You are familiar that monitors come in various sizes and resolutions. Some of them have a glossy screen while others are with the matte screen surface. Also, monitors can with features like 3D capabilities or 120Hz refresh rate. While we all look at the specifications and say: “wow!” but we forget one fundamental difference between all of the – type of the panel!
We may divide all monitors into three groups by the type of panel that they have:
– TN (Twisted Nematic) Panels
– VA (Vertical Alignment) Panels
– IPS (In-Plane Switching), PLS (Plane to Line Switching) and AHVA (Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle) Panels
For decades now, TN Twisted Nematic) panels are with us on the market. Manufacturing companies point their specifications rather than saying that it is a TN panel. If the manufacturer don’t explicitly state what kind of panel it is – count it as TN panel.
In general, they are cheap to produce and have high responsiveness. Pixels change their state pretty quickly so the image appears to be smoother. In most cases, gamers tend to purchase monitors with TN panels because of those characteristics.
Some TN displays have a doubled refresh rate (120Hz instead of 60Hz). Most recent models are promoted with a 144Hz refresh rate. They provide a fluid 2D experience rather than 3D.
During past years, manufacturing companies have improved image quality of TN panels, but to be honest, image quality is not their stronger side. Although, good quality TN display can provide vibrant and crisp images with good contrast (usually 1000:1 – dynamic contrast disabled).
The main drawback is a restricted viewing angle, in most cases quoted as 170 degrees horizontal and 160 vertical. In plain words, when you try to look at them from the sides you will notice a change of color.
Because of their restricted viewing angle, they are produced in sizes up to 28 inches. Even if there are bigger models, purchasing one of those would be a really poor choice as even if you sit dead in front of them you would see the color changing on the sides and corners.
The main problem for any LCD monitor is reproducing black color. When LCD tries to display black color, the filter needs to let as little light as possible (if any) from the backlight.
Overall, all of them do this job reasonably well but the filter is not perfect and black color is never deep as it should be. The main strength of VA (Vertical Alignment) panels is their ability to block backlight when displaying black color. Because of this, they have a better contrast ratio – from 2000:1 to 5000:1 (dynamic contrast disabled).
They are most often picked up by the people who enjoy watching movies in a darkened room as they have fewer issues with clouding or light bleed.
Another advantage over TN displays is viewing angle and color reproduction. They are able to reproduce color shades with great precision but still, they are behind IPS or PLS displays.
Their main drawback is the low level of pixel response when they are transitioning from one state to another. This could be noticed in fast-paced video games or during fast-moving scenes as some blurring may occur.
Of course, in recent years we have models with VA panels that compensate those drawbacks. Because of that, you may find all kinds of different abbreviations like MVA, AMVA, AMVA+, and so on.
IPS, PLS and AHVA Panels
When we speak of end results, there are three types of panels that are very similar. The main difference behind those IPS displays is the manufacturer. As a company, LG produces IPS panels, Samsung produces PLS panels and AUO produce AHVA panels.
The best selling point of those screens is their superior color accuracy, great viewing angles, and consistency compared to other panels. Some high-end IPS and PLS models have expanded color gamuts which increases shade range and has even higher color depth.
Because of this, those panels are a must when working with colors (graphic designers and general desktop work). Very often, large IPS models feature higher resolution than TN or VA models.
Now, people often think that IPS monitors are very expensive. Well, to be honest, they can be but they were expensive once they were introduced to the market almost a decade ago.
Nowadays they are really affordable. More and more manufacturers tend to produce them so we can find models from LG, DELL, AOC, and ASUS on the market.
Traditionally, the main drawback of IPS panels was response time so gamers were moving away from them. In recent years, the latest models were produced with improved response time so they are in the range of 60Hz TN panel monitors.
At 120Hz refresh rate responsiveness is not quite up to the task. Another drawback that was improved over the past few years was color contrast of around 1000:1 (without dynamic contrast).