There are many different screen/panel technologies used in monitors. LCD is the most common, and there are three main types of LCD panels: TN or Twisted Nematic, In-Plane Switching or IPS, and Vertical Alignment or VA. TN is most common on computer monitors although IPS is also very common, while VA is most common on TVs. Aside from LCD technology we have Cathode Ray Tube (CRT), Plasma, and Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED).
There are a lot of myths surrounding different panel types and their relation to gaming. One thought is, TN is the best for gaming because it's the fastest LCD type (only enthusiasts even consider non-LCD panels). A more common thought nowadays is that IPS is the best. Colors! Both thoughts are incomplete, misguided, and largely incorrect.
Truthfully, LCD is so inherently flawed and inferior that it should be killed off. This includes TN, IPS, and VA. All three suck. TN sucks the least when it comes to motion clarity, since it has the fastest response times. IPS sucks the least for color critical work since it has a few benefits over VA for such things. VA sucks the least for image quality for entertainment purposes (gaming, TV, movies) but not color critical work. Very high end VA 4k/UHD TVs are the only LCD displays that don't have absolute rubbish image quality, but their motion clarity is terrible. So, all suck, but each one sucks a little bit less for certain things.
"I want 1ms response time!" - This is related to an often baseless obsession with numbers. People see superclocked! or turbocharged! and think they have to buy it, this is no different. Response time refers to pixel response time. Higher = more motion blur. If it's higher than 1/refresh rate then there will be lots of motion blur in particular. TN only has one concrete advantage over IPS and VA aside from cost, and that's response time.
Note that manufacturers BS their response time specs, listing a value that's always closest to the minimum response time with maximum overdrive. It is not representative of average response time. Response times vary for every color transition, but TN and IPS are generally quite stable across the board. VA is not. The best average TN response time is just under 2.5 ms with horrible overshoot (just under 3 ms with a low amount of overshoot ghosting), seen on 144 Hz TN monitors such as the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q.
The best average IPS response time is around 5 ms with no overshoot artifacts, accomplished by the ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q and other recent 144 Hz G-SYNC IPS monitors (Acer Predator XB271HU and presumably the ViewSonic equivalent).
As for the visual difference? See for yourself. Images courtesy of TFTCentral.
Originally Posted by TFTCentral
Note that as you go below 100 Hz, TN starts to gain a bigger advantage since TN response times are more consistent across refresh rates. TN response times at 60 Hz for example are much faster than IPS and VA, and this is relevant for these screens since G-SYNC synchronizes refresh rate with frame rate.
In conclusion, let go of your 1 ms idea since it's BS anyway. Backlight strobing blur reduction makes response time a minor factor anyway, although this is most effective at high refresh rates/frame rates (preferably well over 100).
VA response times are catching up to IPS. In fact, as far as 60 Hz displays go, many VA TVs are as fast at 60 Hz as the fastest IPS monitors, with no overshoot artifacts either. The few high refresh rate VA monitors are also faster than most IPS monitors at 60 Hz. As for high refresh rates, Samsung's new 144 Hz VA panels are coming very close to IPS response times. See TFTCentral's review here:
With VA response times being close enough to fast IPS, it shows that for all entertainment purposes (gaming, movies, TV), VA can make IPS and TN redundant and unnecessary since its static picture quality is far greater thanks to greatly superior static contrast and black depth.
Let's take a more detailed look at the pros and cons of each panel type.
CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)
CRT isn't even considered by 99% of the market since it's dead technology. Only really hardcore competitive gamers use it for the response time, although such PC gamers now use LCD monitors with backlight strobing blur reduction.
LCD has severe inherent disadvantages over CRT, Plasma, and OLED, mostly because of the fact that LCDs rely on backlighting (either edge-lit like all computer monitors, or literally backlit on higher end TVs) while CRT, Plasma, OLED, and SED/FED (not that this panel type exists anymore) produce light on the surface for each and every pixel, hence the greatly superior contrast ratios, deeper blacks, more pure whites, far richer and fuller colors. For example, blacks are only true blacks on CRT/Plasma/OLED/SED/FED, not LCD, since the pixel actually has no light on these unlike LCD. LCDs also use sample and hold which leads to more motion blur especially compared to CRT and SED/FED.
CRT displays were powered by an electron gun, and drew lines directly on the screen making it a self-emissive display. However, these lines are less sharp than today's pixels seen on other display types.
- High contrast ratio, at least 15000:1.
- Perfect black depth, far beyond what LCD is capable of (even VA) due to CRT displays being self-emissive.
- By far the best color accuracy of all panel types (especially when calibrated).
- Response time is well under 1 ms, so almost instantaneous. This results in no perceivable motion blur from the monitor. So far, nothing comes close to CRT in this regard, although OLED may be able to when they ditch sample and hold.
- Extremely wide viewing angles.
