Monitors can be very confusing when it comes to balancing out the many different features they all have. Luckily, after doing an abundance of research, I have everything you need to know about monitor panels.
|Best Color Reproduction||Good Color Reproduction||Worst Color Reproduction|
|Best Viewing Angles||Decent Viewing Angles||Worst Viewing Angles|
|Great Response Times||Worst Response Times||Best Response Times|
|Best Refresh Rates||Decent Refresh Rates||Best Refresh Rates|
|Most Expensive||Mid-Range Expensive||Least Expensive|
|Worst Contrast Ratio||Best Contrast Ratio||Worst Contrast Ratio|
Now, let’s break down what these terms mean, and why the performance of each panel type can vary greatly.
IPS vs. VA vs. TN Comparison
TN Monitor Panel (Twisted Nematic)
Starting with the cheapest, highest performing in terms of speed we have the TN panel. There isn’t any easy way to explain how this works, but this is a short look at how TN panel crystals work.
TN panels have twisted crystals that when not supplied with voltage will be twisted at a 90-degree angle to block light from passing through.
When the voltage is applied, the molecules in the monitor will shift and the crystals will un-twist allowing for light to move through the monitor.
TN panels are good for creating a basic picture, but you have much poorer color quality and generally have worse viewing angles.
Viewing angles are what they sound like, depending on where you are looking at your monitor from it will look different.
How much it differs depends on the panel type. For TN panels, when viewing from an angle, the colors on the screen will look very washed out and bad.
TN panels are also tied for the worst contrast ratio out of all the monitor panels. The contrast ratio is the difference between the blackest black and the whitest white, measured by a ratio of x:1.
For many TN and IPS panels, they may be 1000:1 or lower. Whereas for VA panels, it can be closer to a 3000:1 ratio.
In darker scenes, a 1000:1 ratio will look more washed out and the minimal difference between lighter and darker colors is the culprit.
The benefit of TN panels is the much faster speeds in both response times and refresh rates.
TN panels were very commonly used for 240-hertz monitors in the past. However, more IPS panel monitors are being used at the 240-hertz refresh rate and even higher!
TN panels still score very high in response time, but they aren’t the only ones anymore.
You can find plenty of 1ms response times in IPS and VA panels. Which 1ms is all you really need for a monitor.
Even still, you can find some IPS panels that go below 1ms response time, if you wanted it.
Although other panel types are catching up to the TN’s performance, the TN panel maintains the budget price advantage.
Having an IPS monitor with a high refresh rate, low response time, and a high resolution is great, but it will cost you more than a TN panel monitor.
If money isn’t a problem for you, I would recommend going for an IPS panel monitor with a high refresh rate and low response time.
If you are on a budget, you can get a high refresh rate, low response time, and lower cost with a TN monitor, as long as you are okay with the poorer color quality.
|Good Pricing||Poor Viewing Angles|
|High Refresh Rates||Worst Color Quality|
|Low Response Time||Worst Contrast Ratio|
VA Monitor Panels (Vertical Alignment)
A VA panel is the in-between that has good color reproduction and reasonably fast speeds but is not the best at either.
Getting into the technology behind a VA panel. You have 2 stacks of crystals that, when without voltage, are blocking light in their off state.
When turned on/provided with voltage, the liquid crystals will then turn to face inward and allow the light to pass through them.
VA panels can have a good refresh rate and when it comes to color reproduction, they are better than TN panels.
Where VA panels are the best is contrast ratios. Typically, a VA panel monitor can achieve up to 3000:1 contrast ratios, nearly 3x that of many IPS and TN panels.
With 3x the contrast, you can expect much better color quality in darker scenes. The blacks will look very rich, and the contrasting bright lights will appear distinctly different.
Brighter lights will stand out a lot more from the darker scene rather than looking like one washed-out picture where all the colors share a brightness.
It’s an important feature in cinematic games like Cyberpunk 2077, Metro Exodus, and Red Dead Redemption 2.
VA panels also feature decent response times, but IPS panels more commonly have higher response times, and TN panels are the best.
With VA panels, you may not be getting the best colors or speed, but considering it has the best balance of all these features and a far superior contrast ratio, I would recommend this to most gamers.
|Best Contrast Ratios||Response Time|
|Good Refresh Rates||Not The Best In Color Or Performance|
IPS Monitor Panels (In-Plane Switching)
Time for the premium, and arguably the best type of panel on the market, at least when talking about color quality and speed.
