Choosing a monitor never gets easier. Every year that passes by, new technology redefines the limits of previous technology. It used to be that every monitor on the market was a TN panel. Then, along came IPS with a significantly improved picture quality with a much wider range of color and wider viewing angles. These two competing technologies still dominate the market today. However, there is a third. Vertical alignment, or VA, panels were developed to bridge the gap between TN and IPS in the early days.
VA panels are capable of better viewing angles than TN panels, but not as good IPS. They are also more consistently available in higher refresh rates like 120Hz or 144Hz. In the modern market, the 144Hz refresh rate is not rare or exclusive to panel technology. IPS still tends to shine as a better technology than both TN and VA panels with the best range of color and viewing angles available. However, IPS displays are typically the most expensive of the three.
It used to be that VA panels were easier to get a faster response time on than IPS panels. That has also changed. IPS panels can come with 4 ms response times and 280Hz refresh rates without losing color contrast, gamut, or viewing angles. VA panels can come to similar performance, but with a much slower response time. This makes IPS panels a better option for gaming, while VA may be a better option for office use due to its cheaper price.
It is worth noting that when discussing prices of modern monitors with VA, TN, or IPS panel technology that cost has significantly been reduced. 20” monitors with any panel technology run from as cheap as $50 to around $200. The price is dictated by more than just the panel technology, of course.
VA vs IPS Side by Side Comparison
|What It is||monitor backlight display panel||monitor backlight display panel|
|Primary Use||produce colors and target imagery||produce colors and target imagery|
|Name||Vertical Alignment panel||in-Plane Switching panel|
|Initial Release||the late 1990s||1996|
|Influential Developers||Schiekel, Fahrenschon||Hitachi|
|Technology Influenced||IPS||VA, laptops|
What is VA?
Vertical alignment, or VA, panels are a type of liquid crystal display, LCD, technology that uses vertically aligned crystals. This means that the nematic liquid crystals are vertically aligned with respect to the glass substrate. When power is applied, the crystal molecules will tend to organize perpendicular to the electric field and therefore parallel to the substrate surfaces. When the panel is unpowered, the axis of the LC molecules is positioned vertically to the substrate which prevents light from reaching through the screen like window shades.
VA was created after IPS in an attempt to create a mixture of the two technologies. It creates a better contrast ratio and includes the wide viewing angles of IPS LCD display panels. The idea for vertical alignment panels was born in 1971, but the final product wasn’t released until shortly after IPS technology. VA panels are most known for their ability to reach high refresh rates without incurring a heavier cost which is fantastic for budget gamers.
Vertical alignment panels have a bad habit of ghosting images. When a VA panel TV or a monitor is left active for too long on an unchanging image, the image can be burned into the screen. Some users may be familiar with this as movie DVD menus may have accidentally been left on overnight causing a burnt image. This is what’s known as image “ghosting”. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to prevent this other than ensuring the panel is powered down when not in use.
- Wider viewing angle than TN displays
- Best color contrast ratio available
- Just as bright as IPS displays
- Black shades are much darker on VA panels than TN or IPS.
- Capable of a high refresh, up to 360Hz.
- Less color gamut than IPS
- Narrowing viewing angle than IPS
- Slow response time
What is IPS
In-Plane Switching, or IPS, is one of the display technologies for TFT-LCDs, which stands for Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Displays. It was created to provide an alternate solution to twisted nematic display panels. IPS was first developed by Hitachi. They had found a way to change the physical behavior of the liquid crystal layer by moving the liquid crystal molecules in parallel with the thin film transistors. This created much wider viewing angles when compared to traditional TN panel technology.
Since then, LG has developed IPS into the next level with S-IPS, super in-plane switching, and AH-IPS, advanced high-performance in-plane switching. The first version of IPS already offered a much wider color gamut compared to TN display panels, but the extra enhancements from decades of development have brought IPS to the point where TN only outperforms IPS displays when it comes to response time. IPS panels are typically measured at 4 ms response time. TN panels still boast a consistent 1 ms response time. For office work, school projects, home management, and organizational uses, the difference in response time will mean nothing. A user who enjoys PC gaming will notice the difference in racing or competitive Shooters rather quickly.
IPS displays are also much better for entertainment purposes. The wide viewing angle is well-suited for TV use and watching movies with a wide seating arrangement. The viewing angle stops image quality loss when viewers aren’t directly in front of the screen, so even guests sitting at the furthest ends of the group will still be able to see the movies or TV shows clearly.
- Great range of color
- Wide viewing angles
- Fast response time
- Capable of refresh rates up to 280Hz
- Energy efficient
- Slower response time than TN panels
- Can be expensive
- IPS glow may occur at extreme, unrealistic, viewing angles.
- IPS liquid crystals are aligned horizontally at all times. VA panels have liquid crystals vertically aligned.
- IPS has wider viewing angles with no shift in color between horizontal and vertical directions. VA panels have poor viewing angles that show picture degradation.
- IPS have a 1000:1 contrast ratio, while VA panels have 3000:1 or 6000:1 color contrast which is the best contrast available.
- IPS panels have poor black-level management. VA panels show much darker blacks.
VA vs IPS: 6 Must Know Facts
- In-Plane Switching panels have a wider range of color and the best viewing angles compared to Vertical Alignment or Twisted Nematic panels.
- In-Plane Switching panels are capable of much faster response times than Vertical Alignment panels but are still slower than twisted Nematic panels.
- Vertical Alignment panels have the best contrast and image depth available on a monitor.
- IPS displays are the technology of choice for graphic design and professional use.
- VA monitors are cheaper than IPS displays but are not as widely available as IPS or TN displays.
- IPS and TN panels are much better for gaming than VA panels. TN panels have often been referred to as the “go-to” tech for gaming.