TN, IPS, or VA Panels: Which is the best type of monitor for you?

Which panel is the best for your desk?

Man working in an office at one of the best monitor types

by Harvey Isitt |
Updated on

When choosing a new monitor, it's essential to determine the panel type that best suits you. Your decision will, of course, depend on various personal factors, such as your budget and its intended use. Think about what fits you best: Are you all about work? If so, what's your area of expertise? Are you setting up a space just for you or a whole team? Or maybe your monitor is purely for entertainment – streaming and gaming. A lot of questions, I know. But sometimes, having someone tell you the right questions to ask helps orientate you if you're a first-timer when navigating monitor types.

Before making your purchase, it's good to familiarise yourself with some of the jargon you'll encounter. One of the most useful and commonly encountered terms is panel types. Despite the prevalence of LED panels in TVs and, sometimes, gaming monitor market, most, if not all, of the monitors you'll come across will be LCD panels. Understanding the three main panel types — TN (Twisted Nematic), IPS (In-Plane Switching), and VA (Vertical Alignment) panels — and their differences can considerably impact your viewing experience. Knowing this will make for a more informed purchase.

Read on to explore more about each panel type and find the best fit for your workplace or entertainment setup.

Getty Images Man looking at a monitor screen
©Getty Images / Cecilie Arcurs

TN (Twisted Nematic) panels

While TN panels are known more for having faster refresh rates and response times than other panel types, it's good to note their limitations. They will always be the cheapest, most budget-friendly monitor for Esports gaming, and those who know refresh rate and response time are their highest-priority specs.

However, TN panels also have some of the poorest colour accuracy, with a narrower colour palette, lower contrast ratios, and poorer viewing angles. These setbacks can sometimes lead to colour shifting and distortion when viewed from off-centre positions, making them less than ideal for any use other than competitive Esports and high-speed “Twitch” gaming.

IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels

IPS panels are widely regarded as the pinnacle of LCD technology, offering unparalleled colour accuracy and viewing angles. If you have the option, IPS is the way to go and a must for photo editing. You won't find better colour accuracy than what IPS has to offer. However, it is worth noting that IPS monitors come with a higher price tag, especially if you want a higher refresh rate.

Likewise, IPS panels may not be the best option for movie watching given their limited contrast ratio; they cannot reproduce "true black" compared to VA and TN panels. For "true black", OLED is the go-to, but it often comes with a hefty price tag!

VA (Vertical Alignment) panels

VA panels strike a balance between the fast response times of TN and the colour accuracy of IPS panels, making them a good option for those who, in theory, equally value performance and visuals. Offering colour accuracy and viewing angles not too dissimilar from IPS panels, they have exceptionally, in some places, better high contrast ratios that enhance colour vibrancy, allowing them to achieve deep blacks and high-contrast images perfect for darker rooms and viewing entertainment.

However, where they fall short, they plummet, with most VA panels suffering from ghosting artefacts and back-light bleeding, particularly with rapid transitions or dramatic lighting changes. You do not want the former if you know you’ll be using your monitor for fast-paced games. So, it would be wise for gamers to give this a hard pass.

©Getty Images / Cecilie Arcurs

Curved and Ultra-Wide Monitors

While more niche, another factor to consider is whether you would benefit from the extremely popular, albeit slightly more expensive, option of a curved or ultra-wide monitor.

Curved displays wrap the screen around your field of vision, creating a more immersive viewing experience and, depending on size, eliminating the need for a dual-monitor setup. Similarly, ultra-wide monitors offer increased real estate and are ideal for multitasking, immersive gaming, video editing, and graphic design.

While viewing angles may not be as crucial for most monitors as for TVs – given you will spend most of your time in front of the monitor – those after an ultrawide monitor should consider viewing angle capability.

However, it’s important to note that these monitors often have a higher price tag and require a much larger desk space. So, it’s essential to check the dimensions and for more budget-friendly options before potentially blowing your budget.

©Getty Images / Cecilie Arcurs

So, what's the best monitor type?

When selecting a monitor, panel type is crucial. While TN panels offer speed and affordability, IPS prioritises colour accuracy and wide viewing angles, while VA panels strike a somewhat unreliable yet nonetheless impressive balance between the two.

If we set aside budget constraints and objectively evaluate these panel types, IPS would come out on top, followed by TN and VA. However, as you may have learned from reading this, just because something is generally considered “better” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you. Instead, it depends entirely on your needs, situation and budget.

So, consider your needs and budget before buying. Remember that curved monitors and ultrawide monitors, while offering a more immersive viewing experience, are niche and may only need to be considered by some.

Harvey Isitt is a Digital Writer for What's the Best. Harvey writes reviews, buyers and how-to guides, and listicles on a broad range of topics relating to tech and fitness.

Besides writing, Harvey is an avid camera, turntable and speaker enthusiast with a somewhat unhealthy obsession with movies. He is also a keen runner, cyclist, hiker, and swimmer.

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