If you are interested in picking up PC gaming as a hobby, let us first say you are making a great choice, as nothing can compare to the excitement into which you are about to embark. However, whether you are a new gamer or an experienced one, you will definitely want to search for the best possible monitor type on which to play your chosen game or games. The truth is that monitors, including the so-called gaming monitors, come in a variety of screen sizes and boast varying screen resolutions. Monitors used for gaming can also have either glass or matte surfaces, or feature extras such as 3D capability and amazing refresh rates of up to 144Hz.
A lot of these attributes come down to the LCD panel technology used in the various LCD monitors—technology of which the majority of gamers—and the general population—may be completely unaware.
As a gamer, it is important for you to become very familiar with the different panel technologies that currently exist. Becoming familiar will help you have a better idea when it comes to some of the terms manufacturers use to describe these different LCD panel monitors when they are collectively marketing their products. For example, buzzwords like “grey-to-grey response time” and “contrast ratio” are very crucial to understand, as are terms such as “color bit depth” and “input delay.—terms you will hopefully understand better after reading this article.
There are many questions you should ask yourself when choosing the right LCD panel monitor. Among these are: “How much do I want to spend on a new monitor,” “Will I be using the monitor for gaming and gaming alone,” and “what is my level of gaming: competitive or casual?”
Not every display type will be appropriate for every gamer, as different gaming enthusiasts will understandably have different needs and requirements. Certain panel types are designed exclusively for gamers, while others are more suited to other tasks, such as doing graphic design. Some gamers will go for the best visual representation, while for others, especially competitive gamers, performance is always king.
In the following article we will discuss LCD panel technology and monitors in terms of three popular types of panels: IPS, TN and VA, exploring what you can expect with each type of panel to help you make the most informed purchasing decision possible.
About TN Display
TN Display, an acronym that stands for “Twisted Nematic Display,” is one of the most popular types of monitors on the market today. These monitors are built with a nematic liquid crystal inside, located between two glass panels—polarized sheets of glass. Due to their popularity, nearly all LCD monitors currently in existence have a TN panel located inside. These monitor types are the most readily available, made by almost very monitor manufacturer, and they are also the least expensive types of LCD panels in the marketplace.
If you went out tomorrow to shop for a monitor, and the manufacturer of that monitor didn’t indicate what type of panel was used to make it, you can be pretty sure it’s a TN panel, as these are the most common types of panels available. IPS and VA panels, on the other hand, are not as popular and widespread. As a result, manufacturers tend to label monitors of this kind as such, usually in an effort to make them stand out from the general competition—to make them stand out from TN panels.
A Twisted Nematic (TN) panel monitor owes most of its popularity to its low manufacturing costs. However, if you are looking for a monitor with the highest response rate, a TN panel is the way to go, surpassing both IPS and VA panels in this category. This higher response rate, with the pixels changing very rapidly, leads to smoother images when gaming—a fact that most serious gamers appreciate.
With their higher response times, a TN Panel that also has a high refresh rate, say 144Hz, is more than adequate for most of your gaming needs. And while you will certainly have to spend more for this higher refresh rate, you can still expect to spend less than you would for an IPS or VA panel with the same refresh rate.
With all this being said, Twisted Nematic display technology does have its drawbacks. Although the response rate is high, the image quality with these monitors tends to be lacking in quality, especially when compared to the other two panel types that we will discuss in the final two sections. Of course, there are a fair number of TN monitors that can produce crisp and vibrant images (if you do not mind paying more) with decent contrast, but what you will find with most TN panels is a restricted viewing angle—an angle that can hamper your performance when playing certain games.
The viewing angles on a TN panel display monitor usually fall in the range of 160 degrees vertical and 170 degrees horizontal. The problem is, these angles are much lower than what you would find with IPS and VA panel displays. These lower viewing angles can be especially problematic when buying a TN monitor with a larger screen, as the limited angle can really skew your view when sitting directly in front of the monitor.
When gaming, your eyes tend to perceive a different viewing angle when looking at the center of the screen than they would when looking at the peripheral or side portions of the TN monitor. In this case, a given color shade can be represented to be a different shade depending on its position on the screen. For example, an image or a color may appear darker when it is on the upper side of the screen and perhaps lighter when that image is towards the bottom of the screen.
Due to all of these drawbacks, the constancy and color accuracy you can expect with a TN panel will suffer in comparison to IPS and VA panels. This ultimately makes the TN panel type less than ideal for color-critical work such as photography and design, but also for gamers who want the best visual representations possible.
About IPS Display
Now let us talk for a minute about the second type of panel display: the IPS display. The IPS display, or “In-Plane Switching” display is also a type of LCD monitor panel. It was originally developed as a way to improve upon the image quality one receives from the TN panel, which was lacking in this category.
Perhaps the best part of the IPS display technology is the consistency in terms of color and image quality. The new and improved viewing angles this technology brings about leads to greater color accuracy across the board, especially when compared to TN displays and even to some degree the VA displays. With IPS panels, every color shade on the screen maintains its unique color identity and distinctiveness irrespective of its position on the monitor—top, bottom or on the peripherals.
Although IPS panels do not boast the high response rates of the TN monitor, they are still ideal for gamers who are looking for the best visuals in their game play. The IPS monitors are also perfect for graphic design work thanks to the superior color accuracy.
Not everything is rosy when it comes to the IPS panel technology, however. One very noticeable glitch is a glow or sheen on the monitor panel when viewing dark content—something that gamers do plenty of in, say, FPS games. This abnormality becomes even more problematic when viewing the monitor from wider angles.
About VA Display
Last but not least, we come to our last type of display panel, the VA panel. The VA panel display, or “Vertical Alignment” panel display, utilizes liquid crystals and electric currents in its technology. They are made in much the same way as the TN panels we discussed above, but have added improvements that allow them to produce greater visual results.
The biggest selling point of the VA panel is its unique ability to block light from the backlight when that light is not needed or wanted, solving the problem of the IPS monitors. This ability translates to higher contrast ratios and deeper black colors. In fact, in these two areas, the VA panels are head and shoulders above all other types of panel displays.
The VA panels additionally offer improved viewing angles and good color reproduction—angles and a level of color reproduction that are just as good as the IPS displays. Their exceptional color reproduction abilities make the monitors idyllic devices for color-critical work, such as for gamers who want to play their games with the best picture and image quality possible.
One critical drawback of the VA-style display panel is its comparatively low level of responsiveness, especially when compared to the TN panel display monitors. This means it responds slowly in terms of the pixels when transitioning from one frame to the next. If not corrected, this can cause some very overt blurring when gaming, and can even lead to ghosting when playing First Person Shooter-style games. To correct this noticeable and problematic glitch, most modern VA panels have gone to a new system that utilizes superior pixel overdrive to improve the responsiveness of the monitor.
In terms of price, the VA and IPS panels are both priced similarly, although both will cost you more than a TN monitor of the same size.