TN or IPS Monitors? What’s the Difference?

Whether you just want to project your laptop screen onto a bigger monitor, or you’re buying a new monitor for your desktop, the search for a monitor, like any other component, is riddled with tech jargon that is often difficult to understand. This article is designed to give buyers a quick guide about the differences between TN and IPS, the two main monitor types of today’s world.

A Little Background on Monitors

Back in the not so distant past, CRT, or Cathode Ray Tube, was the standard monitor type. CRTs got information in an analog format along the cable. The cathode, or electron gun, sits at the back of the monitor’s tapered back and fires electrons corresponding to the signal received from the cable. Closer towards the screen is a set of anodes, that direct the electron to the RGB layer of the actual screen, via part of the signal from the cable. While these monitors were state of the art once upon a time, they don’t really have much of a place in today’s world with the invention of LCD screens, which have become the standard for today’s monitors.

LCD, Liquid Crystal Displays, don’t suffer from the same drawbacks as CRTs. For one, they use far less power. Also, CRTs tend to be harsher to stare at, and lack customization options in terms of brightness controls to the degree that modern monitors do. Additionally, LCDs are much more clear than CRTs, allowing for a more accurate image to be displayed. Modern LCD monitors work by having a two layer system of LED lights and LCD screen. The LED lights are referred to as a “backlight” and cause the image to be projected more clearly than the otherwise fairly dark LCD. The LCD layer, then, is in charge of color production, and the actual recreation of the image. LCD monitors are digital now, via such connections as HDMI or DisplayPort, and therefore can transmit data faster.

Now that we know a little about monitor history, let’s move on to the difference between TN panels and IPS panels.

TN Panels

TN, or Twisted Nematic panels, use a ‘nematic’ kind of liquid crystal to rotate and pass light through, corresponding to the signal transmitted. The main advantage of TN panels is speed. TN panels take advantage of something called an “active 3D shutter” which in essence allows them to display up to twice as much information as other types of panels. Additionally, the response time of TN panels is much quicker than IPS, though it is possible to find faster IPS panels. The delay in response time for a TN panel is roughly 2ms (milliseconds) however they can go as low as 1ms. Another benefit of TN panels is that they are generally cheaper than their IPS equivalent. This fast response time, and cheap factor, make these monitors quite popular in the gaming community, as well as the general consumer market, as gamers will experience less delay time when rendering an image. Additionally, TN panels allow for a higher refresh rate, going as high as 144Hz – though once again, it is possible to get IPS monitors with similar specs, just for a more money.

The major downside of TN panels is that they lack 100% accurate color reproduction. If you’re browsing Facebook, it’s not very important. However, if you’re doing color sensitive work perhaps for a movie or a photo edit, then TN panels may not be the right monitor for you.

IPS Panels

The main difference between IPS, In-plane Switching,  and TN panels, as touched on above, are price and color reproduction. IPS monitors are generally preferred by those in the professional rendering industry, as they more accurately portray colors of images. The downside, however, is that they are more expensive, though it is quite possible to find affordable IPS monitors for price ranges from $150 all the way up to thousands of dollars.

IPS monitors work by having a parallel instead of perpendicular array of pixels, which in addition to allowing for better color reproduction has the benefit of excellent viewing angles, while TN panels can often discolor if viewed from any relatively extreme angle. In essence, IPS panels were designed to address the flaws with TN panels, and therefore are preferred by many, from the average consumer to the professional editor.

Don’t let the benefits of IPS panels ruin your opinion of TN panels, though, for TN panels are still fantastic for certain situations. If you’re just sitting in one place in front of your computer, and absolutely perfect color reproduction isn’t really important to you, then TN is the way to go, especially if you’re trying to save a little on your monitor purchase.

Conclusion 

To summarize, TN panels have a better response time, as well as a cheaper price tag, while IPS panels have better viewing angles and color reproduction for a little extra cash. Whatever your choice of type, there are a plethora of excellent monitors for sale across the internet, in an immense variety of sizes and resolutions.