LCD Panel Types: IPS, VA, PLS, AHVA & TN Monitors
So you’ve decided to buy a monitor?
This is a good decision because you need this screen to use your computer.
However, the most important part of your monitor is its display. Apart from having different manufacturers, monitors also have different types of display panels.
The most common display technology is the liquid crystal display (LCD). But if you want to buy a monitor, things can get pretty confusing after this. Because LCD panels are further categorized into different types.
Some of them are IPS, VA, PLS, AHVA, and TN panels. What are the characteristics of each type of panel?
In this guide, you’ll learn the important details you need to know to make the best choice when you buy your monitor.
The TN or twisted nematic monitor panel is the oldest and most popular monitor panel. Despite being old, the TN continues to attract users to this day. Monitors with the TN panels are cheaper than the IPS and VA panels.
For users who need a monitor to meet their basic needs, they can always go for the TN for a pocket-friendly option.
The biggest advantage of the TN panel is its price. You can get a TN monitor panel with similar specifications to the IPS and VA but at a lower price.
If you want to buy a monitor on a budget, then this is a monitor panel you should consider.
Another advantage of the TN panel is its low response time. With response time as low as 1ms or 2ms, TN monitors can respond rapidly with changes in its images.
This also means that TN monitors have the highest refresh rate among monitors with some monitors having refresh rates as high as 240Hz.
This makes TN monitors suitable for professional gamers. With the high refresh rates, there’s less blur and screen tearing during gameplay.
The lag in fast-paced games suffered by other types of monitor panels can be an issue for gamers as this could be the difference between losing and winning.
Thus, despite being an old monitor technology, gamers still prefer the TN panel as it can produce smoother images due to its high refresh rates.
One of the main disadvantages of the TN monitor panel is its poor color production.
The images produced by this type of monitors doesn’t measure up to images from the IPS and VA panels. This makes TN monitors unsuitable for graphic designers and general color intensive tasks.
Another issue with the TN monitor is its narrow viewing angles. In most cases, the images on a TN monitor begins to get dark as you go lower compared to the monitor.
However, if you have a view above the monitor, the image begins to wash out. This can show different images to people depending on the angle they’re viewing.
The TN panel is based on 6-bit color depth and this makes it unable to display 16.7 million colors. The IPS and VA panels which are based on 8-bit are able to display this number of colors.
TN panels use a technique called dithering to display this number of colors but the results don’t look as good as colors on IPS and VA panels.
There are some 8-bit TNs but the color display is still unimpressive compared to other types of LCD panels.
The TN monitor is suitable for a professional gamer and users who just need a monitor with all the basic functions. These users can get a monitor that meet their needs and at the lowest prices for monitors.
This is one of the most popular LCD panels in monitors. In-Plane Switching (IPS) has been in development since the 1970s with different researchers working to improve on the limitations of the TN monitor panels.
In 1992, the Japanese technology company, Hitachi, filed patents to improve the display technology visibly.
Researchers at the Hitachi Research Center found a way to interconnect the thin-film transistor array as a matrix and to avoid undesired stray fields in between pixels.
The company also improved viewing angle dependence by optimizing the shape of the electrodes.
What do these technical terms mean? The IPS technology was invented to eliminate the common limitations in the TN monitor panel.
The two main limitations with the TN panels are low-quality color production and strong viewing angle dependence.
Viewing a monitor with a TN panel from an angle can lead to darker or washed out images.
This can be difficult if there 3 or more people viewing images on your monitor or you move around a lot while using your monitor. They’ll see different things depending on their angle to the monitor.
There are other variations of the IPS monitor including the S-IPS, H-IPS, e-IPS, P-IPS, and PLS monitors
The major advantages of IPS panels are that they eliminate viewing angles and produce better image colors.
When many people have to view a work on an IPS monitor, they see similar images even if they’re looking at the screen from different angles. With viewing angles of up to 178 degrees, this is one of the highest for any monitor.
