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How to Choose Between TN, VA, and IPS Panels for the Games You Play

BenQ
2019/12/18


Different panel types may confuse you when shopping for a gaming monitor. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of them.

You want a new gaming monitor and have already settled on all the essentials. Screen size, resolution, and of course price range. But just when you think it’s OK to click “buy” you remember monitors have divergent panel types, and you recall those different manufacturing processes supposedly make a big difference. What do you need? TN, VA, or IPS?

All modern monitors use TFT LCD (thin film transistor liquid crystal display) as their core technology. TFT LCDs have been around since the 1950s and have improved dramatically over time. There are three main types of panel: The oldest one, twisted nematic (TN), vertical alignment (VA) and in-plane switching (IPS). 

Each manufacturing process tends to be best suited to particular gaming habits and, in some cases, genres. If you happen to care especially about a specific variety of games, or just want to enjoy every kind, then you could benefit greatly from going with one type of panel over another, so let’s get started.

TN: speed first, color and angles last, good black levels


Arguably the oldest panel type and by most accounts the original LCD, TN monitors usually come in as the most affordable. Their biggest advantage is response time. Until recently, only TN panels were able to deliver 1ms or faster pixel update response, which made them the obvious choice for gaming. The same goes for refresh rate, or frames per second (FPS). Only TN panels manage 240Hz, while other types max out at 150-200Hz. Remember, if a monitor responds too slowly, you’ll get bad motion blur, smearing, and ghosting in games. Plus, overall input latency and lag increase on slower monitors. TN panels remain the fastest and also have a good reputation for accurate black levels and dark area detail. 

On the negative side, TN panels only cover 100% of standard RGB color gamut and rarely go over 1000:1 contrast. This is the smallest color space and limits visual display. The biggest weakness of TN panels, however, is the limited viewing angles, which go as low as 170/160 degrees. This means looking from a wide angle will show considerable color shift and slight image fade. However, this image fade of previous years has been largely addressed on modern TNs. For an ultimate TN gaming monitor, look no further than the EL2870U

Who they’re for: due to still-unmatched speeds, TN panels remain the best choice for gamers interested in competitive multiplayer where every split-second matters. If you’re into shooters or fighting games and want to compete with other players, or if you simply want the highest frame rate possible, TN is the way to go. Keep in mind you won’t get the best colors or image quality, but you’ll be assured high display speeds. 

VA: great all-around, the best contrast, but not the fastest


When vertical alignment panel manufacturing emerged, LCDs gained color and improved viewing angles. VA panels produce a much bigger color space than TNs and have the most contrast of any LCD variety. While not as fast as TNs, VAs have improved and now perform nearly as well, routinely reaching 2-3ms response times and 200Hz refresh rates. They exceed standard RGB and often reach the much richer and wider Adobe RGB color gamut, and have 178/178 wide viewing angles. Because VA panels offer impressive contrast ratios (3000:1 and more are common), they’re great for HDR content – that’s why most current TVs use them. Our very own EW3270U is a superb VA monitor option.  


Who they’re for: back to gaming. VA panels do justice to essentially any game you throw at them. They’re the ultimate jacks-of-all-trades so, if you’re a gaming enthusiast with wide-ranging interests in different genres, a VA’s for you. You’ll get good performance and excellent image quality no matter what you play. The exception would be competitive players whose only focus is winning. Since VAs aren’t as quite as fast as TNs, if a kill/death or win/lose ratio matters to you more than contrast ratios then opt for TN. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with a VA monitor. 

IPS: the finest colors and viewing angles, less speed and black level detail


In-plane switching monitors have garnered a lot of acclaim for their color performance. They’re the only variety that regularly provides 95% or even 100% of DCI-P3, the widest color gamut currently formalized and the one used in digital cinema. Even basic IPS panels offer 20%-30% more color space than the fanciest TNs. So for color, IPS monitors rate first, although casual viewers may not notice a big difference compared to other types, especially VAs. Conversely, IPS panels tend to “crush” black levels to their most extreme, which can diminish dark details. VAs and especially TNs offer more accurate black levels, a common weakness of IPS. 

IPS panels offer wide 178/178 viewing angles.  This means clear views from almost any angle. IPS provides the best experience for shared viewing. So, if you have people over and you’re all looking at the same screen from different angles, an IPS will serve you best.


