For most buyers, monitors seem to be the least thought out purchase. Beyond resolution and size, no one actually bothers to look at its features and make. The ground reality is that monitors are really complex. There are so many attributes like the colour reproduction, viewing angle, input lag, response time, and so on that have a considerable effect on how the picture looks. The whole essence of gaming depends on these attributes. They could either enhance or hinder your gaming experience considerably. Since creation, the marketing world has used all kinds of nonsense which led to many attributes having lost their meaning over time. So, it is necessary to see them in the correct light and understand them before making a purchase.
As for LCD monitors, they come with different panel types, the most common ones being IPS, TN, VA, and PLS. One thing you must remember that there is no single best panel type. Each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages when compared to the others. In the end, it is always based on the choice and requirements of the buyer. First of all, we need to understand the basic characteristics of each kind of display. Even panels of the same type show different characteristics. Manufacturer-specific changes are also common.
Twisted Nemanic panels, or TN panels, were the first-panel type that came to be produced widely. Even now, they are the most common ones around.
When compared to the previously popular CRT monitors, TN panels are found to have many benefits like lower weight, lower power consumption, lower price, they offer clear pictures, do not have any resolution limits as such, they are much thinner, have flexible size and shape, and eliminate flicker effectively.
Even though they have loads of benefits, they come with limitations. These panels are not perfect as such should be in gaming monitors. They do have limited viewing angles, motion blur problems, uneven backlighting issues, a much higher input lag, poor display when under sunlight, and dead or stuck pixels. There has been a lot of improvement in these areas, but total elimination is not possible because of the way these panels are made and how they work. There are many problems in the list that are, in fact, prevalent across all LCD panels like motion blur, input lag, uneven backlighting, and dead or stuck pixels. With larger displays, poor viewing angles turn out to be a problem. Apart from that, TN panels have a low response time. They are generally from 60 Hz to 144 Hz, and support games with higher frequencies much more effectively. Moreover, sharp pictures, lower weight, higher resolution, widescreen output, and smaller physical dimensions come as an added advantage.
As compared to other LCD panels, issues like worse colour reproduction and poor viewing angles are common. If gamers are looking for a prettier and improved colour experience, then they might think of considering the other panel types which are worth it. Until and unless that is the case, TN panels are a good choice.
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IPS Panel display
In-Plane Switching, or IPS, came out to combat the shortcomings of the TN panels. The issues of poor colour reproduction and viewing angles are addressed in this type, and they have been addressed successfully as well. They have a higher contrast ratio with superior blacks, a higher colour accuracy which causes them to look less “washed out”, and also very little colour shift when the viewing angles are changed.
The limitations, in this case, are that IPS panels have slower response times, higher power consumption, higher costs for production, and lower refresh rates. They are generally 60Hz. Over the years, several improvements have been made to IPS panels, with slight variations in the form of E-IPS and H-IPS, although not very significant.
IPS panels are usually not considered for avid gamers and those working with colours like graphic designers due to the worse response rates and low refresh rates. For casual gamers, this might not be an issue.
Plane to Line Switching, or PLS, panels are similar to the IPS panels discussed above. The advantages and disadvantages are more or less the same for both panel types. PLS panels are produced by Samsung, and it claims that PLS panels have better viewing angles, 15% decrease in production costs, 10% increase in brightness, have increased image quality, and also allow flexible panels, as compared to IPS panels.
The PLS panels overclock well in monitors, and this is a major advantage. In short, PLS is Samsung’s version of IPS panel types. The functionality is quite similar, and so is the name.
Vertical Alignment panels, or VA panels, fall in between TN and IPS panels. The advantages of both TN and IPS panels have been combined to create VA panels, and this aim has been largely successful although there is some compromise.
VA panels have higher refresh rates when compared to IPS panels. Most are currently at 60 Hz, but there are a few that are above it. Additionally, VA has a whole lot of more advantages over TN panels than IPS. It has a better colour reproduction, better viewing angles, and higher maximum brightness. Even though VA panels have the best contrast ratios, the response time is the worst among all types and this causes blurring in fast-moving pictures. As such, the VA is disadvantageous for gaming. This eliminates its deployment for fast-moving titles.
VA seems to be kind of a “Jack of all trades, but master of none” type of model.
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IPS vs. TN vs. VA vs. PLS Panels
As you have seen above, none of the panels seems to be perfect. Each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
TN panels are good for competitive gamers due to their higher refresh rates, decent input lag, low response time, and high resolutions. The disadvantages are the ones that cannot be easily fixed, like colour reproduction, bad viewing angles, and slight blurring cause due to higher response times.
The issues of TN panels are solved in IPS panels, and they have better viewing angles and colour reproduction. However, this is done at the cost of the response time and refresh rate. Those who are not looking out to play competitively but want a good visual experience should find this type of panel suitable.
PLS panel is Samsung’s version of the IPS panel. The major advantages and disadvantages are the same with slight modifications here and there.
As for the VA panels, they stand in between the TN panels and the IPS panels. They offer refresh rates and contrast levels better than IPS panels but have really bad viewing angles and colour reproduction which is better than TN displays though. The largest downfall, in this case, is the response time. It is much slower than both IPS and TN.
The question of which panel to choose ultimately depends on the user’s requirements and choices. If you want to play competitively and need a good FPS or play racing games, TN panels are the best choice for you. TN is currently the most common LCD panel in the market. You get a lot at a decent price. If you are looking out for more impressive and immersive pictures and experience, then you might want to go for and IPS or PLS panel. If you just need a monitor for general work, VA panels would suit you. They do not support gaming, though.
So, now you realize that monitors are much more than just pretty pictures. They are much more complex than one would think and there is a lot more that goes behind it. So, make a wise decision and choose your gaming monitor with a lot of thought and effort.