IPS Monitor 101: All Of The Latest Info You Need To Know

Is The IPS Monitor The Greatest Display In The World?

Yes and no! Did you come here for a straight answer? Tough! When it comes to making an important decision, which you are, you need to do your homework. You specifically searched for info about an IPS monitor right? Well, look no further! This article has ALL of the info you need and then some.

Do you feel that calling the IPS monitor the “greatest display in the world” is a little subjective? Of course, it is! After all, not knowing what opinion to listen to landed you here! Now get ready for nothing but the facts needed to make an informed decision about the IPS monitor.

First, what makes it “the greatest” display for YOU?

How LCD Tech Transformed In The 21st Century

The three most popular types of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panels:

  • IPS (In-Panel Switching)
  • TN (Twisted Nematic)
  • VA (Vertical Alignment)

Other variants aren’t as popular with consumers, and you don’t want a bunch of useless info since you came here hoping to learn more about the IPS monitor. So kindly find those other displays in another article.

The IPS Monitor was invented to fix specific issues causing the TN monitor to have poor color reproduction and a limited viewing angle. The TN display was considered a great technological feat in the 1970s, even though it was first limited to digital watches and calculators.

Demand grew over the years to fix the poor viewing angle and color issues. In the 1990s the IPS panel emerged, followed by the VA panel. That’s right! The TN LCD could be as old as your parents (or grandparents), and the IPS monitor is old enough to be out of college!

One of the first computers to have an LCD display. The HP41CX calculator from 1979.

Fast forward to the early 2000s and public demand for bigger, thinner television displays with high def pictures exploded. It was roughly around 2004 when LCD tech began to pass up the Plasma Display Panel or PDP. The LCDs ability to run cooler and brighter with less energy required and a longer lifespan gave it an advantage.

Do you want to know another advantage LCD had over plasma? No screen glare!

Plasma display production came to an abrupt halt in 2015 for buyers. Following the intro of 4k HDTVs, LCD edged out Plasma due to rising costs to add the same tech.

Rest in peace plasma tv; you died too young.

What is an IPS Monitor and Why Is It So Popular?

Now that the brief history lesson is over let’s talk specifically about the IPS Monitor. To understand why the IPS monitor is so popular, you need to know why the TN monitor is so unpopular. You should now know the TN display has two disadvantages of poor viewing angle and color reproduction, which the IPS monitor fixes.

The IPS panel creates vivid images and does this without causing any color distortion. It also has a wider viewing angle and less tailing when touching the screen. Tailing is the residual trail of color distortion you get behind your finger when you drag it across an LCD screen. All of this combined made IPS the panel of choice during the introduction of Apple’s Retina Display on their smartphones and tablets.

What other advantage does the IPS monitor have? An intense video game community! Many gamers live their lives in front of screens, so why not have the best display possible? True color reproduction and zero distortion no matter what angle you hold your head at. Plus the high refresh rate eliminates most if not all motion blur.

No wonder most PC gamers fall in love with the very idea of the IPS monitor! Not to mention, all features that make the IPS display great also help to decrease eye-strain from long gaming sessions.

And that’s what makes the IPS monitor so popular in a nutshell. It’s all about image quality, color accuracy, reduced motion blur and wide viewing angles without fading, tearing or distortion. It accomplishes a great looking picture better than anything else on the market.

If you thought it was all sunshine and roses for the IPS monitor. You should probably know right now—it isn’t perfect.

Why Is The Glorious IPS Monitor So Imperfect?

You can’t just talk the IPS monitor up to be the perfect panel and call it factual! All great things have their flaws. Are these flaws deal breakers for you? That depends on whether or not you will see them as flaws or small imperfections. The question is, what are you willing to overlook?

It Struggles To Give Deeper, Darker Images

Here is half of the info you came for—the negative. First, the biggest problem people have with the IPS monitor is its dull color black. Oh, it shows the color black, but it isn’t deep and rich, it’s just “black enough.” There are IPS monitor brands that fix this flaw better than others, but as of writing this, no one has it 100%.

