Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screens are a staple in the digital display marketplace and are used in display applications across every industry. With every display application presenting a unique set of requirements, the selection of specialized LCDs has grown to meet these demands.
LCD screens can be grouped into three categories: TN (twisted nematic), IPS (in-plane switching), and VA (Vertical Alignment). Each of these screen types has its own unique qualities, almost all of them having to do with how images appear across the various screen types.
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Related: OLED vs LCD
It's worth noting that although these screen types belong to the LCD screen type, they use thin-film-transistor ( TFT) technology which is a variant of the standard LCD screen type.
The main features that differentiate LCD screen types are brightness, viewing angles, color, and contrast.
TN (Twisted Nematic)
This technology consists of nematic liquid crystal sandwiched between two plates of glass. When power is applied to the electrodes, the liquid crystals twist 90°. TN (Twisted Nematic) LCDs are the most common LCD screen type. They offer full-color images, and moderate viewing angles.
TN LCDs maintain a dedicated user base despite other screen types growing in popularity due to some unique key features that TN display offer. For one, TN LCDs have faster response times and refresh rates than other TFT LCDs.
TN TFTs remain very popular among competitive PC gaming communities, where accuracy and response rates can make the difference between winning and losing.
Refresh rates and response times refer to the time it takes pixels to activate and deactivate in response to user inputs; this is crucial for fast-moving images or graphics that must update as fast as possible with extreme precision.
TN displays remain popular due to its reliable performance and cost-effective price point.
TN LCD Characteristics
Twisted nematic screens traditionally have been the most cost effect LCD option.
Highest Refresh Rates
TN LCD screens have the highest refresh rates and response times.
Limited Viewing Angles
TN LCD screens have average viewing angles of 45-65 degrees.
TN LCD screens are not bright enough for outdoor or direct sunlight viewing.
VA (Vertical Alignment)
VA, also known as Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment (MVA) dislays offer features found in both TN and IPS screens. The Pixels in VA displays align vertically to the glass substrate when voltage is applied, allowing light to pass through.
Displays with VA screens deliver wide viewing angles, high contrast, and good color reproduction. They maintain high response rates similar to TN TFTs but may not reach the same sunlight readable brightness levels as comparable TN or IPS LCDs. VA displays are generally best for applications that need to be viewed from multiple angles, like digital signage in a commercial setting.
VA LCD Characteristics
Wide Viewing Angles
VA screens offer wider viewing angles than TN LCDs.
Colors & Contrast
VA LCD screens have improved color and contrast compared to TN TFTs.
VA LCD screens tend to offer a lower brightness than an equivalent TN model TFT.
Sunlight Readable LCDs can consume more energy than standard LCD screens.
IPS (In-Plane Switching)
IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology improves image quality by acting on the liquid crystal inside the display screen. When voltage is applied, the crystals rotate parallel (or “in-plane”) rather than upright to allow light to pass through. This behavior results in several significant improvements to the image quality of these screens.
Related: What is an IPS display?
IPS outperforms TN displays in every major category.
IPS is superior in contrast, brightness, viewing angles, and color representation compared to TN screens. Images on screen retain their quality without becoming washed out or distorted, no matter what angle they’re viewed from. Because of this, viewers have the flexibility to view content on the screen from almost anywhere rather than having to look at the display from a front-center position.
IPS makes it possible to get colorful, accurate, and sharp images viewed from almost any angle.
IPS displays offer a slightly lower refresh rate than TN displays. Remember that the time for pixels to go from inactive to active is measured in milliseconds. So for most users, the difference in refresh rates will go unnoticed.
IPS LCD Characteristics
IPS displays are now more cost effective comparable to TN LCDs.
Average Refresh Rates
IPS screens have slower refresh rates and response times than TN LCD screens.
Widest Viewing Angles
IPS LCD screens have the widest viewing angles of any TFT LCDs.
IPS LCD screens produce the most accurate, vivid colors of any TFT LCDs.
IPS LCD screens have high brightness backlights for sunlight readable environments.
TN vs VA vs IPS Comparison Table
|Gaming because of performance
|General use because of price and quality
|Professional where quality is required
Based on current trends, IPS and TN screen types will be expected to remain the dominant formats for some time. As human interface display technology advances and new product designs are developed, customers will likely choose IPS LCDs to replace the similarly priced TN LCDs for their new projects.
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