- Works well with high refresh rates.
- No backlight bleeding since there is no backlight.
- Lossless aspect ratio scaling and resolution scaling.
- Dead technology.
- Magnetic interference, which would be a deal breaker for a lot of people. Most modern audio components aren't shielded and would suffer, for example.
- Poor ANSI contrast ratio, which sort of negates the general contrast spec.
- Bulky and heavy.
- As the monitor ages, the image may blur over time. However, CRTs can be refocused, some easier than others, so this shouldn't be a permanent issue.
- Proper calibration takes hours and is very tedious.
- Less maximum brightness than LCD, especially LED backlit LCD.
- Slightly less sharp image than LCD, OLED, Plasma.
CRT is fundamentally flawed just like LCD is. It's currently the best for competitive twitch gaming though.
TN (Twisted Nematic) - LCD
The cheapest, most common computer monitor type.
- Cheap to make.
- Very good response times, the best average response time being just under 3 ms.
- Available with high refresh rates, up to 144 Hz currently.
- Available in all sorts of configurations like 2560 x 1440 144 Hz, 1920 x 1080 144 Hz, etc.
- Higher peak brightness than Plasma and OLED, especially LED backlit models (which is any modern day LCD).
- Poor color accuracy.
- Poor contrast ratio. The best you'll see is around 900:1 or 950:1.
- Lackluster black levels.
- Most use a thick grainy TN film screen coating that deteriorates image quality even more.
- The worst viewing angles EVER. TN looks bad and suffers gamma shift and more just by moving around ever so slightly, or if you have a very large TN screen, the gamma shift might be noticeable head-on.
- High probability of backlight bleed.
IPS (In-Plane Switching) - LCD
IPS is the most used panel type for photo editing, because of all LCD panels it has the best color accuracy. It is becoming increasingly common, 2nd only to TN for computer monitors.
- The best potential color accuracy of all LCD panels. Only realized by professional displays from NEC, Eizo, and the like. Typical IPS monitors still have far better color accuracy than typical TN monitors though.
- Response times are very good on state of the art gaming IPS monitors such as the Acer XB270HU, XB271HU, and ASUS PG279Q.
- The widest viewing angles of all LCD panel types.
- Available with high refresh rates, up to 165 Hz on the Acer XB271HU and ASUS PG279Q although that's not much of an improvement over 144 Hz since the response time isn't quite quick enough for 165 Hz.
- Available in all sorts of resolutions such as 27" 1440p at 144 Hz, 3440 x 1440 at 100 Hz, and 4k.
- Higher peak brightness than Plasma and OLED.
- Poor contrast ratio. The best you'll see is around 1000:1 on computer monitors, maybe more on some rare IPS TVs. I have read of some IPS displays producing 2000:1 contrast, but I don't know if these panels are used on anything, and 2000:1 still isn't great.
- Mediocre black levels, the same as TN but made even worse by IPS glow. Which brings us to...
- IPS glow, which causes dark screens to appear white(ish) when viewed at angles (even minor angles with bad IPS glow). So IPS viewing angles aren't perfect. IPS glow is very problematic on very large monitors, like 34" Ultrawide ones.
- High probability of backlight bleed.
Unfortunately if you want 1440p or 4k with dynamic refresh rate, you're stuck with IPS or TN. IPS glow ruins dark games; the measured black depth is equally bad on IPS and TN but IPS looks far worse to the eye due to the glow.
VA (Vertical Alignment) - LCD
This is the panel type used in most HDTVs. Overall it is the best LCD panel type although the potential has yet to be fully realized in computer monitors. VA is available in two flavors; MVA (used on VA computer monitors) and SPVA (used on higher end HDTVs).
- Best contrast ratio of all LCD panel types. The average is 2500:1 to 3000:1 on VA computer monitors, and nowadays over 4000:1 on TVs with the best being 7000:1 on several Samsung top of the line TVs.
- Best black levels of all LCD panel types. Blacks aren't actually black still, but much better than IPS and TN.
- On average, VA displays as of 2013 and onward have better out of the box color accuracy than IPS (obviously much better than TN). Potential color accuracy is still bested by IPS, but only $1500+ professional IPS monitors from NEC, Eizo, and the like demonstrate this. For anything else you will generally find better uncalibrated color accuracy on VA (and equally good after calibration).
- High refresh rate models are available.
- Better viewing angles than TN (especially SPVA), but still much worse than IPS much less CRT and OLED.
- Pretty good average response times compared to IPS, especially on high end SPVA HDTVs and some select monitors.
- Backlight bleed isn't usually as big an issue, even on edge-lit ones which is the majority of SPVA TVs and all VA computer monitors. Full array LED VA TVs (which are all SPVA) can't have backlight bleed at all, to make things even more sweet.
