When it comes to the best gaming monitors available on the market, the dizzying array of sizes, resolutions, refresh rates, response times, FreeSync vs. G-Sync, and panel types can make purchasing decisions difficult. Our job is to make the buying process easier for you. So in this article, we’ll look at two of the popular panel types used in today’s best gaming monitors: IPS and VA.
To start, we should dive into a brief overview of the two IPS and Virginia display technologies before making the comparison. IPS, or in-plane switching, is a type of liquid crystal display (LCD) panel in which the liquid crystals are aligned in parallel. They are popular in today’s computer monitors, televisions, and mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets). IPS panels stand out for their excellent viewing angles and color representation (compared to older NT panels), making them suitable for many usage scenarios, including gaming and office work.
VA stands for vertical alignment, in which the liquid crystals are aligned vertically, perpendicular to the surface of the substrate. As a result, these panels tend to have greater viewing angles than TN panels (but less than IPS) and excellent contrast ratios and excel at delivering incredible levels of detail in game (or movie) scenes. ).
But what makes one better than the other? Are there categories where IPS panels have the advantage over VA and vice versa? Let’s take a closer look.
Pixel response time refers to the speed at which a monitor can change from one color to another (usually black to white or gray to gray) and is measured in milliseconds. But what does low response time mean for real-world gamers? A shorter response time will generate less motion blur and allow for a clearer picture with fast-paced scenes in games. Of the two, IPS panels tend to have the slowest response times, typically 1-3ms for the fastest panels (some even as fast as 0.5ms).
On the other hand, many gaming monitors with VA panels are advertised with a value of 4ms or less (GTG) for gaming monitors. In fact, we’ve seen some VA monitors specified as low as 1ms GTG with overdrive . However, these faster response times can come at the expense of inverse ghosting, leaving shiny artifacts behind fast-moving objects on a screen.
Refresh rate refers to how often your screen can display an image per second and is measured in hertz (Hz). So if you have a monitor like the Gigabyte Aorus FI25F with a refresh rate of 240 Hz, it refreshes the image 240 times per second. However, to reach 240Hz or the upper limit of 360Hz, you don’t just depend on your monitor.
Most gaming monitors have a minimum refresh rate of 120Hz and increase from there. Generally, the higher the number, the better the performance with a smoother image. However, you will also need one of the best graphics cards for gaming able to output pixels at a rate fast enough to keep up.
IPS panels can be used from the standard 60Hz up to 360Hz on the fastest 1080p panels (like the Asus ROG Swift PG259QN). For a long time, 4K IPS panels were stuck at a maximum of 144Hz. However, this has changed recently with the introduction of ViewSonic Elite XG320Uwhich overclocks to 150 Hz (at the expense of Adaptive-Sync).
The best VA panels can exceed 240Hz, and Samsung has yet to release Odyssey Neo G8 can even reach 240Hz at 4K using Display Stream Compression (DSC).
When it comes to static contrast ratio (which refers to the luminance ratio between black and white produced by a display), the best IPS panels tend to hover around the 1,000:1 mark. For example, for a screen with a contrast ratio of 1000:1, a white image would appear 1000 times brighter than a black image on a particular monitor. The higher the contrast ratio, the better, as you will find deeper blacks (instead of blacks that appear gray or washed out) and more detail in an image due to increased grayscale detail .
Although neither IPS nor VA panels can match the “infinite” contrast ratio of the new OLED panels, VA has the upper hand. A good VA panel can have a static contrast ratio of 2000:1 to 3000:1. However, the best panels can increase this figure to 4000:1 and beyond (e.g. the AHU C32G2ZE can reach 4000:1). The advantage that VA panels hold over IPS in terms of contrast ratio is even more pronounced in dark rooms, where “IPS glow” can be a serious problem.
Most IPS panels feature horizontal/vertical viewing angles of up to 178 degrees. This means that if you’re viewing off-center content, there’s not much of a color shift or a dramatic drop in image quality until you hit the extreme edges of the viewing angles.
While VA panels have made great strides over the years in viewing angles, they still aren’t quite on par with IPS panels. VA panels are generally a little weaker when it comes to color/contrast shifts when viewing off-center content. However, for gamers who are likely to sit centrally in front of the screen and not move along the periphery of a monitor’s optimal viewing angle, this is probably less of an issue.
IPS panels, in general, have better color gamut performance, resulting in richer colors for your games. Most IPS monitors can achieve a higher percentage of the DCI-P3 and sRGB color gamuts. Higher color gamut scores generally lead to greater accuracy and more vibrant color representation.
We should also mention that the superior color performance and wider gamut of the IPS panel not only make them a good choice for gaming, but their accuracy makes them well suited for color-critical professional applications.
VA panels lag slightly in color accuracy compared to IPS, but for typical gaming scenarios they are well suited to the job. They particularly shine when it comes to shading and highlighting detail in games, and make a good choice when watching movies in your downtime due to the deeper blacks. But when you weigh the benefits of VA panels with contrast ratio and black levels against the more accurate color performance of IPS panels for gaming, it more or less comes down to personal preference.
Although IPS might seem like the winner due to its technical merits, it’s not that easy. When we talk about things like a monitor’s responsiveness or visual appeal, it largely comes down to personal preference. You might prefer VA over IPS depending on not only your gaming preferences but also productivity apps when it’s time to work.
And while you might enjoy a fast 360Hz IPS display for your nervous eSports games, someone else might have a different panel in mind for slower-paced RTS gaming. Ultimately, if all of this is possible, we’d suggest trying to spend some time with a monitor before spending your cold, sounding cash at a physical electronics retailer. And if that’s not possible, take a look at our extensive back to monitor reviews catalog to help you make an informed decision.
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