First, let’s talk about how IPS monitors work.
IPS panels have one stack of parallel liquid crystals that rotate when voltage is applied, allowing the light to pass through.
IPS panels typically have much better viewing angles, which isn’t super important unless you view your gaming monitor from multiple angles that aren’t directly center.
It is important for developers or other people who may plan on rotating their monitor to its side for a vertical view.
Better viewing angles are important if you plan on mounting a vertical monitor. They produce better images at an angle and will make the monitor more readable.
When looking at a monitor with bad viewing angles from the side, above or below, the colors in the image will appear very washed out.
The primary benefit of IPS panels is their much better colors.
They have a higher bit depth, which is about, 8-10 bit as opposed to 6-bit, which is used in many TN monitors.
Also, IPS panels typically have a wider color gamut. This means these panels have much higher color accuracy than other panels.
IPS monitors are tied for first place in terms of response time. There is a growing amount of IPS panels with a 1ms response time, even catching up to the TN panel.
Having a 1ms response time is good, but you can see our full breakdown of response time in our article on which response time is good for gaming.
IPS monitors can support very high refresh rates, going as high as 360 hertz, which is the current maximum refresh rate on gaming monitors.
There are also many 144-hertz and 240-hertz options, so I would say they also tie for first place when talking about refresh rates.
Recently, IPS panels have been used in many impressive monitors that have super high refresh rates, and there is even an IPS monitor that can go below 1ms response time!
IPS panels are slowly becoming the best in everything except price, contrast ratio, and IPS glow.
IPS glow refers to the bright light you will see in the corners of your screen when viewing a darker image on an IPS monitor.
They are more apparent when in poorly lit environments, so if you have lights on while you game, it shouldn’t be as noticeable.
However, if you play games in the dark you will notice the IPS glow, in addition, to any backlight bleeding that your monitor may have.
Backlight bleeding is similar to IPS glow in looks, but typically, backlight bleeding will happen around the edges of the screen more than the corners.
Also lacking in IPS monitors is the contrast ratio. The contrast ratio on IPS monitors isn’t great, typically they have similar ratios to TN panels, which is around 1000:1.
The lesser contrast ratio means poorer quality in darker images. There is much less difference between the two extremes of white and black, so the color in dark images looks more washed out.
Lastly, IPS monitors are the most expensive monitors on the market. Considering they do so well in performance and picture, it doesn’t come as a shock, but it’s something you should know in advance.
If you have the extra money to go for an IPS, it’s a good idea. The boost in color quality is tremendous in comparison to other panel types, and you can maintain quick speeds.
If you don’t have the extra money, a VA panel has a better contrast ratio, and you get good quality across the board in performance and color for a price between TN and IPS.
|Best Color Depth And Accuracy||Expensive|
|Great Refresh Rate And Response Times||Poor Contrast Ratio|
|Fantastic Viewing Angles|
What Is LED Backlighting?
Many people confuse LED as another form of a monitor or another type of panel when in reality, it is something else completely.
Every LCD monitor needs light to display pictures since LCD monitors cannot display light on their own. Instead, they rely on something called LED Backlighting.
LED backlighting is a bunch of small lights inside of your monitor that provides light to display images clearly.
It comes in two forms: edge lit and direct lit.
Edge-lit displays will only put lights around the edges of the screen. Then, use a layer in the middle to spread the light across the center of the monitor.
Direct-lit displays will use a full array of LED lights across the whole display, providing an image with less ghosting.
With less technology, edge-lit monitors usually cost less than the direct-lit alternative. However, this doesn’t matter much for gamers for a simple reason.
Most gaming monitors are going to be edge-lit. Finding one that isn’t is going to be significantly harder, and they are one of the less-documented specs when reading the spec sheet or sales page.
There are also differentiating types of dimming for your LEDs that can impact your experience with the monitor.
The two types of dimming are PWM and DC.
The difference being, with PWM the screen is constantly flickering. With DC, the monitor has voltage-controlled dimming that isn’t always flickering.
The reason to look for a flicker-free monitor or DC is that some people experience more eye-strain with a PWM monitor.