- Higher peak brightness than Plasma and OLED. This potentially makes LCD better than Plasma for HDR content, not that any HDR Plasma exists. But the only good LCD displays for HDR content are Vizio M series and P series due to their full array backlighting and 384 dimming zones, combined with high peak brightness. However, Samsung's quantum dot TVs (2016 models especially) can get considerably brighter than any other. Best of both worlds doesn't exist yet.
- Some VA panels are paired with quantum dot technology, improving color space, color accuracy, brightness, and performance in bright rooms, compared to non quantum dot LCD displays. The added brightness can be very beneficial for HDR.
- Inconsistent response times. Most VA displays have at least a few very slow transitions. Black to dark grey or just black to grey are the most common culprits. But other VA response times tend to be decent to even very fast. As a result, VA usually exhibits better minimum response times than IPS, but worse average and maximum response times than IPS. The Acer Predator Z35 for example, when running at 200 Hz with overdrive on Normal, has numerous lightning fast response times (under 3 ms even) but then every black to grey transition is slow, ranging from 20 ms to 55 ms! However, several VA displays have overcome this and perform without slow transitions. These still have somewhat inconsistent response times (e.g. from 3 ms to 16 ms) and slower average response times than IPS, but nothing truly problematic or drastic. Again see Samsung's 144 Hz VA panels which other companies like Acer use too. Here is a review. Also, high end TVs use VA panels no slower than 60 Hz IPS panels.
- "Black crush" which causes a loss in black detail (e.g., grey detail lost in black content). You probably don't know this is a problem until you look for it (notice your deep blacks have missing details?) or see VA right next to Plasma and/or OLED. But compared to TN's dark grey blacks and IPS's white blacks, this isn't a cause for concern save for color critical work.
- Scarcely available on high end gaming computer monitors. We really need 4k and 2560 x 1440 120-144 Hz variable refresh rate models.
- More expensive than TN and IPS usually, especially when matching features.
- Viewing angles are still lacking. Off center contrast shift is present. However, it's usually not that bad on modern VA panels. Most TVs use VA panels and that's where viewing angles are really needed. Not a problem at all for computer monitors.
SPVA is definitely the ideal LCD panel type for movies/TV and immersive gaming, especially if we can get such monitors with 5000:1 to 7000:1 contrast ratio. But this will probably never happen. Even though the monitor industry will be stuck with second rate VA panels for the foreseeable future (with regards to picture quality and viewing angles that is), these panels still look far better than IPS and TN save for motion clarity which is now essentially on the same level as IPS.
While not existent in computer monitors, we thought we'd go over Plasma anyway. It was prominent in HDTVs for a while, before LCD became the big thing. LCD is inherently inferior to other panel types because the light source is on the edges or behind the panel (backlighting), while with CRT, Plasma, OLED, and FED/SED, light is generated on the panel itself, hence the much better contrast ratios and black levels.
- Excellent contrast ratio, can vary wildly based on calibration but over 20,000:1 is possible on the best models.
- Very deep blacks, beyond what LCD is capable of (even VA).
- Much better coating, stops reflections better than LCD matte coatings while not harming image quality at all.
- No backlight bleeding since there is no backlight.
- Can be found for good prices.
- Far better horizontal viewing angles than any LCD, including IPS. But vertical viewing angles are very limited by the coating.
- Perfect motion clarity, no motion blur, far better than LCD and even better than OLED.
- All of the above things means Plasma has significantly greater picture quality than LCD, both for static images and anything in motion, and it's not even close.
- Dead technology unfortunately. It's not going anywhere.
- Only available in large sizes, but it's meant for home theaters so that's fine.
- Potential burn-in.
- Image retention (it's like burn-in but temporary).
- Less peak brightness than LCD, especially LED backlit LCD.
- Consumes more power than LCD.
Plasma is generally the second best for movies and TV watching (behind OLED), due to the very high contrast ratios and black levels. It provides a better picture than all LCD types. But it's not suitable for gaming due to lag.
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode)
A work in progress technology. Like CRT and plasma, the light source is on the screen surface itself, hence the much better image. An OLED powers each and every subpixel. OLED may have the potential to be the best panel type for everything, but first they have to cure the longevity issues, and even then there are other hurdles.
- The best contrast ratio. Basically infinite. Dell's UP3017Q monitor is listed as having 400,000:1 static contrast!
- Perfect black levels since pixel light can be turned off completely. This is of course related to contrast.
- Extremely high refresh rates are not a problem.
- Can be made paper thin, curvy, in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The most flexible panel type.
- Essentially instantaneous response time like CRT. Dell's UP3017Q has a listed response time of 0.1 ms.
- Essentially limitless viewing angles.
- Easy to manufacturer, and should soon have cheaper production costs than LCD!
- Longevity issues used to exist, but apparently not anymore.
- They use sample and hold just like LCD technology, so motion blur still exists. However there is already a blur reduction technique for it, used by Oculus Rift (black frame insertion).
