As Fast As Possible
You should choose a panel according to what you’ll be watching on the screen the most and according to what you personally prefer regarding image quality.
While TN panels have the worst color reproduction and viewing angles, they have the fastest response time speed suited for fast-paced games. IPS panels have the most accurate colors, and VA panels have the highest contrast ratio.
Apart from the screen resolution, the display’s panel type will have the biggest impact on the overall image quality.
All three panel technologies have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s very important to choose the one that’s ideal for you.
TN (Twisted Nematic) Panel
We’ll start off with TN panels which are nowadays mostly found in gaming monitors as they have the quickest response time speed.
All newer TN monitors will offer a rapid 1ms response time (gray to gray pixel transition or ‘GtG’ for short) which eliminates ghosting, trailing, and motion blur of the fast-moving objects in fast-paced games.
When paired with a high refresh rate, TN panel gaming monitors provide the smoothest and fastest gaming experience which is why they are the first choice of every professional FPS gamer.
Alas, TN monitors also have the worst color reproduction and narrow viewing angles: 170° horizontally and 160° vertically which causes the image to shift in color and contrast when it’s viewed from certain angles.
In short, the viewing angles aren’t an issue as long as you’re sitting in front of the monitor and if you care more about performance than pretty colors, a TN panel monitor is for you.
They can be quite bright and more expensive models will have more vibrant colors, but not as good as an IPS or a VA panel display.
IPS (In-Plane Switching) Panel
IPS panel provides the most accurate and consistent colors as well as the wide 178° viewing angles meaning you can look at the screen from basically any angle without the image shifting in color and contrast. If you’re a designer or a photographer, an IPS monitor is definitely for you.
While IPS monitors have a slower response time speed (usually 4ms or 5ms GtG) than the TN, many casual gamers would hardly notice the difference. In fact, ghosting and motion blur really isn’t an issue with IPS monitors unless you’re a hardcore competitive FPS player.
The main downside of IPS monitors is the ‘IPS glow’. If you’re looking at the monitor in a dim room while there’s a really dark background on-screen, you will be able to notice light leakage around the edges of the screen. This is an expected effect due to the excess light passing through the panel. It’s rather tolerable as it’s only mildly bothersome in certain scenarios i.e. watching dark scenes of a movie in a dim-lit room.
In the past, IPS monitors were more expensive than TN models with the same specs. Nowadays, there are IPS monitors that are only slightly (if at all) more expensive than their TN counterparts.
Keep in mind that there are several variations of the IPS panel depending on the manufacturer, and you will also find them named differently. These are the most common versions you should know:
- PLS (Plane to Line Switching) by Samsung
- AHVA (Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angles) by AU Optronics
- IPS, AH-IPS, Nano IPS by LG
There aren’t any major differences between these IPS panels; the more expensive the panel the higher the quality.
VA (Vertical Alignment) Panel
Last but not least, we have VA panels which boast a superior static contrast ratio. While IPS and TN panels usually have around 1,000:1 contrast ratio, VA panels provide 2,000:1 to 3,000:1 most of the time. This allows them to display deep and true black shades as well as strikingly bright whites.
However, this also means that pixels take longer to shift from such dark tones even though their response time speed is the same as that of an average IPS display (4-5ms). In short, ghosting and blurring is most noticeable on VA panels, particularly when dark pixels are involved.
On the other hand, VA panels don’t suffer from IPS glow and their viewing angles are also 178° although some minor shifts in color are to be expected. Naturally, the more expensive VA monitors are, the higher contrast and less ghosting.
Depending on the panel manufacturer, you may also see VA panels deemed as:
- MVA (Multidomain Vertical Alignment)
- P-MVA, S-MVA
- AMVA (Advanced MVA) – not to be confused with AHVA (IPS)
Overall, VA panels have the worst response time performance but the highest contrast ratio. The colors aren’t as accurate as that of an IPS panel, but there are more details visible in the shadows and highlights.
If you want the best gameplay experience for first-person shooter games, go for a TN panel monitor due to the fastest response time speed.
Avoid VA panels for fast-paced gameplay as you’d encounter a lot of motion blur and ghosting even at higher refresh rates.
The choice between IPS and VA will be a bit tougher as both panel technologies offer an immersive and vibrant picture quality. It’s up to you whether you prefer higher contrast or more precise color reproduction and whether you are less sensitive to ghosting or to IPS glow.
Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.