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IPS, or In-plane Switching, is a type of LED display panel technology found in modern monitors. There are a number of different panel technologies to choose from as a manufacturer – with each offering its own unique set of features and benefits.
As far as the best IPS monitors are concerned, users can expect better colors, wider viewing angles, and superior picture quality when compared against TN (Twisted nematic) or VA (Vertical alignment) alternatives. Whilst this is great for gamers that prioritize general image quality and overall immersion, IPS monitors are the most expensive on the shelf.
Despite that being the case, historically, IPS monitors seemed to lean more towards the graphic designer demographic (or general content consumer), the same can’t be said about today’s options. If you are a gamer, for example, you used to lean towards a TN (or VA) gaming monitor – as these would provide greater levels of speed and responsiveness. However, the choice isn’t so straightforward in modern gaming.
With that in mind, modern technology has seen IPS monitors increase in responsiveness exponentially, now offering similar levels of speed to that of TN panels. Today’s market plays host to a tonne of high-performance gaming monitors, many of which are IPS monitors offering well over 144Hz refresh rates and a low 1ms response time – although that last metric should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Whilst this is great for gaming, it does, again, add a fairly hefty premium to the price of your IPS monitor.
LCD Panel Technologies: Compared
What is the difference between LED and IPS monitors?
IPS and LED monitors are built using entirely different technologies. IPS refers to a type of monitor panel, while LED refers to a form of backlighting technology, so, as you’d imagine, there are some essential differences between the two monitor types.
LEDs provide a brighter display, and they’re also cooler and more energy-efficient, but when it comes to picture quality and color accuracy, LEDs don’t hold a candle to IPS.
Historically, LED monitors had the snappiest refresh rates, earning them a place in the fast-pumping heart of pretty much every FPS gamer. However, advances in IPS technology have closed this performance gap to basically nothing. It’s the same story in regard to response times, too.
The most significant difference between these monitor types is their viewing angles. You can enjoy IPS displays from pretty much anywhere in the room, but you have to be directly in front of an LED display to see the full-quality picture. As such, IPS monitors tend to be the more expensive of the two.
What is an IPS monitor good for?
IPS monitors are fantastic all-rounder monitors. Their picture quality is unparalleled, creating an even more immersive experience for gamers and movie buffs.
Color accuracy is another huge feather in the IPS cap. It makes them fantastic for creative visual tasks such as CAD engineering, photography and video editing, graphic design, and digital artwork.
IPS monitors also feature high-fidelity viewing angles, meaning you’ll see the picture in high quality from most angles, and colors remain vivid and accurate.
For this reason, they’re by far the best monitor choice if you ever have to physically share your screen with others in the room. Professionals can collaborate with co-workers while sitting behind the same desk, and recreational users can invite friends around to watch movies and engage in some local cooperative gaming.
These pristine viewing angles also make IPS the most commonly used panel technology in modern smartphones.
Is IPS better than 4K?
The important thing to remember here is that IPS is a panel technology, and 4K is a measure of resolution, meaning that a monitor can be both IPS and 4K simultaneously.
Still, these monitors are quite rare and, of course, incredibly pricey, so let’s assess whether it would be best to fork out for a 1440p IPS monitor or, say, a 4K TN monitor.
The 1440p IPS monitor would have significantly better viewing angles, as TN monitors really drop the ball in this department. 1440p is also a less pixel-heavy workload, meaning the IPS would offer more frame rates and smoother gameplay than the 4K TN contender.
4K gives you sharper lines, which means you could go for a bigger display overall, and it would pair extremely well with high-end graphics cards.
On the other hand, IPS panels boast fantastic image acuity anyway, and 1440p isn’t as graphically demanding as 4K, so you could pair it with more affordable hardware.
Ultimately, I’d say IPS is better than 4K for most computational applications.
Is IPS better for your eyes?
While there haven’t been any scientific studies exploring the effects of different monitors on your eyes, I can say from experience that IPS monitors are certainly more eye-friendly than others. The question is, why?
It seems like a bit of a conundrum at first. Most panel types have incredibly low response times and snappy refresh rates, so headache-inducing flicker doesn’t really play a role. Yet the dull ache behind the eye after using certain monitors is a very real problem.
Well, part of the reason IPS monitors are easier on the eyes is that they offer better contrast, image quality, and color accuracy than other panel types. When you change your viewing angle, the appearance of the display stays the same, which means your eyes don’t have to do as much work.
TN and LED panels, on the other hand, force our eyes to constantly adjust with every movement. The excessive brightness of LED displays doesn’t help either.
Is IPS color accurate?
IPS monitors almost always display the full sRGB color spectrum, as well as the more expansive and detailed Adobe RGB spectrum, too. But more importantly, IPS can display these colors with stunning accuracy.
Such high fidelity colors is a technological achievement in of itself, but the beauty of IPS panels is that they retain that exquisite color accuracy from narrow viewing angles.
This is down to the way an IPS monitor’s liquid crystal display behaves. The liquid crystals are all aligned in parallel, but they have the ability to shift horizontally to sustain image quality when viewed from almost any angle — amazing, right?
Beyond those dancing crystals, the reason IPS panels bring such exquisite colors to the desk is partly that they have a more linear response than other panel technologies such as TA and VA. The other reason is that they have a higher bit depth per color channel than competing panels.
Is OLED better than IPS?
In many ways, OLED is a more advanced display technology than IPS, but they both have their benefits and drawbacks.
Although IPS monitors feature immaculate viewing angles with accurate colors, rich contrasts, and sharp images, technically, OLED takes things to a whole new level. It literally doesn’t matter how acute the viewing angle is, the picture and color will always be pristine. At a certain angle, an IPS display will suffer.
You have to give it to the OLED; it’s impressive, but the problem a lot of people have with advanced viewing angles is that they don’t see the point. Realistically, IPS displays offer all the viewing angles you’d ever need.
That said, as every pixel in an OLED display can emit its own light, they tend to have better contrast than their IPS counterparts. But then again, IPS displays are much brighter.
For gaming, I think IPS displays are still the better option as they’re immune to burn-in, and they tend to exhibit less input lag.
Is IPS worth it for gaming?
I think I speak for everyone when I say that, yes, IPS monitors are 100% worth it for gaming.
Granted, when Hitachi released the first-ever IPS displays in the mid-90s, there were a few inevitable teething issues, especially from a gaming standpoint.
They had comparatively slow response times, and their refresh rates simply weren’t quick enough to keep up with the rigors of modern gaming and high-end graphics cards.
But as the IPS technology advanced, these problems were targeted and eliminated one-by-one. Nowadays, IPS panel monitors have effectively caught up to the other panel types on the market in terms of response time and refresh rates.
So, now you can enjoy all the benefits an IPS monitor brings to the table, such as enhanced image quality, better color accuracy, and impressive viewing angles, without any of the negatives. As time moves on, they’re also becoming more affordable, making them a more realistic option for gamers the world over.