For starters, we should dive into a brief overview of both IPS and VA display technologies before proceeding with the comparison.
- IPS (in-plane switching) is a screen technology for liquid-crystal displays (LCDs). In IPS, a layer of liquid crystals is sandwiched between two glass surfaces. The liquid crystal molecules are aligned parallel to those surfaces in predetermined directions (in-plane). The molecules are reoriented by an applied electric field, whilst remaining essentially parallel to the surfaces to produce an image. It was designed to solve the strong viewing angle dependence and low-quality color reproduction of the twisted nematic field effect (TN) matrix LCDs prevalent in the late 1980s.
- VA (vertical alignment) is a type of LED (a form of LCD) panel display technology. VA panels are characterized as having the best contrast and image depth among the other main types of display panels, TN (twisted nematic)and IPS (in-plane switching), but also the longest response times. As such, you may want to think twice before choosing a VA panel as a gaming monitor. However, we regard contrast as the most important factor in a monitor’s image quality.
But what makes one better than the other? Are there categories where IPS panels have the edge over VA? Let’s take a closer look.
Pixel response time refers to how fast a monitor can shift from one color to another (typically black to white or gray to gray) and is measured in milliseconds. But what does a low response time mean for gamers in the real world? A lower response time will garner less motion blur and allow for a clearer picture with fast-moving scenes in games. Of the two, IPS panels tend to have the lower response times, typically at 1 to 3 ms for the fastest panels (some even going as low as 0.5 ms).On the other hand, many gaming monitors with VA panels are advertised with a 4ms or lower (GTG) value for gaming monitors. In fact, we’ve seen some VA monitors spec as low as 1ms GTG with overdrive. Winner: IPS
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 KTC M27P20 Pro with a refresh rate of 240 Hz, it refreshes the image 240 times per second. However, to hit 240 Hz or the high watermark of 360 Hz, you’re not just dependent on your monitor. Most gaming monitors have a minimum 120 Hz refresh rate and ramp up from there. Generally, the higher the number, the better performance you’ll see with a smoother picture. However, you’ll also need one of the best graphics cards for gaming capable of outputting pixels at a rate fast enough to keep up.Winner: IPS
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 instance, for a display with a 1,000:1 contrast ratio, a white image would appear 1,000 times brighter than a black image on a particular monitor. The higher the contrast ratio, the better, as you’ll find deeper blacks (instead of blacks that look gray or washed out) and more detail in a picture due to an increase in grayscale detail.While neither IPS nor VA panels can match the “infinite” contrast ratio of new OLED panels, like KTC G42P5 OLED, VA does have the upper hand. A good VA panel can exhibit a static contrast ratio of 2,000:1 to 3,000:1. However, the very best panels can crank that figure to 4,000:1 and beyond (for example, the KTC Curved H27S17 can hit 4,000:1). The advantage that VA panels hold over IPS in contrast ratio is even more pronounced in darkened rooms, where “IPS glow” can be a serious problem.Winner: VA
Most IPS panels feature horizontal/vertical viewing angles of up to 178 degrees. This means if you’re viewing content off-center, there isn’t much color-shifting or a dramatic drop in picture quality until you reach the extreme edges of the viewing angles. While VA panels have made great strides over the years in viewing angles, they are still not entirely up to par compared to IPS panels. VA panels are typically a bit weaker with respect to color/contrast shifts when viewing content off-center. However, for gamers who are likely to be sitting dead-center in front of the screen and not moving along the periphery of a monitor’s optimum viewing angle, this is likely less of an issue.Winner: IPS
While it may look like IPS is the winner based on its technical merits, it’s not that easy. When we’re talking about things like how responsive a monitor is or how it looks to the eye, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. You might prefer VA over IPS based on not only your gaming preferences but also productivity apps when it’s time to get work done.