It almost goes without saying, but what panel you “should” choose is up to a number of factors. Whether you choose a TN vs IPS vs VA monitor will ultimately come down to personal preference. There is no “best” type of monitor panel, but there are key differences between the three main types which make the winning decision easier for most people.
It is generally agreed upon that TN panels have poor color representation (dull colors) and viewing angles, IPS panels have superior colors, and VA panels have the best image uniformity and contrast. Many gamers have their favorite, but what monitor you ultimately decide on should be based on what you want the most out of your games.
For instance, FPS gamer’s may prefer TN panels to get the fastest response times possible for a fast gaming experience. MMO gamers may prefer an IPS panel to have an immersive and vibrant gaming experience. Night owls, programmers, and those who use their monitor for tasks other than gaming may prefer a VA panel, which can provide the darkest blacks and highest contrast ratios making text easier on the eyes.
There are other types of panels out there, like CRT (the old boxy monitors), or OLED (an emerging technology) – but most other variations of panels out there are some altered form of the main three (IPS, VA and TN).
When choosing a monitor panel (if it even matters to you that most when compared to other features), please consider the pros and cons of each as noted below to help you make an informed decision.
IPS (In-Plane Switching) Panel
IPS panels are known to provide the best and most vibrant colors along with the best viewing angles – which are their main selling points. IPS panels came out shortly after TN panels in the 1990’s, and have come a long way from when they were first produced. Today, IPS panels can range from the most basic low-end sub-$100 monitors, all the way to $1500+ “high-end” HDR gaming monitors.
For the downsides, IPS panels are more restricted with having good response times (see pixel response rate), and generally have poor refresh rates – though this has been changing in recent years as the technology improves.
In the past, TN panels were the clear winner for most gamers as they offered superior refresh rates (120HZ and greater), but most “high end” gaming monitors of today ship with IPS panels. Most of these high end IPS panels offer superior colors, good blacks and color uniformity – and often have refresh rates greater than 100Hz. It’s easier for manufacturers to create curved and ultrawide monitors using the IPS panel as well. This makes them the ideal choice for most manufacturers wanting to sell the best gaming experience.
TN (Twisted-Nematic) Panel
TN panels have held the throne for most of the last 20 years as being the best monitors for gamers. While this was certainly true for the late 1990’s through the late 2000’s, in recent years there has been great progress in IPS and VA panel technology.
All progress aside, TN panels continue to be ranked as the fastest monitors on the market – capable of reaching 240Hz or more. While most people do not have the means or computational power to utilize such framerates, those who do will be impressed by the outrageous framerates found on TN panels.
In addition to their superiority in being able to push the fastest framerates possible, TN panels are also generally the most affordable of the three for the performance you get.
If you compare a 144Hz TN panel to a VA and IPS panel, all extras aside the TN panel will likely be the most affordable by a good margin. This makes them the ideal monitor for gamers who wants a top gaming experience and are on a budget.
Lastly, TN panels are known for having excellent response times – with many of them effortlessly being able to achieve a 1ms response time. IPS and VA panels can achieve that time as well, but often times need to rely on a Motion-Blur Reduction mode or activating Active Sync to achieve it.
Despite all these upsides for gamers, the picture quality is severely lacking in TN panels when compared to IPS or VA. It will be evident the minute you look at the three that TN panels appear washed out, with blacks appearing as a dark grey, and colors looking duller. If you can put this disadvantage aside for a great affordable gaming experience, you may be the most interested in TN panels.
VA (Vertical Alignment) Panel
VA monitors seem to get no love from gamers, with most of them opting to go for TN or IPS panels, but the truth is there are still advantages for gamers to use a VA panel over the alternatives.
Considered by many to be sort of a “middle-ground” between IPS and TN panels, these monitors offer some of the pros of each without having to make any serious sacrifices. Where VA panels really shine, however, is in their deep and uniform blacks. Many people are seriously bothered by the light bleed found on many IPS and TN panels, so having VA as an option is a must for many people who want a screen that looks great in a dark room.
VA panels have similar color vividness to IPS panels, often appearing without the saturated look that some IPS panels come with (usually by the manufacturer’s settings). When you factor in that they are usually pretty affordable, come in large 32” sizes, can achieve 1ms response times, and have refresh rates up to 144Hz – many gamer’s find themselves preferring this monitor type that functions as good as a work screen as it does a gaming performer.
What should I choose?
If you consider the pros and cons of each, ultimately there is no correct answer. I have personally purchased multiple IPS panels from Amazon only to realize I disliked them, and am happy with my current 32” VA panel monitor I’m typing on right now.
Thankfully, Amazon/other online retailers have good return policies so you will never be locked in with one type on monitor. I also recommend going to your local electronics store to view them in person if you do not have a clear winner in mind.
At the end of the day, you will either prioritize beautiful picture quality (IPS panels), gaming performance for the price (TN panels) or some combination of the two (VA panels). All three technologies have their advantages and disadvantages, and only you can decide which one works for you.