For as long as he can remember, Charlie has always been interested in computers and gaming. It all started with the Sega Mega Drive and then evolved into PC gaming in his early teens. CS 1.6 was his first go at competitive gaming which soon evolved into CS:Source and now CS:GO - a game that he still plays (almost exclusively) today. Throughout that period he has also been a keen PC builder and enthusiast - dedicating a large portion of his time to the craft. My current rig is an ASUS 5700XT with AMD's Ryzen 3600X.
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The three major panel types right now are; TN vs IPS vs VA – but which is the best for gaming? While you may have heard that TN panels offer the most responsive experience, improvements made in both IPS and VA reduce the gap exponentially.
Ultimately, we all want to get the best gaming experience, but to achieve that we must first understand the key differences between TN vs IPS vs VA gaming monitors. If you aren’t fully up to speed with the latest monitor technology, it can leave you scratching your head when it comes to buying a new monitor. Furthermore, with a tonne of conflicting opinions on which panel type is actually the best, we’re here to settle the debate once and for all.
So, whether you’re a gamer, content creator, or someone who wants a value for money all-round option, this guide will lay to rest the main differences when comparing TN vs IPS vs VA.
IPS vs VA vs TN Video
IPS vs VA vs TN: what are they?
Let’s kick start with the basics, the fundamental workings of all three panel technologies found in modern LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors. In this section, we’ll be looking at what each panel technology is, allowing us to define the key differences between the panel types more clearly.
What Is A TN Panel?
TN (Twisted Nematic) panels were once considered the most popular panel type when it came to gaming. They offered up the fastest response times when compared to IPS and VA panels, making them the key choice for gamers. Better yet, TN monitors are cheaper to manufacture meaning retail prices are much less than both VA and IPS.
Whether you are going for a new 4K gaming monitor or a fast 144Hz/ 240Hz refresh rate monitor, you will always find a more affordable TN option. Just because a TN monitor has limited viewing angles and generally worse color reproduction, it doesn’t mean it can’t be good for gaming. If money is no object and you have a fairly powerful PC that is capable of 4K gaming in max settings, it would make little sense to opt for a TN monitor when IPS can bring more vibrancy and immersion to your overall experience. That being said, for those that love to play competitively, there is still room for the TN monitor.
What Is An IPS Panel?
IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels are the stand-out performers when it comes to viewing angles, color reproduction, vibrancy, and general image quality. This makes them the best for photo editing, video editors, and general content creation. Having said that, they don’t perform that well when it comes to producing deep, inky blacks – a crown that is held by VA (or OLED) panels.
In the past, IPS displays were considered much less responsive than their TN counterparts, offering high response times across the board. While this can still technically be true, there have been huge improvements made to IPS display in the last couple of years, with some of the market’s leading 360Hz gaming monitors featuring IPS panel technology.
Remember though, while IPS panels have increased in both speed and response, they haven’t reduced in price. Instead, IPS panels that feature better color reproduction and response and the market’s most expensive.
What Is A VA Panel?
VA (vertical alignment) panels are designed to sit somewhere in between TN and IPS technology – featuring better colors than TN and faster response times/refresh rates than IPS. However, thanks to improvements made in VA panels as well, we are finding numerous high refresh rate VA monitors in abundance – especially in the ultrawide monitor sector.
In general, they have better viewing angles, darker blacks, and higher contrast ratio than both IPS and TN panels. Whereas IPS panels offer around 1000:1 contrast, VA offers 3000:1 – mainly thanks to the inky blacks they tend to produce.
Of course, there are visual artifacts to be found in all three panel types, but we’ll touch upon that in more detail shortly.
TN vs IPS vs VA Monitors: how do they differ?
Even today, people struggle to choose between IPS vs VA vs TN panel technology – even more so now all three can theoretically offer up similar levels of speed. For that reason, we have compiled all the differences between TN vs IPS vs VA monitors below, allowing you to decipher which panel type is best for your needs.
With the major differences covered, let’s talk more about the factors that make each of the monitor’s differences better for certain tasks over others.
Response time refers to the length of time it takes for a pixel to transition from one color to another – often using the GTG transition but not always. Response times are hugely important when it comes to gaming as most games feature fast-moving images.
If you play a game using a monitor with a slow response time, you’ll experience annoying screen artifacts such as ghosting, blurring, smearing, and perceived blur (motion blur).
So what exactly is a fast response time?
