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Monitor IPS vs TN (2020): Which Monitor Panel Should You Pick?

The days of the cathode ray tube monitor, or CRT, are gone. Ever since LCD displays became more practical, engineers have been trying to find ways to make its display better in different ways. Some focus on making higher refresh rates possible, or having a screen be able to reproduce colors more accurately. The numerous kinds of active-matrix technologies that different LCD monitors use is a monument to these innovations.

However, a ton of choices can always make your life as a customer a bit more complicated. What’s the difference between all these monitor types? In this comparison, we’ll take a look at twisted nematic displays (or TN, like this Acer KG251Q) and in-plane switching monitors (or IPS, like the Sceptre E248B-FPT168) and how the two kinds of monitors exactly differ.

IPS vs TN Monitor Comparison Chart

TechnologyIPSTN
 Sceptre IPS 24” Gaming Monitor 165Hz 144Hz Full HD (1920 x 1080) FreeSync Eye Care FPS RTS...Acer KG251Q Fbmidpx 24.5' Full HD (1920 x 1080) TN 144Hz Monitor with AMD Radeon FreeSync Technology...
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
ModelSceptre E248B-FPT168Acer KG251Q
Model Size24.5″24″
Refresh RateUp to 240HzUp to 240Hz
Viewing AnglesMore flexibleLimited
Adaptive Sync SuppportYesYes
Response Timesas fast as 4msas fast as 2ms
Input Lagas fast as ~1msas fast as ~1ms

TN Monitors

TN monitors made LCD displays more accessible to the general public.

TN monitors like this Acer model made the CRT obsolete.

Liquid crystal displays, or LCDs, have been around since the 60’s, but its existence was restricted to laboratories for most of its early life. When the twisted-nematic (TN) effect was discovered in the 70’s, though, the progression towards LCD marketability started. By the time the 90’s came around, LCDs were already a mainstay in the tech world thanks to the TN effect. TN displays were the first to be produced on a mass scale, spelling the end for CRT monitors.

Even though the technology’s been around for that long, TN monitors are still widely available on the market for a lot of reasons. One of its main advantages is its speed. TN panels have the slowest input lag out of the common LCD display tech today, clocking in at around one millisecond. As covered in our Monitor vs 4K TV comparison, input lag is how fast your mouse clicks or keyboard taps register on screen. This ultra-fast input feedback may be an indispensable advantage in certain fields. This speed is due to how a TN’s “active 3D shutter” makes it possible to essentially have twice as much information on screen. Response times, as a result, are also generally fast at roughly two milliseconds for the best models. TN monitors can also support higher refresh rates, sometimes going up to 240Hz. Lastly, but maybe most importantly, they’re the most affordable kind of LCD. These all sound great, so why did scientists still feel the need innovate further and create IPS?

IPS Monitors

IPS monitors are built for better color interpretation than TNs.

This Sceptre IPS monitor also has wider viewing angles.

In-plane switching (IPS) is another LCD innovation, though it came much later than TN. While TN monitors were widely available in the 90’s, IPS was only newly introduced then. They have received a lot of technological improvements up to as recent as 2011. IPS panels were created to have better color reproduction and wider viewing angles, two aspects where the earlier TN displays were sorely lacking.

These advantages that IPS monitors have are due to the difference in technology. IPS monitors have its pixels arranged in a parallel manner, making its color display less vulnerable to the washed-out feel that TN monitors often have. However, these upsides come at a price (quite literally). IPS monitors are more expensive than TNs on the market because of this tech difference.

Display

TNs are fast, but IPS displays are flashier, with better contrast and color.

A side-by-side of Acer’s IPS (left) and TN (right) monitors.

Because of the difference in technology, IPS and TN displays specialize in different areas. IPS shines particularly when it comes to display. Though TN screens aren’t bad per se, they really can’t be seen as equals with IPS monitors when it comes to color fidelity and contrast. Specifically, IPS monitors are well-known for their good reproduction of black and other darker colors. Dark colors pop more on IPS compared on TNs, where they look faded instead of actually dark. You may have noticed this yourself, without particularly knowing the technical differences of the two screens.

The way pixels are arranged parallel to each other on IPS screens also make it possible for more flexible viewing angles. Compare this to a TN display, where looking at it at any other angle than straight on means that the way you see the colors on the screen will be affected negatively. However, IPS panels still aren’t magic. You will have to take note that at more extreme viewing angles, something called the “IPS glow” happens, where you can see the screen’s backlight showing.

Performance and Value

The two monitors are highly suited for two very different situations.

Both TNs and IPS displays are capable of supporting adaptive sync.

In the end, the kind of panel your monitor uses won’t really matter as much as long as you pick a good quality model. You’ll still have a great viewing experience; however, the kind does affect in what situations they do best. Because of its amazing response time and low input lag, TN-based monitors are still favored in competitive gaming. Situations like these, where time matters more than how pretty colors look on screen, are where TNs take center stage. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also generally more affordable, making it even a bigger bargain than it already was.

However, the extra cash that you pay for an IPS monitor does come with advantages that may be essential, depending on your line of work. If you do content creation, or a lot of photo and video editing, an IPS monitor is for you. The more accurate colors will ensure that your work looks as amazing as you can make it. If you just want a monitor with better color and contrast and have the cash to spare, IPS monitors will also be good. Just make sure to take a look at its other specs like the refresh rate.

Verdict

Know your usage situation, since your choice will heavily rely on it.

IPS monitors are best for those who work a lot with color. It was specifically developed to improve on TN’s relatively lackluster handling of color and contrast, which made it far from ideal for people who do a lot of photo and video editing, among other creative jobs. However, IPS usage isn’t restricted to just the pros. As long as you have a slightly roomier budget and consider color fidelity for your games and movies an absolute deal breaker, there are a lot of IPS monitor choices for you.

TN monitors, on the other hand, are best for those who value speed above all. If split seconds make a difference in your line of work, go for a TN monitor. Displays that use this kind of panel generally have faster response times and less input lag. They’re also more affordable than IPS monitors: between two monitors with the same specs, the TN choice can cost around twenty to thirty bucks less. While it does have its problem with viewing angles, it won’t be a problem if you won’t be looking at it from the sides too often.

FAQs

📌 What is the difference between TN and IPS monitors?

They use different kinds of LCD screens: TNs have faster response rates and less lag, while IPS has better colors and contrast and wider viewing angles.

📌 Is TN or IPS better for gaming?

It depends on the kind of gaming experience you want: better color quality comes with an IPS, while competitive gamers favor TN monitors for their speed.

📌 Is IPS monitor better than LED?

LED monitors are often less expensive and also use less power than IPS monitors. If those are important to you, keep this difference in mind.

📌 Is IPS monitor good for the eyes?

While IPS monitors may be better than TN monitors due to wider viewing angles and less eye strain, they aren’t exactly good either. You should continue taking frequent breaks from your screen, regardless of what kind of monitor you use.

Last update on 2020-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Mauie Flores
Mauie Flores

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying, blogger and content creator passionate about writing, music, and good food.