LCD, or Liquid Crystal Displays, first became popular when CRT, or Cathode Ray Tube, monitors became mostly obsolete in last decade. Unlike CRTs which used vacuum tubes, electron guns, and phosphorescent screens to product images, LCD displays utilize liquid crystals which modify light to produce a desired color. These crystals are then backlit by some form of lighting such as LEDs to produce an image. Due to their physical appearance when compared to CRT monitors, LCD displays are typically referred to by the term “flat screen” which we all and love.
Within the category of LCDs are several types of technologies that help operate the panel. The most popular types include TN (Twisted Nematic), IPS (In-Plane Switching), and VA (Vertical Alignment).
TN (Twisted Nematic)
One of the most popular LCD display types is TN, or Twisted Nematic. TN displays are very popular as they’re low cost and are generally considered to be “fast”, which means low response times and low input lag. TN displays are also typically high refresh rate monitors (100Hz, 144Hz, etc.), which make them ideal for gamers who want the least amount of latency in their monitor.
While TN displays are great because of their cost and low latency, they are far from perfect, suffering from bad viewing angles and poor color reproduction. The easiest method to identify a TN panel is simply to view it from an angle either horizontally or vertically. Depending on the quality of the TN display, the colors may just be slightly off or it may look completely washed out. Additionally, as TN displays tend to be cheaper, they also suffer in greater numbers from issues such as uneven backlighting and stuck/dead pixels which are typically weeded out as a part of the QA process in higher end displays.
IPS (In-Plane Switching)
IPS displays have traditionally been most popular among creative professionals who need the most accurate color reproduction possible with no loss in color reproduction quality no matter which angle the image is viewed from.
While IPS displays have the best color reproduction and viewing angles, they tend to be very pricey and they also have significant latency and higher response times. As such, these were traditionally not the monitors of choice for gamers as the higher latency may translate into motion blurring and ghosting. That said, over the past few years, IPS displays have gotten significantly cheaper thanks to numerous companies selling cheap IPS displays which use IPS panels that were previously QA rejected by companies who sell IPS displays at a premium to professionals. As such, IPS displays can now be purchased at a significantly lower cost than before albeit with some slight imperfections. Additionally, new technologies such as S-IPS (Super-IPS) have also significantly reduced the latency and response times of these displays as well making them much more acceptable for gaming than it had been previously.
VA (Vertical Alignment)
VA displays are a happy medium between TN and IPS displays. These displays are typically not as costly as IPS, but still offer good viewing angles and decent color reproduction. That said, they tend to not be as good as IPS which is why most professionals still stick with IPS displays.
However, the biggest issue with VA panels is that similar to IPS panels, VA panels tend to have high latency which can cause ghosting effects on screen making it a poor experience while gaming. However, those who want accurate colors, a decent picture, and decent viewing angles yet don’t want to pay the full cost of an IPS display will find that VA panels are an excellent alternative.