There are a number of different technologies powering the modern gaming monitor but the two we come across the most often are TN and IPS based panels. Both are different types of TFT LCD (thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display).
Other variants do exist, for example MVA or PVA and these are used in computer monitors, but not so frequently. All the different types of LCD technology have there own pros and cons so we’ll have a look at which is best for gaming, or least, what factors you should consider to ensure you choose the best one for you.
First off, let’s look at the different types of panel.
TN, or Twisted Nematic, displays are probably the most common monitor type you’ll come across right now, they’ve also been around for the longest time. They are best known for their fast response times, you’ll often see them rated as 1ms, which of course makes them of great interest to gamers. With LED back lighting they give bright images.
Another big advantage of TN based screens is that they cost less to manufacture than rival technologies, and therefore these monitors are cheaper to buy for you and me in the shops. They tend to be more energy efficient too, which saves you additional money thanks to lower electricity bills!
But, there is a big disadvantage to this technology, they provide poor viewing angles. You must have seen screens that are almost impossible to view from side on, or from above? This is what we are talking about here, the colours shift and the image quality deteriorates when viewed from awkward angles. This does vary from monitor to monitor though, some are much worse than others. But ultimately they all suffer to some extent.
The IPS, In-plane switching, technology was developed to overcome the problems found in TN based displays. Specifically they give superior colour reproduction and also they maintain uniform colours when viewed at much wider angles. This means you get a good image when looking side on or from above – but do note, it’s not perfect you will get some degradation at the widest angles.
Initially these monitors were slow, but more recently manufacturers have been improving response times, and you’ll see this in the high end gamer monitors so there is no reason to think they aren’t game ready.
These IPS monitors tend to be more expensive than TN displays, and they can have trouble showing a good black colour and poor contrast. But on the plus side the colour reproduction tends to be superior, IPS is the technology of choice for Apple’s Retina display, a well calibrated screen is ideal for photo manipulation and of course, looks great in games too!
Is TN or IPS better for gaming?
As always, this isn’t a straight forward yes or no answer I’m afraid. Whilst many would agree that IPS screens are superior, for example they have improved viewing angles and colour accuracy overall, the TN monitor is still a popular choice. The humble TN based displays typically have very fast response times, and the colour accuracy is “good enough” for game players.
That said game orientated IPS monitors are geared up to have very good response times too, the manufacturers are very aware of the need to produce crystal clear images. But this comes at a greater cost.
On balance, if money isn’t a problem, I would go for an IPS screen. But if you want a good all round low cost monitor then TN is a very sensible choice and will give a good gaming experience.