Around a decade ago, the TN panel type was the standout performer when it came to pixel response times. They would offer quick transition times were ranged from 1ms to 4ms, respectively. However, as panel technology has evolved, manufacturers have spent more time improving both VA and IPS panel types, with both now featuring 1ms response times.
Of course, response time is merely a marketing opportunity, with many manufacturers labeling the monitor’s “best case scenario”. In reality, many of today’s gaming monitors are in fact much slower than what the box says – one of the main reasons why many of industries best reviewers do the testing for you.
TN monitors have poor viewing angles compared to IPS monitors. They just can’t compete with their IPS and VA counterparts. You’ll also notice that colors change when viewed from both sides and from above or below.
IPS monitors have wider viewing angles. Colors don’t shift like with TN panels, where the colors can look washed out if you arent directly in front of the screen.
VA monitors also have a wider viewing angle compared to TN monitors but they still struggle to compete with IPS monitors. Colors change a bit when viewed from different angles but it is less noticeable than with TN.
TN monitors can’t compete with IPS and VA monitors when it comes to the quality of color reproduced.
IPS and VA monitors have better control and precision that allows them to deliver a more accurate color than TN monitors. That being said, IPS monitors far exceed the color accuracy of VA panels today, with some high-end QD (Quantum Dot) IPS monitors featuring TV-level accuracy and gamut.
That being said, VA panels still offer a decent color experience, with many modern manufacturers pre-calibrating their panels to an average DeltaE of <2.
As far as contrast is concerned, there is only one winner – VA. VA is by far the best panel type for wide contrast ratio, even to this day.
TN and IPS offer contrast that resides within the 1000:1 ratio. By contrast (mind the pun), VA destroys both other panel technologies, offering up 3000:1 respectively.
Having said that, VA doesn’t come close to OLED monitors when we talk about contrast – with the organic light-emitting diode featuring infinite contrast thanks to its ability to individually illuminate pixels.
Price is an interesting talking point when it comes to panel type – and a discussion that has, once again, changed dramatically over the years. That being said, of the panel types available, TN is still the cheapest to manufacture – and by a considerable margin.
Due to the impressive nature of both VA and IPS panels, monitors that utilize them reside in the higher end of the price spectrum. Of course, panel type is just one feature that goes into the overall cost of a monitor, however, on average, IPS panels are still the most expensive.
With new technologies being developed all the time, the impact panel type has on the monitor’s price continues to reduce. The likes of mini-LED backlight technology, high 8K resolutions, and 360Hz+ refresh rates have a much bigger impact on price.
IPS vs VA vs TN: which is best for gaming
Once upon a time, TN monitors were considered the best for gaming thanks to their lightning-quick response. However, as we’ve eluded to numerous times already, both VA and IPS now feature similar levels of response, making them equally as efficient for gaming. At the time of writing this, some of the market’s leading 360Hz monitors are IPS panels – displaying just how far these panel types have come.
IPS vs VA: which is best?
So, if both VA and IPS offer similar levels of speed and response to TN, which is truly best for gaming?
Well, the answer really comes down to what you prioritize – with both VA vs IPS claiming their own unique set of pros.
Let’s start with IPS. If you’re looking for a great gaming monitor that features high-end performance, including; high refresh rates, low response times, excellent colors, great viewing angles, and immersive qualities, IPS panels should be high on your list of considerations.
Having said that, IPS monitors are quite expensive – meaning you’ll likely have to fork out a premium if you want to choose between two similarly performing VA/IPS monitors. Furthermore, there are certain sizes and shapes (mainly curved) that don’t frequently feature IPS panel technology.
Alternatively, if you’d rather experience deep, inky blacks, excellent contrast, and great response, VA panels should be a worthy contender for your needs. Samsung has been working on SVA panels in the past, showcasing increased qualities that make these VA panels much closer to IPS.
Whether it’s a TN, IPS, or VA panel, choosing the right monitor shouldn’t be based on what most people are using. The monitor you go for needs to meet your personal criteria and do the games you play justice.
With all the differences discussed, it’s clear that IPS gaming monitors are the best of the best, with fast responsive specifications, wider viewing angles, and brilliant color reproduction. Despite TN once holding the crown for gamers needing high responsiveness, that isn’t really the case anymore. That said, you can still pick up a speedy TN panel and it won’t cost you nearly as much as the alternatives.
However, if you do content creation, image editing, graphics design, and video production, an IPS monitor is still the best choice to go for.
What panel type is your current gaming monitor? TN, IPS, or VA? Which of the three do you consider to be the best monitor for gaming?