The Backlight Bleeding Debacle

Second, there is a severe case of backlight bleed around the edges of the IPS monitor. However, you can’t usually tell unless you’re looking at a pitch black screen. This flaw is a particular headache of the IPS monitor and is a result of the way liquid crystals align in the IPS panel. This crystal pattern causes increased pressure on different areas of the screen, causing extra light to “bleed” out.

An image of back light bleed-thru on an IPS monitor

Backlight bleed persists in every IPS monitor but varies in severity, so maybe you’ll get lucky!

What About The Response Time?

For starters, let’s clear up a common delusion that your PC monitor’s response time links to any physical action by you. For example, the time between moving your mouse with your hand and seeing it move on your screen. This is a popular confusion and has nothing to do with response of your monitor to an action you make—that’s called input lag.

The display response time refers to length of time in milliseconds it takes for a pixel to light up after becoming active. An example would be the amount of time it takes for a white pixel to turn black.

Fun Fact: The response time of an average household LED light bulb takes roughly one-quarter of a second to light-up once you flip the switch. That’s 250ms!

The response time is slower when compared to the TN monitor. However, in the case of a high-end gaming IPS monitor, response times have gotten better. Does it rival the response of a TN monitor? Well almost, but let’s take the scenario of a TN monitor with a response time of 1ms and an IPS monitor at 4ms. Will you honestly be able to tell the difference in a pixel lighting up 3 or 4 ms faster?

Of course, you might be a hardcore gamer that can stop time like Neo from the matrix, but most of us are not.

If you truly wish to understand response times and why the third flaw of the IPS monitor may be hardly worth considering—check the video below.

What Is the Best Monitor Response Time For Gaming? [Simple Guide]

Satisfied with the three main flaws of the IPS monitor? Great! Now you’re going to learn about another LCD panel variant, and why if you’re gaming, you may steer clear of it—the VA monitor.

Should You Pass On The VA Monitor?

More precisely, why do many gamers pass on the VA monitor? You’re probably more interested in the whole IPS vs TN debate. Too bad! The VA monitor deserves a small mention too.

Taking the Middle Ground Between the TN and IPS Monitors

The VA panel takes the best of both the IPS and TN monitor and mixes them to give us a nice well-rounded display. That is fantastic if you’re watching a movie, but what if you’re playing a video game?

First of all, the VA monitor has a better viewing angle and color reproduction than a TN monitor. It also boasts higher contrast and deeper blacks compared to an equally priced IPS monitor. However, it’s not used for gaming because it used to have a high response time—used to.

The main drawback is that when it comes to color reproduction, the only thing it displays better than the IPS monitor is the color black. Apart from slightly less vivid colors and a smaller viewing angle, response and refresh rates match that of the IPS monitor.

With the rapid changes in display tech, these issues are always subject to change. Especially with new VA panel tech such as superior pixel overdrive, which has nearly brought response rate on par with the TN monitor.

When deciding between a VA or IPS monitor, it can be a toss-up for many, since there are quality gaming displays on both sides.

Is The TN Monitor The Best Option For Gamers?

Are response time and cost the most important factors? Because that is what the TN monitor is most noted for providing. If you’re on a budget, or if you think pixels loading a few ms faster will make you a world-famous eSports champion than the TN LCD is for you!

The Fastest Response Times Ever

It has the fastest response time, and at fewer than 1ms you can say the TN monitor responds. Period. If your sole reason for getting a monitor is speed, then this is the only thing you’re probably going to look at anyway.

The “Don’t Look At Me That Way!”—Viewing Angle

The first flaw is poor viewing angle, though it has gotten slightly better over the years, fifty years to be exact, it’s still far from perfect. To maximize all visuals on your screen, you still need to be looking at a TN monitor straight-on. Any small variation in this causes a darker screen and distorted image color.

tn monitor viewed straight on
Image of a TN monitor when viewed straight on
tn monitor viewed at a slight angle
The same image on a TN monitor viewed at a slight angle.

Rationalizing Cost When Comparing IPS vs TN

The TN monitor dollar for dollar beats the IPS monitor. That means if you’re looking to save a few dollars, there is no question which one you will choose. If cost is your sole reason for not getting an IPS monitor, then you needn’t read any further.