The IPS panel also produces better images as a result of its superior color production. If you use your monitor for graphics or other media work, the IPS panel is the best option for you.
This is because you can get the best work with this monitor. People who are graphic designers, CAD engineers, photographers, and video editors will find an IPS monitor excellent for their work.
The better image quality and viewing angles that an IPS monitor offers come at a high cost.
The IPS monitor of similar specifications to a TN monitor will be more expensive than the TN monitor. If you want a better image, you’ll also have to pay a higher price.
Another disadvantage of the IPS monitor panel is its high response time. The panel takes much more time to respond to changes in images than the TN panel.
This is why IPS panels usually have lower refresh rates than the TN monitor panels. It’s rare to find an IPS monitor with a refresh rate higher than 60Hz. This can be a real issue for gamers.
In competitive gaming, a small lag by the monitor can lead to a loss to an opponent using a monitor with a faster refresh rate.
With an IPS monitor, you don’t get a smooth gameplay that you’ll enjoy with a TN panel.
Likewise, you can experience screen tearing while playing a game due to the low refresh rate of your IPS monitor.
This would be more of an issue when you play a game that renders images faster than your monitor can display them. For instance, a game rendering at 100 frames per second (fps) may have tearing images on your IPS monitor with a refresh rate of 60Hz.
Vertical alignment (VA) panels were created to improve on the limitations of the TN monitors. The VA panels offer better color production, higher contrast, and wider viewing angles than the TN monitor.
This type of panel is suitable for graphic design work. It displays deeper blacks and static contrast ratios that are higher than other types of LCD panels.
With this, the VA monitor has a higher contrast ratio and can deliver a deep black color and rich colors.
Generally, the VA panel is in between the TN and IPS panels. The VA panel improves on TN’s and IPS’s weaknesses while not meeting up with their strengths.
In most cases, the IPS still produces better images than the VA. Likewise, TN has a faster response time than the VA panel. If you want a monitor in between the TN and IPS at the right price, then the VA is for you.
The main advantage of the VA monitor panel is that it has an excellent color production that’s better than you’ll find in the TN display.
This makes the monitor suitable for graphics designers and other people who might want to carry out color intensive tasks on their monitor.
Another benefit it offers is a wider viewing angle compared to the more popular TN monitor. This type of monitor maintains your image quality no matter what angle you’re looking at it from.
Despite having a better image quality, the VA panel still lacks the low response time that makes TN a choice for gamers.
In some cases, there have been reports of VA panels suffering from high input lag. This can be another issue if you take part in fast games.
The input lag is simply the amount of time it takes for your command to be displayed on your monitor. While pressing a button during games, you want the command to be executed immediately without a lag.
You should be careful about your choice if you’re going for a VA monitor to avoid ones with high input lag.
You can check reviews of any monitor you want to buy to see what past users have to say about its input lag and other features. However, if you’re a casual gamer who play slow games, the VA monitor is capable of meeting your needs.
Another issue you can encounter with a VA panel is color shifting. This occurs when an image viewed from an angle changes when you view it from a slightly different angle.
This can make the brightness level uneven across your monitor screen. Apart from these, you can also see a loss of shadow detail in dark scenes at the center of your monitor screen.
There have been improvements over the years to eliminate these issues but you still have to know about it before choosing a VA monitor.
Plane to Line Switching (PLS) panels are similar to the IPS panels. It’s a modification of the IPS panel to improve on its performance. It’s sometimes called the Super PLS panel. The PLS panel is made by Samsung.
The South Korean company claims that PLS panels have better viewing angles than the IPS panel, a 10% increase in brightness, and a 15% decrease in production costs. Added to this, there are claims of better image quality and the possibility of having flexible panels.
First of all, the PLS panel produces better images and color when compared to IPS and TN. This makes PLS a great choice if you’re a graphic designer, a video maker or involved in any other type of work that involves media content.
