The monitor is one of the most important parts of the whole experience of using a computer, and it’s one of the components that it makes sense to spend good money on – after all, a good monitor can easily outlive your computer, and possibly your next one too!
A good monitor will reproduce colors well, won’t blur when moving windows around, watching videos, or playing games – and will generally enhance your computing experience.
On the other hand, a bad monitor will suck the fun out of using even the most powerful computers – it’ll be hard to see details, colors will look bad, and overall, the image quality can be so low as to make the screen extremely undesirable to use!
With so many different technologies available to consumers now, it can be hard to know which ones are worth buying for your needs.
You might have seen terms like “IPS” and TN” used – but if you don’t know what they mean, then how are you supposed to know the difference, and make an informed choice about which panel is the one you should buy?
What exactly does “IPS” mean – and what makes it different from other monitor technologies?
Well, if you’ve been wondering about this – good news! This article will teach you about the different types of monitor you can buy, and what the different technologies mean! So, if this is all a bit of a mystery to you, don’t worry – simply read on for more information!
What Is An IPS Panel?
If you’ve got an IPS monitor already, or have had one recommended, you might be wondering about the obvious question – what exactly is IPS, and what does it mean to the consumer when it comes to getting the best monitor?
Well, IPS is one of four currently available ways of making a monitor. Each of them have their strengths and drawbacks, and are more suited for different purposes.
An IPS panel is one made, unsurprisingly, using the IPS technology. IPS stands for “In-Plane Switching”.
In an IPS monitor, the liquid crystals that are such a key part of the display technology are aligned horizontally to the screen, rather than in other monitor technologies where they are aligned vertically.
Unlike in the earlier panel technology, TN (Twisted Nematic), IPS monitors don’t have their liquid crystal anchored to the lower glass substrate of the panel (the lower of the two glass pieces that sandwich the array of liquid crystals).
Explaining this simply, the way that the liquid crystals are sandwiched and connected in the panel requires double the amount of transistors per pixel in order to change the color of said pixel.
This causes more power to be used – using two transistors means that less light comes through the panel, meaning that a more powerful backlight must be used.
With this in mind, it doesn’t sound like a good thing for IPS panels – after all, what’s the point of using more energy?
Well, the answer is simple – IPS panels typically look better than TN panels! The horizontal alignment of the liquid crystals in the display helps the display to look good from wider viewing angles.
Indeed, it’s not uncommon for TN panels to look completely different when viewed from a side angle, with the color cast of images being completely distorted. IPS panels, on the other hand, look better when viewed from side angles, retaining their color longer.
IPS panels also have better color reproduction in general – making them typically far more suited for applications and uses that require accurate colors. For example, an IPS panel is often a great choice for photographers, video editors, and anyone else that needs accurate color representation.
However, there of course has to be a caveat – IPS monitors typically don’t react as quickly as a TN panel.
This means that pixels don’t switch colors quite as quickly as in most TN panels – meaning that it’s more likely that you’ll see blurring or ghosting on an IPS panel when things are moving around fast on screen.
It’s possible to get IPS panels with response times comparable to TN panels, but they’re typically more expensive.
What Other Sort Of Panels Are There?
Aside from IPS panels, there are at least three other monitor technologies currently in production, and available to the consumer.
Firstly, there’s TN (Twisted Nematic), by far the oldest LCD panel technology. As an extremely mature technology, it’s no surprise that TN panels are usually the cheapest type of panel.
They’re usually not great for color reproduction and accuracy, and typically have bad viewing angles – meaning that while they’ll look fine when viewed directly head-on, looking at them from more than a slight angle can mean heavily distorted color reproduction.
This might sound like TN panels don’t make for great monitors, but that’s not necessarily the case! For a start, price can be important – it’s better to have a display than not, even if it’s not the best.
Secondly, TN panels excel in one use case – gaming! They typically have by far the fastest pixel response times, and the fastest refresh rates too – both of which are very important for gaming!
In fact, TN panel-based monitors are available with refresh rates above 240hz – some even over 300hz!
These high refresh rate monitors are great for gaming, as they’ll provide the smoothest possible moving images – so while the color accuracy might not be good enough for professional use, the refresh rate and pixel response times make them absolutely amazing for gamers – and typically the best value too!
VA (Vertical Alignment) panels sit somewhere in between IPS and TN monitors in terms of contrast, color reproduction, and viewing angles.
High end VA monitors are extremely close rivals of IPS monitors in these aspects, making both panel types great for applications that need extremely high accuracy in reproducing colors – such as photo and video editing.
VA panels have the highest contrast ratios of all the panel types too, and have great viewing angles too – better than IPS, even! However, their response times and refresh rates aren’t the best, compared to TN panels – and, of course, they’re more expensive than TN panels on the whole too!
Finally, we have OLED panels, which you may have seen already on some smartphones! These are typically far more expensive, and are also harder to come by than other panel types.
At the moment, they’re available, but are rarely easy or cheap to buy. However, they have many advantages over the other panel types – chief of which is that they don’t need a backlight.
Each individual pixel is instead lit by positively/negatively charged ions.
This is complex, but the upshot of it is that there’s none of that backlight glow you get from other panel types – meaning that blacks are actually black, as there’s no light at all coming from black areas of the screen!
Other panel types, when showing black, are actually still showing some light from the backlight – but with OLED panels, the black pixels are simply switched off!
Monitor technologies can be a little confusing – but hopefully this quick and handy guide has cleared up some of the terminology for you. Now you know the difference between an IPS and a TN panel – so you’re better able to make an informed choice!