Whether or not the flickering is noticeable depends on the person. If you are curious whether or not your current monitor is PWM (the flickering kind), turn on your phone camera and point it at your monitor.
If you notice the flickering while viewing the monitor through your phone camera, your monitor is most likely PWM.
Another great way is to wave your hand in front of your monitor. If you notice a weird, ghosting-like appearance to your wave, that is another sign your monitor is PWM (the constant flicker kind).
Which Monitor Panel Is Best For Competitive Gaming?
TN panels have been known as the best in the past for competitive gamers because they have high refresh rates and low response times.
For competitive gaming, you should have at least a 144-hertz refresh rate. Although, now there are 240 and 360-hertz varieties available.
Keep in mind that whatever refresh rate you choose needs to be achievable with your GPU if you want to see the full benefit.
So unless you have a beast of a computer, going with a 1080p resolution will be the better choice since it has significantly fewer pixels for your GPU to fill and will allow you to reach a higher FPS with what you have.
Response time is important up to about 1ms. Less than 1ms is appreciated, but I wouldn’t pay an exorbitant amount more since the benefit won’t be all that noticeable below 1ms.
If you do have extra money to spend, IPS panels aren’t all that much more expensive these days. You get much better colors and viewing angles with an IPS monitor.
IPS monitors have a wider color gamut, which means more accurate colors, and they typically have a higher bit depth of 8 or 10, which can also improve color quality.
For bit depth, a native bit depth of 8 or 10 is better than 6 or 8 + FRC. FRC means Frame Rate Control, and it is a fake way to achieve a higher bit depth. It looks close, but going for native bit depth is better.
Leading to the conclusion that for competitive gamers with a larger budget, IPS panel monitors are the best choice. With outstanding color quality and speeds equal or even faster than TN panels, they are the best.
If you are a competitive gamer on a budget, TN panels will give you the high refresh rate and response time you need for a great price.
Which Monitor Panel Is Best For Single-Player Gaming?
This isn’t as easy as one might think, you can get the best colors on an IPS monitor, but VA panels have 3x the contrast ratio and don’t suffer from IPS glow.
Also, VA panels can get very close to the color gamut and bit depth of IPS panels. A VA panel with 100%+ sRGB color gamut scores and a bit-depth of 8 bit is on par with the average IPS monitor.
Also, you get a fantastic contrast ratio that makes the monitor even better than an IPS monitor in darker scenes.
It should be mentioned that not all VA panels will have a 3000:1 contrast ratio. You can make sure of this by looking at the spec sheet on the sales page, look for the static contrast ratio.
Dynamic contrast ratio isn’t a number you should worry about since it isn’t nearly as defined and usually is under the absolute best circumstances for the monitor.
In other words, the dynamic contrast ratio is more of a marketing number that sounds impressive but isn’t useful information for a buyer.
VA panels don’t typically have as good of response times when compared to IPS or TN panels. Although, you can still find a decent variety of VA panel monitors that have 1ms response times.
There are plenty of VA monitors that support 60, 144, or 165-hertz refresh rates. Anything above 165hz isn’t common for VA panel monitors. For 240 or 360 hertz, you will have to go for either IPS or TN.
Price-wise these are going to be the in-between that is cheaper than IPS monitors but more expensive than TN monitors.
For a single-player experience, a VA panel with a similar color gamut and bit depth to an IPS with the contrast ratio that VA brings to the table can provide fantastic visuals.
During the lighter scenes, you can have vibrant, accurate colors and in the darker scenes, you can have a clear distinction between light and dark making for a much more immersive image.
Also, you won’t have the IPS glow in the corners of your screen. You might still have backlight bleed on the sides, but that can vary on the monitor. Whereas, IPS glow is a side effect of the panel.
IPS panels can also be good for single-player gaming. They bring very deep, accurate colors to the game and a variety of refresh rate choices. The main drawbacks are price, contrast ratio, and IPS glow.
You can pick up some speed in response time and refresh rate. However, for newer games, you will likely be closer to 60 FPS with high graphics settings.
All in all, for the absolute best colors and performance, IPS monitors will be the ideal choice.
However, a cheaper alternative, with no IPS glow and a high contrast ratio for better dark scenes, you have a great option with the VA panel.
Which Monitor Is Best For Photo And Video Editing?
