Like most computer components or models, the monitor market is also full of jargon and abbreviations that often don’t get spelled out. So you’re often left wondering why certain ones are more expensive than others despite having lower numbers, etc. Most of that has to do with display panel types.
These are practically the type of technology used in LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors to produce everything from the image to the colors. That’s the short story. As always, not all display panel types are the same.
So instead of enumerating the differences between the most commonly used display panel types, we’re just going to rank them and explain their place in the rankings so that you know which is which, or what to aim for when buying a TV or monitor.
You can also consider this as some sort of buying guide. The ranking is from worst to best, by the way, let’s start with the one that’s almost phased out now.
TN (Twisted Nematic)
TN panels were pretty common back in the 2000s and the early 2010s. This technology was sort of experimental since it was rushed into mass production to replace those cubic and bulky CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors.
Simply put, TN panels paved the way for flatscreen LCD. But they had one glaring problem; the viewing angles were terrible.
If you so much as move your perspective off-center by several inches whether horizontally or vertically, there will be color and contrast shifts, sometimes even brightness shifts. In extreme angles, the screen’s colors will even invert completely like a negative photo.
As soon as other display panel types were introduced, manufacturers were quick to jump ship. However, you might still see TN panel monitors around simply because they are cheap to produce even in high refresh rates like 240Hz.
Regardless, these are bargain bin screens, and by no means should you pay full price for them or pay the same price as a VA or IPS monitor for them. Speaking of which…
VA (Vertical Alignment)
The next mainstream innovation for flatscreen LCDs was the vertical alignment or VA panel.
They were an improvement over the TN panels especially in color and viewing angles since they have a better contrast ratio. These days, VA panels are still the standard for most TVs, even 4K ones.
The only issue with the VA panels wat their latency. They had a worse response rate compared to the TN panels, meaning you might notice input lag during gaming. And while their viewing angles have been improved over TN, there are still some notable or even annoying color shifting when you view them from the sides or from above.
Thus, the monitor manufacturers sought a more advanced display that offers near-perfect viewing angles and a better response rate.
IPS (In-Plane Switching)
This is where that innovation arrived.
IPS monitors, TVs, or phone screens are by far the superior tech when it comes to screens compared to VA and especially TN.
It has more accurate colors than VA panels (though slightly worse contrast than VA) and the more important part is that you can view it all the way from the side without color shifting. You’ll still be able to see the image as intended even if viewed all the way from the side.
For gaming, it has become the competitive standard as well since IPS offers fast response rates and high refresh rates as well.
Of course, no technology is bulletproof, so to speak. IPS still has its downsides. Apart from being more expensive than VA or TN panels, IPS displays require more backlighting to reproduce better color accuracy. This increased backlighting can lead to the notorious IPS glow or backlight bleed defect where you can see hazy patches of white light on the edges of the screen.
Sometimes, the intensity of backlight bleed or IPS glow depends on the quality or manufacturer of the IPS monitor so this is where IPS panels can get expensive whether they’re for TVs or monitors.
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode)
Technically, an OLED or organic light-emitting diode is not an LCD display. Based on the name alone, OLED is an LED or light-emitting diode tech which is different than LCD.
The key distinction is that LCD displays need the aforementioned backlighting (which causes the backlight bleed or IPS glow). OLED or LED displays, however, don’t need backlighting since they’re not LCD. Lighting for LED displays occurs per pixel instead.
OLED has thus eliminated the LCD monitor’s most persistent issue, which is backlight bleed. In turn, OLEDs can produce the most impressive contrast and the most perfect viewing angles.
Additionally, since the lighting and colors are per pixel, color accuracy in OLED panels is brilliant and about as close to real life as you would see with your eyes. You can probably expect what’s the issue with OLED since it’s one of the best right now.
OLED is way too expensive for the average user. That’s the case for both monitors and TVs. OLED panels are simply too expensive to cut and manufacture for now.
Moreover, it has another major issue. OLED is notorious for its “burn-in.” It’s what happens when a static image (such as a wallpaper or the Windows start logo) gets “seared” into the display after it has been static for too long. This leaves the outline or a “ghost” of the static image even if the image has changed.
It’s one of the most severe drawbacks of OLED and likely what prevented manufacturers from raising it as the new standard over IPS panels.
So now we arrive at the glorious Mini-LED panel tech. Despite the name, it’s actually an LCD panel, not an LED.
However, Mini-LED works differently compared to the conventional LCD. In fact, it works more similarly to LED panels with each 0.2mm diode lighting up each pixel (for reference, each pixel is 0.26mm). Hence the Mini-LED moniker. Essentially, this leads to better backlight control which you won’t notice.
To that end, Mini-LED more or less rivals OLED when it comes to color accuracy (though not in contrast and lighting precision). OLED does have better response time since it doesn’t rely on LCD backlight techniques, but it’s a toss-up between the two in most cases that aren’t e-sports, really.
Where Mini-LED has a clear advantage is in its lack of burn-in. That’s quite a load off your worried shoulders, and the display manufacturers agree. That’s why Mini-LED is now the top-end standard for TVs and monitors out of all the display panel types.