When you look for a new monitor you’ll quickly find there are three common panel types used by manufacturers. VA, TN and IPS panels all have their advantages and disadvantages and ultimately which is best is determined by how you intend to use the monitor.
What’s the Panel jargon mean?
VA stands for vertical alignment, Samsung calls it super VA but it’s the same thing.
TN stands for twisted nematic, this is the old school panel type and the one that’s been around the longest in LCD panel designs.
IPS stands for In plane switching.
What’s the difference?
The terms used by the manufacturing companies relate to the alignment of molecules within the LCD as well as how they alter states when electricity is applied to them. In short, how the monitor is built and how it works to get the pixels on your screen to change and display color.
Essentially there are three main ways to do this and each has a name, hence IPS, TN and VA.
Each method for image display works differently and has pros and cons. There is a tradeoff that comes with each method, which helps explain why all three are still in use and there is no one dominant favourite.
When it comes to choosing which the best way to approach it is to see what your use case is and evaluate the pros and cons from there.
Twisted Nematic Panels (TN)
The old school tech, and when we say old school at one point these panels were groundbreaking, the TN panel is responsible for some of the first flat screen monitors.
Remember when your TV had a huge bulky bit at the back?
The TN panel helped get rid of that.
As you might imagine as TN panels are outdated now they do have quite a few disadvantages.
First up the colors aren’t the best when compared to VA and IPS panels, they can’t display nearly as full a range of the sRGB color gamut as the other panels and the contrast ratio isn’t as good because the panel relies on interpolation to stimulate color shades.
Overall, both these features mean TN panels are not the best for photo editing, photoshop and those that use visual stimuli a lot for work.
The other drawback is the viewing angles, TN panels are known to completely invert the colors when viewed from the ‘wrong angle’. This feature is noticeable for two cases, one for those planning on entertaining and using the monitor with others, somebody will always get the short end of the stick, and two if you need to adjust the monitor to fit an existing desk setup you might find you don’t have the optimal viewing angle.
Finally the monitors using TN panels can be quite bright, remember when you were a kid staring at the TV and you could almost see each pixel fluctuate? This is a similar problem and not great if you plan on staring at your monitor for long stretches of time.
With all that in mind, of course the TN panel does have it’s advantages or it wouldn’t still be in use today. There are two main reasons you should consider a TN panel monitor.
First they are the budget option, as a general rule of thumb the newer the technology the more expensive it is for the consumer while older technology is cheaper. As TN is the oldest panel type on here it is also the budget friendly option.
Second, there are some features that can be very important to gamers, the response time is circa 1ms grey to grey, which is on the higher end for most monitors which is why you’ll often find TN panels used in gaming monitors. The input lag is one of the lowest on the market and they can handle really high refresh rates, all this combines to provide a more competitive gaming experience.
Vertical Alignment Panels (VA)
The VA panel is known as the panel with the best contrast ratio, even the IPS panel (generally better than the TN) has a contrast ratio of 1000:1 while the VA can have 2-3x this.
What does this mean for you?
Better images, the difference between light and dark, bright and dull becomes clear between every pixel. Perfect for jobs that require a lot of photo/ image editing and work. They hit the full color gamut and you’ll have no issues gaming or streaming content.
For a viewing or solo gaming experience the VA panel is a great choice for the color quality, but with color quality comes one main drawback.
Because the color quality is better the pixels take a longer time to make the changes to the enhanced images, which means a slower response time. We mentioned the TN panel had a response time of 1ms but the response time on VA panels is 4-5ms, not good for online multiplayer games.
Generally the VA panel is a happy medium between the IPS and TN panels.
In-Plane Switching Panel (IPS)
The IPS panel was developed as a successor to the TN panel, manufacturers wanted to fix the image quality and viewing issues while trying to maintain the superior gaming qualities found in the TN.
Originally old IPS panels had a slow response time, closer to 4-5ms while modern monitors using IPS panels have gotten that number closer to 1ms. Perfect for gamers.
Of course the trade off here is the cost, this is the most expensive choice on the list due to the quality.
What should I get?
The way we see it you should choose the panel type based on the reason you are going to use the monitor.
Casual gaming/ streaming: if this is the case focus on color quality and price, as such the VA panel is a good choice here.
Professional/ competitive gaming: The IPS panel if you have the budget, otherwise the TN panel still has a fast response time.
Office use/ all round monitor: the VA monitor is a good in between choice for color quality and price.
Vertical use/ trading: Anything but the TN panel as the image will invert when flipped.
TN, VA and IPS panels all have different ways of firing the pixels and causing the colors and thus images to change. As with most technologies there is no clear winner and what you choose depends on what you need the monitor for.