It also offers a wide viewing angle as you can view quality images while viewing from an angle, unlike the TN panels.
The PLS panel has more brightness than the IPS panel which makes it suitable for a well-lit office space.
If your home is well-lit too, this is an option to have a monitor that provides visible content despite high ambient lighting.
Added to these, the PLS panel is cheaper than IPS even with its better color production.
Even though PLS is cheaper than IPS, it’s still more expensive than the TN panels. If you’re looking for a cheap IPS, this could be the monitor for you.
However, if you’re looking for a cheap monitor generally, the PLS is far from your best bet. You’ll probably have to look for TN.
The PLS has a low response time. But its response time is still higher than that of the TN. An average gamer will find PLS as a good option but a professional gamer may still decide to opt for the TN monitor panels.
The Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle (AHVA) panel is also a modified version of the IPS panel. This panel was developed by AU Optronics.
The AHVA is faster than the IPS panel. This is a good option if you want a faster monitor panel and a better color production than the TN.
AU Optronics offered a 144Hz AHVA panel in 2014. This is a good option for even professional gamers so far they’re not playing ultra-fast games.
The AHVA has excellent viewing angles as you would expect from panels based on the IPS technology.
Although AHVA’s color production is better than that of the TN monitor panels, it’s not quite as good as the IPS panel.
This could be a case of sacrificing a bit of color for a bit of speed. If you’re only into color quality, the IPS monitor may be your best bet.
If the only feature of a monitor that matters to you is its speed, then you may still find other options apart from AHVA more suitable.
For instance, the TN could be your best option if you’re only looking for raw speed. There are many TN monitors offering refresh rates of 240Hz for ultra-fast games.
Factors to consider in picking a monitor type
Having talked about these types of monitors, it’s difficult to pick the best monitor panel for you.
Because the best monitor panel for me is different from the best monitor panel for you. This is due to our differences in what we need from a monitor.
However, there are factors you need to consider to pick the best monitor for you. These factors are:
Intended function of your monitor
Your computer system serves many functions. In most cases, you need a function of your computer system more than others.
For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, an IPS monitor or any of its variants will serve you best as these monitors produce the best colors and viewing angles that are critical to your work.
However, if you’re a professional gamer, you need a higher refresh rate to play fast games effectively.
In this case, a TN monitor will be the best option for you as this type of monitor possesses the fast response time that’s critical to gaming.
If you’re going to buy a monitor, you’re literally going to spend money. And your choices may be restricted by the amount of money you have.
For whatever type of monitor you prefer based on your needs, there are different qualities for a particular type of monitor.
So you’ve settled on buying an IPS or PLS monitor as a video editor, what you’ll still find is that the quality of this type of monitor you can get depends on how much you’re ready to spend.
This, along with your screen size, will determine how good images on your monitor will look. Your monitor’s resolution is the number of pixels on the vertical and horizontal sides of your monitor.
If your monitor has a diagonal length of 24 inches and a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels, you’ll have good images on your monitor.
However, if you have a monitor of the same screen size but a resolution of 2560 × 1440 pixels, you’ll have better images.
This is because you have more pixels in the same screen size. There are also 4K monitors with even bigger resolutions.
You have to consider the screen resolution you’re looking for before you settle on a monitor
Graphics card capacity
The display ability of your monitor also depends on graphics card output. For instance, let’s say you have a graphics card that can only give a maximum output of 60 frames per second (fps).
It wouldn’t matter whether you get a 240Hz TN monitor for gaming as it will be unable to produce better images than your 60Hz monitor.
This is due to the limitation of your computer. Before buying a monitor, you need to be sure that your processor is able to match the performance of your new improved monitor.
Buying a monitor is a serious financial and possibly, career, investment. It requires the right knowledge to choose the right monitor for your needs.
Outline your needs in a monitor and then go through this guide to find a monitor type that meets those needs.