Typically these types of tasks require the highest color accuracy, so for that reason, I would recommend going with an IPS monitor.
The worst type of monitor you could choose for this task would be TN, considering it has the lowest bit depth and color gamut.
Even VA monitors could do pretty well for video or photo editing if you get a monitor that scores higher on the color gamut rating.
You would likely also want a monitor that has an 8-bit depth. Some 8-bit monitors will also have FRC, which can help simulate bit depth closer to 10-bit.
However, if you truly want 10-bit, you will have to go with an IPS monitor at the moment.
Bit-depth (also known as color depth or pixel depth) is important because it is a measurement of how many colors can be displayed.
The higher the bit depth count, the more colors that can be shown on screen, making for a much more colorful picture.
In conclusion, for the best color accuracy and bit depth for photo and video editing, you need an IPS panel monitor.
Which Is The Best Monitor Panel On A Budget?
As far as pricing goes, you can get nearly any panel for a budget price. You only have to choose what you are willing to go without.
The cheapest monitor panel is usually the TN panel. It can provide great refresh rates and response time for a reasonable cost.
For less than $150, you can get a TN panel monitor with a 144-hertz refresh rate and 1ms response time at a 1080p resolution.
If you prioritize color accuracy and image quality in the same price range, you can get an IPS monitor.
The IPS monitor will feature 4ms response time, 60hz, and a 1080p resolution, but it will have much better color accuracy and bit depth.
For not much more money than the TN monitor mentioned above, you can get an IPS monitor with a 1ms response time and 144-hertz refresh rate.
The IPS color gamut will be on the lower end of what IPS panels can reach. However, it will still be significantly more than the TN monitor (about 30%).
You also get a higher bit depth, going from 6-bit to 8-bit. For not much more money, you get a monitor with significantly better picture quality.
The IPS monitor we are referring to that has 144 hertz and 1ms is the PIXIO PX248 (link to Amazon).
Do Monitor Panels Affect Input Lag?
Monitor panels specifically do not impact input lag. Input lag is technically the time it takes for the player’s button press to register on the screen.
Monitor panels won’t directly impact that, however, things like refresh rate, response time, your PC components, and your keyboard and mouse will.
In a way, panels focus more on impacting your color quality. Although as a by-product, the panels will have different maximum refresh rates or response times due to the technology.
A good way to decrease your input lag is to achieve a higher FPS. But to see the full benefit of a higher FPS without screen tearing, you need a monitor with a higher refresh rate.
Here is a fantastic video demonstrating the difference between input lag at varying frame rates and refresh rates.
At 60FPS/60 hertz, you have an average input lag of 28.9ms, whereas, at 144FPS/144 hertz, you have an average input lag of 16.7ms.
By decreasing input lag, you can greatly improve your multiplayer gaming, where that split second is all the difference.
As this debate progresses, it isn’t getting any easier to decide a clear winner that is the best above all monitor panels.
VA panels can reach IPS colors, IPS panels have become cheaper and faster, and TN panels give you even faster speeds for a budget price! Choosing a monitor panel is getting more confusing!
TN panels maintain low prices while providing surprising speeds. They may have the worst color quality, but the refresh rates and response times you get for their cost is shocking.
Getting a 144-hertz monitor for less than $150 was something very few people could imagine when the technology first broke onto the scene.
Imagine the same situation in the future, if you could get 240 hertz for only $150, whereas now it would cost you about $400.
VA is the best of both worlds, winning only in contrast ratio. This makes VA panels have much better dark scenes, and you don’t have to worry about IPS glow.
IPS glow will only annoy certain people. If it does annoy you, there are VA panel monitors that have similar color gamuts and bit depth to an IPS panel without the IPS glow.
To sum up where monitor panels stand at the moment. For the best of both colors and performance, but expensive pricing, you have the IPS panel.
For the best performance and pricing, but lackluster colors, viewing angles, and contrast ratio, check out the TN panel.
Lastly, for the best contrast ratio, good color reproduction, bit depth, and decent performance, check out the VA panel.
One quick tip before you go, don’t trust that an IPS panel monitor has good color gamut and bit depth simply because it is an IPS.
Check the monitor specifications to make sure the IPS monitor you are getting scores more than a 100% score in the sRGB color gamut and has at least an 8-bit color depth.