There are several types of monitors that are commonly used in gaming, but these monitors are based on different technology and offer different advantages and disadvantages to the gamer. Gaming monitors can affect how crisp the graphics display on a game is as well as the gamer’s response time during multiplayer online matches.
TN (or Twisted Nematic) monitors are the best panel type for a stationary gaming monitor with a low response time and a fast refresh rate. VA monitors tend to focus more on color contrast, while IPS monitors are designed more for multiple viewing angles for tablet and cellphone screens.
Looking for a new gaming monitor but aren’t sure what the difference is between these major panel types? Read on to learn more about the standard types of panels in gaming monitors and which is the best choice for your gaming needs.
Best Panel Type for Gaming Monitors
The best panel type for gaming monitors is a Twisted Nematic (TN) Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). These panels offer the fastest refresh rates and response times for twitchy gaming scenarios at the lowest price point. While these panels don’t offer the same color intensity as other LCD monitor types such as In-Plane Switching (IPS) or Vertical Alignment (VA) panels, they have a fast refresh rate.
When it comes to gaming on an LCD, the refresh rate of the display is more important than the vibrancy of it. Most gaming monitors are labeled as either a 120Hz, a 144Hz, or a 240Hz display. The Hertz (Hz) of the display describes how fast the display can refresh its picture. In gaming, the refresh rate is important because it determines the input lag between user input and the screen.
The refresh rate of the display affects how many frames per second (fps) the monitor is capable of keeping up with. A standard movie operates at 24 fps, while high-quality games on a computer tend to operate at 60 fps. When the frame rate of a gaming display drops to 30 fps or lower, the quality of the display is noticeably affected.
In general, TN monitors offer higher refresh rates for gaming at the expense of color reproduction and wide viewing angles. But these monitors tend to be much more affordable than IPS monitors with comparable responsiveness to TN monitors. The money saved by going with a TN display over a VA or IPS monitor can also be applied to other gaming accessories to enhance the overall experience.
What Are LCD Panels?
The three major panel types used in gaming monitors—VA, IPS, and TN—are all technically the same type of display: Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). This is in contrast to older display types such as cathode-ray tube displays and plasma displays.
LCDs like the type that are commonly used in gaming monitors operate by maintaining liquid molecules in a crystalline structure that are lined up between electrodes and polarizing filters. Images on an LCD are generated by orienting the crystals in different directions and allowing varying levels of light to pass through. Most LCDs are backlit with LED (Light-Emitting Diode) sources.
LCDs are used in a variety of applications other than gaming, such as the following:
- Smart devices
- Digital watches
The reason that LCDs have been used in gaming monitors and other applications since the early 2010s is that this technology allows for higher resolution than previous viewing technologies while also integrating technology that is lightweight and thin. LCDs also don’t have the same risk of image retention damage or “screen burn-in” that earlier gaming monitor technologies were susceptible to. (Source: Sony)
Types of Panel Types Used in Gaming Monitors
TN gaming monitors are the best panel type for gaming, but how do they stack up to other monitor types? Below you’ll find a breakdown of the three major panel types used in LCD gaming monitors.
Gaming Monitor Type
Twisted Nematic (TN)
Vertical Alignment (VA)
In-Plane Switching (IPS)
Inferior viewing angles and color reproduction
Moderate color saturation and contrast
Best color reproduction and viewing angles
Less expensive than IPS models; more expensive than TN
Most expensive type
Highest response times and refresh rates
Typically longer response times than TN or equivalent
Slowest response types and refresh rates of all gaming monitor types
Twisted Nematic (TN) Display Panels
While TN display panels are the oldest type of monitor technology used in LCD monitors between the three major types, TN displays are also the best objectively for most gaming applications because of their high refresh rate even though they have weaker color contrast and more narrow viewing angles than VA and IPS monitors.
VA and IPS monitors may offer more color accuracy and vibrancy, but their slower refresh rates lead to lag between input and display that can put gamers behind the mark when it comes to competitive multiplayer challenges. (Source: Tom’s Hardware)
Vertical Alignment (VA) Display PanelsIn a VA display panel, the LCD crystals in the monitor fall into a vertical alignment and render the screen black/opaque unless an electric current is applied. Once electricity is applied to the LCD crystals, they re-align into a horizontal alignment that allows light to pass through. This in turn results in a rendered picture. (Source: EIZO)
The major advantage of VA display panels is that they provide high levels of contrast. These gaming display panels are also capable of strong color reproduction and wider viewing angles than a TN display. Some VA displays have a slower refresh rate than TN displays, but there are now models on the market with responsiveness equal to a TN model. VA displays are more expensive than TN displays, however.
In-Plane Switching (IPS) Display PanelsIn an IPS display panel, the crystals in the display panel can shift horizontally during use, which in turn allows users to use the display with a much wider viewing angle without the loss of picture fidelity. This also means that the color doesn’t shift when the display is viewed from different angles. (Source: View Sonic).
In comparison to both TN and VA display panels, IPS displays don’t have the refresh rates that make them effective gaming displays—these displays are more commonly used in displays for professional computer monitors or high-end televisions. They are also significantly more expensive than either VA or TN displays.
IPS displays can be a good choice for those who play slower-paced games and just want a higher visual fidelity, but for those who play twitchy shooters, the IPS display doesn’t offer the response time necessary to be competitive against other display types. But for those who play slower-paced games such as real-time strategy or other genres, an IPS display offers the best quality picture on the market.
Just like LCD panels aren’t all alike, no two gamers are alike either. One gamer who needs top of the line responsiveness from their display to keep up with competitive multiplayer shootouts is not going to have the same requirements as a gamer who prefers role-playing games or building simulators.
The Best Gaming Panel Type Depends on Your Needs
For most gamers, TN displays offer the highest refresh rate without too much loss of graphical quality, while more expensive VA and IPS displays offer better color quality with less responsiveness. The best panel type for your games depends on the type of games you play most often. It also depends on how important color quality and contrast are to you versus reaction time.