- Image retention issues (mostly temporary).
- Hard to get excellent color accuracy. Lots of calibration is needed on the manufacturer's side and probably on the user's side too. But once you get it properly calibrated, you do have the best image quality possible on any panel type in existence. Color accuracy will never be as good as a calibrated CRT though.
- Possible uniformity issues including a vignette effect, vertical lines appearing on grey or darker screens, yellow banding issues, but this varies and it's not strictly an OLED limitation, it's the result of the newness of the tech.
- Less maximum brightness than LCD, especially LED backlit LCD.
- Extremely expensive, but this is only due to the newness of the tech. It will actually be cheaper to make than LCD! So hopefully one day it replaces LCD garbage.
If not for some fatal flaws, OLED would be the best panel type for enthusiasts of all kind. Home theater enthusiasts and gaming enthusiasts would be in heaven, since enthusiasts have no quarrels with having to perform hardware calibration. Alas, those flaws still exist, but look at the bright side; big name manufacturers are still pursuing the technology. We may see OLED fully realized one day. Still, most people who have tried OLED say the pros outweigh the cons and can never go back to anything else.
FED/SED (Field Emission Display/Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display)
Okay, this panel technology is totally irrelevant since it's dead in the water, but we felt the need to mention it. It's feasible and doesn't need a whole lot of improvements like OLED does, and it may surpass all current panel types for most purposes, including home theater and all types of gaming. OLED may still be the best for home theater but we'll never know.
The two technologies are so similar that they're generally grouped together. It's basically flat panel CRT technology taken to the extreme; instead of an electron gun powering the screen, one essentially powers every subpixel. FED/SED would have been without most of the downsides of CRT (including the less sharp image of CRT—not a problem on FED/SED).
- Outstanding contrast ratio. 50,000:1 has been shown and 100,000:1 was promised. If FED/SED development actually went anywhere then we'd definitely have 100,000:1 screens or better.
- Perfect black depth since pixel light can be turned off completely.
- Response times like CRT, so almost instantaneous. Impulse driven like CRT so no visible motion blur, meaning they'd be the fastest panel types along with CRT.
- Extremely wide viewing angles.
- High refresh rates wouldn't be a problem.
- Should have the same lossless aspect ratio and resolution scaling as CRT.
- Not available and never will be available.
- Not very easy to make.
- Probably the most expensive panel to make by far.
- Might have similar magnetic interference issues like CRT?
The death of FED/SED panel technology is the biggest tragedy in monitor technology. Some of OLED's problems may never be solved, and FED/SED on the other hand doesn't have much to overcome. Crazy high contrast ratios and instantaneous response time in a compact format, what's not to like? I'd want one for my home theater and one for my gaming PC.
TLDR - LCD is inherently flawed and inferior, mainly since it relies on backlighting opposed to panel technologies like CRT and OLED which emit light on the screen surface at the subpixel level, leading to true blacks (no light emission from the pixels), basically infinite contrast potential, and thus picture quality that's infinitely better than LCD.
But as it stands, for immersive gaming: VA > IPS > TN, although if SED/FED were around then they'd trounce all three of those. OLED once it matures will also trounce all LCD panel types. It already does for image quality and TV watching. Gamers preferring TN or IPS are no different than people who think Beats or Bose headphones are high end and "good" sounding. Marketing really goes a long way... that and starving the PC industry of proper VA gaming monitors.
Competitive gamers would be better off with a high refresh rate, blur reduction TN or IPS screen. Or if they're willing, CRT.
For movies/TV: Plasma > VA > IPS > TN, although you generally won't find IPS or TN TVs since IPS/TN are too crappy. Once again SED/FED would in theory top Plasma and of course LCD, and OLED once improved should top Plasma too. Most people who have used OLED say it's better than everything else for TV watching.
But getting back to reality, PC gamers should keep an eye on upcoming VA monitors and especially OLED technology. For VA, the greatly superior contrast ratio and black levels results in much better perceived color depth than other LCD panel types. We'll see just effective ULMB is with VA panels when the Acer Predator Z35 comes out. We can only hope someone makes a 27" 2560 x 1440 VA monitor with a 120 Hz or higher refresh rate, G-SYNC, and ULMB one day...
Now some pictures to get these points across. This picture illustrates the difference in black performance between IPS and OLED. In the front is an Acer Predator X34 (34" LG AH-IPS). In the back is an LG OLED screen. Both are displaying a black screen. This image actually made me laugh out loud. Image taken by "CallsignVega" from Overclock.net forums.
Originally Posted by CallsignVega
Originally Posted by CallsignVega
The image below (also posted by an Overclock.net forum member) demonstrates the contrast and black level difference (mostly contrast) between IPS (far left), TN (middle), and VA (right). The game shown is Amnesia: The Dark Descent.