When choosing a computer monitor, always take into account the type of panel display uses in addition to the other technical specifications. Flat screens LCD monitors primarily use three different panel types: TN, IPS or VA (in its different forms). The choice of panel is very important, as it determines whether the monitor is responsive enough for your first-person shooters, good at reproducing colors if you work with design or photography, or in some cases both.
Different Monitor Panel Types
The most common type of panel type is the TN–twisted nematic. The others are Vertical Alignment (VA) and In-Plane switching (IPS). Additionally there are different versions of the latter two display types. VA computer monitors primarily come in two versions: Patterned Vertical Alignment (PVA) and Multi-domain Vertical Alignment (MVA). Each technology has its pros and cons and what to look for depends on what you plan on using your monitor for.
TN (Twisted Nematic) is the most common technology and also the oldest. The main advantage is that it provides the shortest response times, making them good for gaming. In combination with LED back-lighting, TN monitors also offer high brightness and draw less power than competing technologies. Another important factor is that they are cheap to manufacture, resulting in low prices for end users.
The drawbacks to the technology is the color shifts that occur at wider viewing angles. There are large differences in quality between different products, but the lower-end ones will exhibit color shift even at moderate angle changes. A TN-based display can usually be identified through these color distortions when viewing the picture from above or from the sides.
The main advantages with IPS monitors is that the technology offer noticeably better color reproduction as well as much better viewing angles. The downside used to be a difficulty to emphasize blacks, which in turn meant problems with the contrast. IPS panels were also very expensive and slow in the beginning.
Now the manufacturers have started producing so-called Super-IPS (S-IPS) panels at reasonable prices. Response times have crept down considerably and the contrast is much better. In addition, color display and the options to calibrate the colors are superior to the other panel types. IPS panels keep colors constant, even in sharp angles.
Further developments have led to MVA and PVA, where the manufacturers are trying to find a technique that would combine the advantages of both TN and IPS. MVA panels offer good viewing angles and generally better blacks and contrast than either TN or IPS panels. Their response times also look good on paper, but unfortunately not in the real world
Even if the response time for white to black is low, it is often considerably higher between two dark tones, leading to Ghosting effects. Another weakness is the color reproduction, which in itself is better than TN but not as good as IPS. PVA panels are in many ways similar to MVA, but have even better blacks and great contrast. The problem with ghosting remains, however.
As you have probably gathered by now, there is no single type of LCD that is good at everything. What panel type you choose must be a compromise based on how you use the monitor. Gamers will generally be happy with TN panels and their exceptional response time. Photographers and graphic designers should buy an IPS monitor instead.
If you are a writer or work in any other field where contrast is an important factor you should have a look at a monitor with an MVA or PVA panel. If you use the screen to the little bit of everything, you might choose a TN-based monitor to save money or a high-end IPS with low response time if you won’t settle for just the mere basics.
- S-IPS, H-IPS, Super PLS, AHVA and other IPS-type panels are generally considered the best all around panel type, but they are more expensive and very few are made. High end, expensive.
- S-PVA/MVA/VA panels offer better color reproduction and viewing angles than TN panels, have slightly worse response times than TN or IPS, offer the best contrast ratios, may suffer from color shifting or input lag and have higher availability than IPS and Super PLS panels. Mid range, fair price.
- TN panels are very cheap and have the fastest response times, but suffer from inferior color reproduction, contrast ratios and viewing angles. The majority of LCD monitors produced use TN panels. Low end, inexpensive.