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VA vs. IPS vs. TN Which Monitor Panel is Best for Gaming?

BenQ
2023/04/13
Choosing between VS, IPS and TN panel has advantages for particular uses, so let’s take a look the differences in speed, color, contrast, and more.



The availability of different panel types may confuse you when shopping for a gaming monitor. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each variety. You want a new gaming monitor and have already settled on all the essentials. Screen size, resolution, and of course price range. But just when you think it’s OK to click “buy” you remember monitors have different panel types, and you recall the various manufacturing processes supposedly make a big difference.

 

Which do you need? TN, VA, or IPS? All modern monitors use TFT LCD (thin film transistor liquid crystal display) as their core technology. OLED is another option, and uses a completely different technology, organic light emitting diodes. TFT LCDs have been around since the 1950s and have improved dramatically over time. There are three main types of panel: the oldest one, twisted nematic (TN), vertical alignment (VA) and in-plane switching (IPS).

 

Each manufacturing process tends to be best suited to particular gaming habits and genres. If you happen to care especially about a certain variety of games, or just want to enjoy every kind, then you could benefit greatly from going with one type of panel over another, so let’s get started.

IPS: the Finest Colours and Viewing Angles, Less Speed and Black Level Detail


In-plane switching monitors have garnered a lot of acclaim for their colour performance. They’re the only variety that regularly provides 95% or even 100% of DCI-P3, the widest colour gamut currently formalised and the one used in digital cinema. Even basic IPS panels offer 20%-30% more colour space than the fanciest TNs. So for colour, IPS monitors rate first, although casual viewers may not notice a big difference compared to other types, especially VAs. Conversely, IPS panels tend to “crush” black levels to their most extreme, which can diminish dark details. VAs and especially TNs offer more accurate black levels, a common weakness of IPS.

 

IPS panels offer wide 178/178 viewing angles. This means clear views from almost any angle. IPS provides the best experience for shared viewing. So, if you have people over and you’re all looking at the same screen from different angles, an IPS will serve you best.

 

Response and refresh rates have improved markedly on IPS-type monitors in recent years. They now match VA and even TN speeds, although for the very fastest, TN still leads the pack. For contrast, IPS panels sit somewhere between TN and VA, meaning they do HDR content much better justice than TN. Combined with their wide colour gamut, IPS displays arguably offer better HDR than VA, but the debate rages on. 

 



Who they’re for: minor issues with black levels aside, IPS monitors cater best to gamers who enjoy taking in the sights and soaking in the atmosphere. If you’re big on graphics and want to experience visuals as intended by the artists who created them, choose IPS. That means gamers keen on role playing, open world, third person exploration, and first person narrative adventure genres should go with IPS. None of those game varieties requires pixel perfect, millisecond-level reaction, and all benefit greatly from colour fidelity. For local co-op or just shared viewing of content there’s no beating IPS. If you have friends over and you want to share a gaming experience, IPS panels leave TN far behind and maintain more consistent wide angle performance compared to VA. 

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TN: Speed First, Colour and Angles Last, Good Black Levels

Arguably the oldest panel type and by most accounts the original LCD, TN monitors usually come in as the most affordable. Their biggest advantages are response time and refresh rates. Until recently, only TN panels were able to deliver 1ms or faster pixel update response, which made them the obvious choice for gaming. They were also the only panel type to go faster than 120Hz until not long ago. Remember, if a monitor responds too slowly, you’ll get bad motion blur, smearing, and ghosting in games. Plus, overall input latency and lag increase on slower monitors. TN panels also have a good reputation for accurate black levels and dark area detail.

 

On the negative side, TN panels only cover 100% of the standard RGB colour gamut and rarely go over 1000:1 contrast. This is the smallest colour space and limits visual display. The biggest weakness of TN panels, however, is limited viewing angles, which go as low as 170/160 degrees. This means looking from a wide angle will show considerable colour shift and slight image fade. However, the extreme image fade of previous years has been largely addressed on modern TNs.

 

 

Who they’re for: due to still-unmatched speeds, TN panels remain the best choice for gamers interested in competitive multiplayer where every split-second matters. If you’re into shooters or fighting games and want to compete with other players, or if you simply want the highest frame rate possible, TN is the way to go. Keep in mind you won’t get the best colours or image quality, but you’ll be assured fast response and high panel refresh rates.

 

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ZOWIE is a brand dedicated to the development of professional eSports equipment strives to continually develop products that allow gamers to play at the peak of their abilities. Catch every detail of motion and enjoy the most fluid gameplay by ZOWIE XL2566K native TN 360Hz refresh rate monitor, which ensures a flawless view of fast-motion consistently.