Color Reproduction Is “Meh” At Best

The colors of a TN monitor often feel neglected, as they look out and see the happier colors of a VA or IPS monitor. How sad right?

Poor color reproduction is more accurate for some manufacturers than others. For Example, extreme color shifting can happen in cheaper off-brand TN LCDs, so it isn’t always be best to buy the lowest priced monitor.

All Around Monitor Specs That Are Best For Gaming

It looks like you’re stuck deciding between a TN vs IPS monitor for gaming and can’t make up your mind. It’s a good idea to look at how screens size, refresh rate, response time and resolution improves your game and your ability to pull off that sweet, sweet victory.

When It Comes To Display Size, Is Bigger Better?

“Better” depends on the context of bigger screens. For Example, a 70-inch, 1080p TV will have worse image quality, than a 20-inch, 1080p TV.

If resolution doesn’t increase with the size of a display, the picture just gets stretched out to accommodate its container. However, if you have a 70-inch TV that is capable of using a 4k resolution, then the image quality between the smaller and larger TV will be virtually unchanged.

That said, if you opt for a 35-inch IPS monitor for gaming, then you want to make sure it can at least handle a res of 2k. After all, you want to see the big picture and not pixels.

Large television displays pull off 1080p better, because most of us don’t sit 3 feet away from them.

How Does A Higher Refresh Rate Improve How You See Movement?

The refresh rate determines how many times the monitor can update an image every second. Meaning that if a person is running across your screen, it will look like a much smoother, less blurry animation.

If you’re playing a game you need to be made aware of the correlation between your refresh rate and your framerate. Remember, refresh rate and frame rate aren’t the same things.

Your frame rate or FPS is the number of images per second that your graphics card can display. Your refresh rate refers to how many of those images your monitor is capable of showing every second.

For example, if your monitor has a refresh rate of 60hz, you will only ever see 60 frames. Even if your graphics card is capable of displaying over 100 frames per second, your monitors refresh rate must match or exceed it.

So what is a good refresh rate to have? That all comes down to the frame rate you normally game at. Mostly, you would see no benefit in purchasing an IPS monitor over 120Hz. That is because even with the best graphics cards on the market, you will rarely exceed 100 FPS in graphically intense video games.

A 60Hz monitor will perform poorly in most circumstances, and a 240Hz is way more than you will ever use.

Are Response Times Really That Big Of A Deal?

Of course, they are a big deal! You want the most responsive pixels on the planet! This is the main source of contention between the TN and IPS monitor.

When you’re extremely competitive you want every ms to matter. But, at what point are you just fooling yourself? Did you know that some retailers of the TN monitor use response time as a marketing strategy, knowing that it’s one of the sole reasons people choose it over an IPS monitor?

Naturally, you want a monitor faster than 10ms. And yes, if you observe a very high and very low response rate monitor side by side, there is a noticeable difference.

However, compare the fastest IPS monitor at 4ms to the fastest TN monitor at 1ms. The difference is about 3ms. You would have to play a side-by-side recording back at fractions of a second to briefly see this!

For comparison’s sake, there are 1000ms in 1 second and the average reaction time for a human to visual stimuli is 250ms. Do you still think 3ms is the thing that is going to get you eSports ready? Do you know what you will sound like blaming your recent defeat on a 3ms gap in time?

A loser. You will sound like a loser.

What Role Does Resolution Play In Any Of This?

Screen resolution needs to be broken down a little further by talking about more than just screen size. When it comes to the IPS monitor, it pulls off a sub-4k resolution quite well with a few caveats.

The main drawback is having a large IPS monitor displaying a res higher than 2k. The higher resolution means that you also need a graphics card capable of keeping up. The newest graphics cards on market, are capable of handling closer to a 4k resolution on a 34-inch monitor.

The problem rears its ugly head when you want to play your games on high settings as well. In that case, even the newest graphics cards struggle to pull off high res, and high frame rates on a big screen.

That is to say, your graphics card is running at a reduced frame rate, and your in-game performance is taking a hit. Lag caused by a lower frame rate seems more noteworthy than worrying about 3ms in your monitor response time don’t you think?

More pixels equate to better image quality but increase strain on the graphics card. Other than that, high res does make those textures pretty.