Response and refresh rates have improved markedly on IPS-type monitors in recent years. They can match VA speed now, but still lag behind TN. You’re not going to get much more than 150Hz or 160Hz out of an IPS panel, so if it’s framerates you’re after, look elsewhere. For contrast, IPS panels sit somewhere between TN and VA, meaning they do HDR content much better justice than TN. Combined with their wide color gamut, IPS displays arguably offer better HDR than VA, but the debate rages on. For a great IPS gaming monitor, consider EX2780Q.


Who they’re for: minor issues with black levels aside, IPS monitors cater best to gamers who enjoy taking in the sights and soaking in the atmosphere. If you’re big on graphics and want to experience visuals as intended by the artists who created them, choose IPS. That means gamers keen on role playing, open world, third person exploration, and first person narrative adventure genres should go with IPS. None of those game varieties requires pixel perfect, millisecond-level reaction, and all benefit greatly from color fidelity. For local co-op or just shared viewing of content there’s no beating IPS. If you have friends over and you want to share a gaming experience, IPS panels leave TN far behind and maintain more consistent wide angle performance compared to VA. 

It's your call


Having discussed TN, VA, and IPS in simple terms that cover the most important aspects of each technology, you should now feel better about making that choice. The three simply refer to the way the transistors that control pixels are produced, arranged, and controlled. But all remain TFT LCD at heart and, with refinement over many years, the simple truth is that the differences between them no longer seem like night and day and all can serve you very well in a gaming monitor. 

Panel type

Speed

Colors

Contrast

Viewing angles

Best for…

Panel type

TN

Speed

Fastest currently available, only variety able to support 240Hz refresh rates. Very quick response times, often under 1ms

Colors

Limited color space – typically standard RGB, nothing more. However, does have quite detailed blacks

Contrast

Lowest of the bunch, but sufficient for most applications and getting better

Viewing angles

Biggest problem for TNs has always been this. Even good monitors suffer from color shift and slight image fade when viewed off center

Best for…

High speed “twitch” gameplay in FPSs, MOBAs, and overall competitive play. Ideal for power users who crave unlocked framerates

Panel type

VA

Speed

Much improved, almost as quick as TNs but still behind by a millisecond or two. Slower refresh than TN but quite fast, up to 200Hz

Colors

Good overall color performance, with a wider gamut than TN – often Adobe RGB and some coverage of DCI-P3

Contrast

By far the highest contrast ratios of any panel technology, routinely going up to 3000:1

Viewing angles

Noticeably better than TN and arguably the same as IPS, with 178/178 (horizontal/vertical viewing) achieved on many monitors of this type

Best for…

Perfect for all-round “buffet” gamers who enjoy different genres and also watch movies and TV

Panel type

IPS

Speed

Generally the slowest variety with the highest overall input latency due to more intricate processing for each pixel

Colors

Best performers in this area. Only type to support newer color spaces like DCI-P3 and Rec. 2020. Superb color reproduction on good quality monitors

Contrast

Contrast ratios land somewhere between TN and VA, so generally good. However, IPS monitors suffer from “crushed” blacks, obscuring detail in dark areas

Viewing angles

Consistently good at 178/178 and the most suitable for viewing from different angles and positions around the monitor

Best for…

Story-minded gamers who want to relish beautiful graphics and find faithful colors important. Also the best panel for local multiplayer due to wide viewing angles

Remember that thanks to their shared ancestry and ever-better manufacturing, the actual observable differences between the three are not as dramatic as many articles, including this one, may imply. Having said that, while the differences now are much smaller than they were in the past, they still exist. At this point in time there’s no “wrong” panel type. You won’t ruin your experience totally by picking one over the other. But you may very well make your gaming just a little bit better, so why not do it? 

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EL2870U

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EW3270U

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EX2780Q

Maximizing enjoyment of the latest HDR gaming content, EX2780Q leverages 2K QHD IPS panel with HDRi and superior audiovisual features to deliver immersive gaming experience. Featuring BenQ proprietary HDRi technology, plus 144Hz, and FreeSync, EX2780Q is to take your gaming enjoyment to the next level.

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