IPS vs TN: Screen technologies explained and which is the best choice?


IPS vs TN: Screen technologies explained and which is the best choice?

TN is the oldest of the LCD technologies and it stands for twisted nematic. This refers to the twisted nematic effect, which is an effect that allows liquid crystal molecules to be controlled with voltage. While the actual workings of a TN-effect LCD are a little more complicated, essentially the TN-effect is used to change the alignment of liquid crystals when a voltage is applied. When there is no voltage, so the crystal is “off,” the liquid crystal molecules are twisted 90 degrees and in combination with polarization layers, allow light to pass through. Then when a voltage is applied, these crystals are essentially untwisted, blocking light.

4.3 inch IPS lcd display

IPS stands for in-plane switching and, like all LCDs, it too uses voltage to control the alignment of liquid crystals. However unlike with TN, IPS LCDs use a different crystal orientation, one where the crystals are parallel to the glass substrates, hence the term ‘in plane’. Rather than ‘twisting’ the crystals to modify the amount of light let through, IPS crystals are essentially rotated, which has a range of benefits.

IPS vs. TN displays: What’s the difference?

IPS and TN are different kinds of TFT LCDs (Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Displays). At the simplest level, LCDs rely on the light modulating properties of energized liquid crystals – along with coordinated light filtering polarizers (both behind and in front of the crystals) -- to control what appears on the screen. By applying voltage to each crystal (or not), light is made to pass through the polarizers (or not). When these changes are managed at microsecond intervals, you get smooth moving images.

  • TN polarizers are aligned perpendicular to each other. Without voltage, the liquid crystal molecules naturally “twist” the light so it can go from a vertically-aligned polarizer, be twisted in the crystals, and then pass through the associated horizontal polarizer. But if you apply voltage (in other words, if you disrupt the crystals’ natural properties), the light no longer gets twisted and the perpendicular polarizer orientations block light from passing through.

  • IPS polarizers are aligned in parallel, which would normally allow all light to pass through. But again, the resting liquid crystal molecules twist the light to disrupt the normal flow. So IPS displays work in an opposite manner from TN ones. Rather than the application of voltage blocking light, the voltage lets light get through. It prevents the liquid crystals from twisting the light so it can pass through the parallel polarizers as usual.

There’s a lot more to it, of course. But this gives you the general idea of how TN and IPS displays differ. And it’s these differences that give each type of display distinct advantages for specific customers. For example, the parallel polarizer alignment on IPS displays is one reason they can be viewed from extreme angles compared to their TN counterparts. Meanwhile, the way TN displays let light through by default (without applying voltage to disrupt the flow) is one reason TN displays have faster response times and refresh rates than similar IPS models


Advantages of IPS displays

IPS displays are known for having several advantages:

  • Wider viewing angles: The parallel orientation of an IPS display’s crystals and polarizers make them far easier to see from extreme angles, such as for viewing by large groups. Only those farthest to the side of the display will see any big diminishment in color and contrast.

  • Greater variety of colors: Most IPS displays feature 8-bit panels (8 bits red, 8 bits green, 8 bits blue), so they can better reproduce the full 24-bit color palette of a typical graphics processor (8 x 3 = 24). Many TN displays have 6-bit panels (6 x 3 = 18) and use extra steps to emulate the full color range.

  • Improved color accuracy: IPS displays are generally built to meet a higher price point than TN ones and use better backlights capable of generating far wider color gamuts (for example, Adobe RGB versus the older sRGB). The additional hues and shades allow more realistic, true-to-life colors.

One perceived disadvantage of IPS monitors compared to TN ones is their relatively slower refresh rates (the time needed to reconfigure each on-screen image) and response times (the delay when a pixel changes from an active to inactive state). But these delays are measured in milliseconds, so the vast majority of users – say, everyone but advanced PC game players -- will not be impacted. IPS is plenty fast enough for streaming movies, making video calls, and so on.

Advantages of TN displays

Despite the growing market prevalence of IPS displays, there’s still a dedicated user base for TN technology. Here’s why:

  • Faster response times and refresh rates: As stated above, the nature of a TN display makes it faster at refreshing the on-screen imagery and activating/deactivating each pixel. And while the difference is only a few milliseconds (the best TN panels boast response times as fast as 1 ms -- 2-3 ms faster than top-end IPS models), competitive PC gamers typically want the fastest refresh rates and response times.

  • Lower prices (generally): It’s broadly accepted that a TN display will cost less than an IPS one with equivalent resolution, features, and so on. However, the price difference has narrowed over time.Still, be wary of IPS displays that seem too inexpensive. Some users complain about so-called “IPS glow” on low-end IPS displays, with the backlight appearing brighter in some parts of the screen than others.

And there you have it. In the future, even this superb technology will change and new, more exciting technology will take its place. But until then, IPS & TFT screens are forging ahead with their own advances and improvements, so stayed tune.

o    Reshine display (http://www.reshine-display.com) offers off-the-shelf Color TFT display technologies in both TN and IPS. Many of the color modules contain built in touch panels.

o    Reshine is an engineering-focused company and has the ability to modify LCDs to meet your unique needs.

o    Need help? Contact us freely.


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