Want to pull off 4k on a large IPS monitor, with enough gas left in the tank to put up a decent frame rate? Start with no less than a 2080ti graphics card.

The last generation 1080ti is capable of high resolution on a big display screen, but you won’t be able to justify a 120Hz refresh rate. That’s because the frame rate may never break 100FPS on a consistent basis.

G-Sync or FreeSync: Key Features To Have With Any IPS Monitor

Whether you choose a G-Sync or a FreeSync monitor, it’s essential first to know what V-Sync is.

V-Sync is a graphic option that when selected prevents screen tearing while playing games. It does this, by syncing the monitors refresh rate with the games frame rate. Having this option off might boost your frame rate, but it also increases the presence of graphical distortions and screen tearing. Having V-Sync enabled, however, can cause stuttering and input lag.

Now that you understand V-Sync, you need to know what makes G-Sync or FreeSync useful if you’re looking to purchase an IPS monitor.

How G-Sync Offers A Module Based Solution

G-Sync was designed by Nvidia to remedy problems brought on by having V-Sync enabled.

By enabling this option, G-Sync tells your graphics card to wait for the monitor to catch up before sending the next frame. It eliminates input lag associated with V-Sync, by storing the previous frame and comparing it with the next frame. Storing the last frame is possible by using its own built-in memory, i.e., DDR3 RAM.

NVIDIA G-Sync Technology
Video displaying G-Sync vs V-Sync

By syncing the monitor and GPU in this fashion, it smooths out all of the animations in-game without the drawbacks of V-Sync. Like with everything else that sounds too good to be true it has a downside. And that downside would be the cost you pay for the tech.

It’s another reason why if you’re eye-balling an IPS monitor, you already don’t want to spend more than you have to. After all, IPS panels are expensive without added tech. Also, G-Sync is specific to Nvidia GPUs. If you have an AMD graphics card, you will have to opt for FreeSync.

How FreeSync Offers A Display-Based Solution

AMD developed FreeSync for use with its lineup of graphics cards.

It works similar to G-Sync in that it allows the monitor to adjust its refresh rate, with the frame output of the graphics card. By enabling the refresh rate to vary with the change in GPU frame rate, stuttering and screen tearing becomes almost non-existent.

An example would be your monitor increasing it’s refresh rate to 80hz when your graphics card increases it’s frame rate to 80fps.

FreeSync differs from G-Sync in a few ways. A FreeSync monitor doesn’t have extra hardware to regulate the refresh rate since it controls it via an internal display mod. There is no hardware included, such as the DDR3 RAM Module in G-Sync monitors. No added hardware means no added cost, so FreeSync ready displays are less expensive.

FreeSync Demonstration
Video showing FreeSync vs V-Sync

Secondly, VESA adopted FreeSync as the Adaptive Sync Standard. What this means is that any manufacturer can use FreeSync tech in their displays. However, this can be a problem because low-cost manufacturers are now able to brand their monitors as FreeSync ready. The kicker is that there is no system in place to check the quality of products being sold.

You get what you pay for, so don’t be lured by clever marketing on a cheap monitor claiming that it’s “FreeSync Ready!”

AMD is working on a new standard to regulate products that get to use FreeSync branding. They are doing this by implementing FreeSync 2, which is just a name in itself. The difference is that unless you go thru additional quality measures, you don’t get to say your product uses FreeSync 2.

The end goal is that only quality displays will be able to boast this new adaptive display branding.

The Better Gaming Monitor: IPS vs TN Conclusion

Armed with facts and logic for choosing either a TN or IPS monitor for gaming, you should have no trouble making your mind up. Whether you’re just looking to add an addition to your existing setup or if you’re building a new gaming PC.

You’ve done the research, read reviews, added and removed countless items from your shopping cart (we all do it). You know what you can and can’t afford and what you will or won’t like.

Do you like that the TN monitor has a high response time and low cost? Can you live with narrow viewing angle and poor color—then get it. What about the fact that the IPS monitor has vivid colors and virtually non-existent motion blurring? If you can live with lower response time and backlight bleed—then get it!

You’ve read everything we had to say on the matter, so you should know which way we lean by now…*cough* IPS monitor *cough*.