VA: Great All-Around, the Best Contrast, but Not the Fastest


When vertical alignment panel manufacturing emerged, LCDs gained colour and improved viewing angles. VA panels produce a much bigger colour space than TNs and have the most contrast of any LCD variety. While not as fast as TNs, VAs have improved and now perform nearly as well, routinely reaching 2-3ms response times and 200Hz refresh rates. They exceed standard RGB and often reach the much richer and wider Adobe RGB colour gamut, and have 178/178 wide viewing angles. Because VA panels offer impressive contrast ratios (3000:1 and more are common), they’re great for HDR content – that’s why most current TVs use them. 

 

Who they’re for:VA panels do justice to essentially any game you throw at them. They’re the ultimate jacks-of-all-trades so, if you’re a gaming enthusiast with wide-ranging interests in different genres, a VA’s for you. You’ll get good performance and excellent image quality no matter what you play. The exception would be competitive players whose only focus is winning. Since VAs aren’t as quite as fast as TNs, if a kill/death or win/lose ratio matters to you more than contrast ratios then opt for TN. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with a VA monitor. 

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What About OLED?



That requires an entire article to explain, because OLED isn’t just another variant of the same technology. It’s not a different panel type, the whole screen works based on a completely different design. OLEDs have been entering the gaming market increasingly in the last few years, but remain much more expensive than their LCD counterparts. The main advantages of OLED in gaming are infinite contrast and by far the fastest response times, even faster than TN. You get as close to 0ms response with OLED as the laws of physics allow. Image quality and viewing angles on OLED are excellent, with really deep black levels. However, OLEDs aren’t as bright as VAs. Another downside is their increased susceptibility to image retention and burn-in, which TNs and VAs are immune to, and which IPS has also largely overcome. Still, if you have the budget for a big screen gaming monitor, then OLED is something to consider.

It's Your Call


Having discussed TN, VA, and IPS in simple terms that cover the most important aspects of each technology, you should now feel better about making that choice. The three refer to the way the transistors that control pixels are produced, arranged, and controlled. But all remain TFT LCD at heart and, with refinement over many years, the simple truth is that the differences between them no longer seem like night and day and all can serve you very well in a gaming monitor.

Panel type

Speed

Colours

Contrast

Viewing angles

Best for…

Panel type

TN

Speed

Very quick response times, often under 1ms.

Colours

Limited colour space – typically standard RGB, nothing more. However, does have quite detailed blacks.

Contrast

Lowest of the bunch, but sufficient for most applications and getting better.

Viewing angles

Biggest problem for TNs has always been this. Even good monitors suffer from colour shift and slight image fade when viewed off centre.

Best for…

High speed “twitch” gameplay in FPSs, MOBAs, and overall competitive play. Ideal for power users who crave unlocked framerates.

Panel type

VA

Speed

Much improved, almost as quick as TNs but still behind by a millisecond or two.

Colours

Good overall colour performance, with a wider gamut than TN – often Adobe RGB and increasingly, almost complete coverage of DCI-P3.

Contrast

By far the highest contrast ratios of any panel technology, routinely going beyond 3000:1 native.

Viewing angles

Noticeably better than TN and arguably the same as IPS, with 178/178 (horizontal/vertical viewing) achieved on many monitors of this type.

Best for…

Perfect for all-round “buffet” gamers who enjoy different genres and also watch movies and TV.

Panel type

IPS

Speed

Response times often between 1-2ms.

Colours

Best performers in this area. First type to support newer colour spaces like DCI-P3 and Rec. 2020. Superb colour reproduction on good quality monitors.

Contrast

Contrast ratios land somewhere between TN and VA, so generally good. However, IPS monitors suffer from “crushed” blacks, obscuring detail in dark areas.

Viewing angles

Consistently good at 178/178 and the most suitable for viewing from different angles and positions around the monitor.

Best for…

Story-minded gamers who want to relish beautiful graphics and find faithful colours important. Also the best panel for local multiplayer due to wide viewing angles.


Remember that thanks to their shared ancestry and ever-better manufacturing, the actual observable differences between the three are not as dramatic as many articles, including this one, may imply. Having said that, while the differences now are much smaller than they were in the past, they still exist. At this point in time there’s no “wrong” panel type. You won’t ruin your experience totally by picking one over the other. But you may very well make your gaming just a little bit better, so why not do it?

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