panels.

Contrast ratios and colour reproduction play a big part in this. Due to the way IPS panels are designed, they tend to have a fair amount of backlight bleed. This leads to low contrast ratios, which isn’t that much of a problem when gaming – but when watching films, it’s one of the most important factors to consider when looking for a mid-to-high end TV.

Much of this is down to the introduction of HDR, which most televisions have when you go above a budget level. So, VA panels definitely have their own benefits too, and working with HDR well is just one of them.

VA Display

Best for: Televisions

Often considered to be a compromise of the two other types of display monitor, this is a pretty unfair way to describe VA display panels. They definitely have their place in the world, but they’re probably the least common of the three.

In terms of price, VA (vertical alignment) panels are somewhere between the two other types of television. They’re often used for televisions as they can have a very high contrast ratio. VA panels are also more limited at wider viewing angles than IPS panels too.

It’s pretty well known that if you want deep blacks, you should go for VA panels. You’ll often have a much better contrast ratio when compared to both TN and IPS panels.

Need to Know about VA Display Panels

The best thing about VA displays is that they’re pretty amazing at delivering contrast – it’s not uncommon to find a VA display with a high contrast ratio. It does this by blocking out the light coming from the backlight of the monitor, which enables it to work very well in terms of image depth and contrast too. If you want vibrant colours, then a VA television is the way to go.
In terms of colours, they’re definitely better than TN displays at producing vibrant colours. However, they’re not quite as good as IPS displays in this aspect.
VA displays have the longest response times of the three different types of panels. So, it makes sense that they’re commonly used for televisions, which response times aren’t that important when you’re watching films. And, it also makes sense that they’re not commonly used for gaming monitors, where response time is key.
Unlike IPS displays where you may have to worry about IPS glow, you won’t need to worry about this with a VA display, which is a massive bonus.

The long response times are the main reason we don’t really use this technology in gaming monitors. High refresh rates and a fast response time are key for gamers.

high-contrast
A high contrast ratio means there’s a big difference between the blacks and whites in your picture.

So if you’re looking for a gaming monitor, then the likelihood is you’re going to want to look at TN panels.

TN Display

Most practical use: Gaming monitors

The most common form of monitor out there uses a TN display panel. You won’t find this technology as commonly used in TVs, especially in new models which tend to opt for VA technology instead. TN simply stands for twisted nematic, because the display uses twisted nematic liquid crystals.

tn-panels
Because of the fast response time, TN panels are perfect for gaming monitors.

Looking at TN vs IPS panels, there are a few main differences. Much of your decision may come down to cost, in which case, TN is the better choice. TN monitors may not be as bright as IPS displays, but this should put you off them completely.

Characteristics of TN Display Panels

The are some key advantages to TN Display panels which makes them the better choice for some uses.

Out of the three different types of display panels, they’re undoubtedly the fastest of the three. It’s very easy to make a TN display with a low response time, and although you can get this in an IPS display nowadays, there was a long time where you couldn’t. You can even get sub 1ms response times with a TN display.
They’re definitely the most used of the three panel types, and there’s one key reason fo this – price. It’s quite a bit cheaper to produce a TN display than it is to produce an IPS or VA display, which is one of the key reasons they’re more common.
So we know the benefits of TN displays, but what are the downsides? Well, the areas where IPS displays excel highlights an apparent weakness in TN design. They’re not as good in terms of viewing angles, so if you’re going to have multiple people watch one screen, then it won’t appear as clearly.
As well as this, TN displays aren’t as good at reproducing colours as an IPS display monitor will be. The picture won’t be as vibrant as it would be on one of the other display types.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the battle between IPS vs TN vs VA monitors is pretty close. In the modern day if you’re looking for a laptop or a television to watch sports with your friends, then you’re going to want to opt for an IPS panel display.

If you want a television with the best quality contrast to watch films late at night, a VA panel display might prove to be better. And for gamers looking for the fastest response time possible, then a TN panel display will still be king.

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve. I've worked for the past 8 years in a major furniture retailer in the UK, so I know my way around a desk or two. On the weekends, I spend time with my kids or I'm probably outside in the garden doing something or other!

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