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The IPS vs TN Debate: How to Pick the Best Panel for Your Needs

Updated on August 30, 2010

Members at hardware forums are punching their keyboards. Tensions are running high. The flame wars have begun. What in the world is happening? Tech geeks are arguing about what is the better LCD technology: IPS or TN displays.

Each technology has its pros and cons. The type you choose depends on what you use your computer the most for, whether it is fast-motion graphics from movies and games, office work, photo editing or browsing the Web. Most people want to do a little bit of everything; still you have to set your priories. Unfortunately there isn’t one monitor out there that is the “best” at everything.

The CNET editor's choice Samsung PX2370 is one of the best TN monitors.
The CNET editor's choice Samsung PX2370 is one of the best TN monitors.

The Dirt on TN LCDs

Twisted nematic (TN) displays by far make up the majority of consumer-level monitors. This type offers an excellent bang for the buck.

Gamers tend to gravitate toward TN monitors due to the superior response times, although more and more are switching over to the IPS camp. With lightning-fast 4ms or even 2ms response times, TN monitors easily avoid shadow-trail and ghosting artifacts common in earlier LCDs.

TN displays fall flat when it comes to viewing angles, especially when you move your head up and down vertically. Depending on the angle you’re situated at, colours and gamma shift, becoming lighter as you move off-axis. To some this isn’t much of a problem, after all, your face is probably parked directly in front of the monitor most of the time. This disadvantage hurts movie watchers the most, as the occasion creates an opportunity to get comfortable further from the screen. The last thing you want to worry about is micro-adjusting the screen’s angle for a decent picture.

The NEC MultiSync EA231WMi is a top recommendation for IPS fans.
The NEC MultiSync EA231WMi is a top recommendation for IPS fans.

The Dirt on IPS LCDs

In-plane switching (IPS) displays have a growing, vocal following. Although only graphic professionals, web designers and photographers were willing to shell out the extra cash for an IPS monitor in the past, prices have come down considerably. Brands such as Dell, Apple, LG, HP and NEC are transitioning over to this newer technology developed by Hitachi Ltd. in 1996.

IPS monitors were originally created to correct the viewing angle problems inherent in TN LCDs. By changing the crystal molecules to move parallel to the panel, wider viewing angles and rich color reproduction was achieved.

The drawbacks with IPS panels are slower response times, and common tinting issues created by poor backlight uniformity. This means that some users will notice a subtle gradient from one edge of the screen to the other. For example Dell’s UltraSharp U2410 or U2311H commonly are slightly “hot” on one side of the screen and “cool” on the other. The flaw is most apparent when viewing a white background in word processing applications or while on the Web.

Making a Choice

No monitor is perfect, especially the models that sell for less than $400. Essentially it comes down to choosing a monitor with a flaw that bothers you the least.

If you have a keen eye for colour you’ll love the deep rich colour reproduction of an IPS panel. Pay special attention to uniformity when reading reviews about a particular model. For many, poor uniformity is the deal breaker and it is sadly very common with IPS displays. Hopefully quality control will improve as this technology matures. Don’t count on it happening any time soon.

TN panels from Samsung or LG perform very well as long as you are viewing from a direct angle. Most gamers will want to opt for a model with quick response times. Consistency between one monitor to the next is better with TN panels as this variety is more common, and the technology has matured. It may give you peace of mind knowing that most of the kinks have already been ironed out.


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    • MemoryMegaMall profile image

      MemoryMegaMall 6 years ago

      I am surprised this article hasn't created more controversy. I love my samsung, but it doesn't compare to the ips panel's potential.