Huge Screen Supertest (Part 2) - In-plane Twitching

5/9/2012 5:27:35 PM

In-plane Twitching

Until recently, anything capable of 1,000 to one or more for static contrast was very likely to be VA or IPS. More recently, TN monitors capable of 1,000 to one static contrast have appeared. At the same time, VA and IPS panels  have upped their game. EN is So any quoted figure above est. 1,000 to one(but below 5,000 to one)will indicate a panel other than TN.

The final give away is price, but here again, things have begun to change. Until recently, VA and IPS panels were always much more expensive. The good news is that lower cost derivatives, including e-IPS and MVA, are becoming ever more common. It’s now possible, for instance, to buy a 24-inch MVA screen for under $288.

Description: LCD buying guide

If that’s TN, what about the other two? Our next candidate is ‘In-Plane Switching’ or IPS technology. It occupies completely the opposite end of the scale from TN for everything from price to colour accuracy. Critically, where other panel technologies include a single controller transistor per subpixel, IPS packs a pair and offers superior crystal control and, in turn, the best colour accuracy.

Of course, increase a product’s complexity and you increase costs. But that’s not the only downside — the extra transistors also block light. That makes IPS notably Less vibrant and saturated than the best VA panels.

Another upside of IPS is extremely wide and consistent viewing angles. Unlike TN crystals with their rooted ends, the liquid crystals in an IPS panel rotate fully about their axis. That matters because it allows them to present a more consistent face to the viewer at varying angles and means a more constant quantity of light passes the red, green and blue subpixels regardless of the viewing angle. In other words, you don’t get wonky colours if you sit in an off-centre position at your desk.

There is, however, a snag. That greater range of crystal articulation translates into longer response times when transitioning between extreme colours. The longer that process takes, the blurrier a panel looks when rendering moving images. That said, just as TN technology is closing the gap for colours and contrast, IPS screens keep getting faster. Factor in the static fidelity advantages and it’s easy to see why IPS is the tech of choice for graphics professionals.

Top Tips

Gaming Panels

If alt-out gaming is your bag TN is a great choice. It’s the quickest, most responsive technology. VA screens are a good compromise if you want to throw movies into the mix.


Jargon explained


Sounds great, doesn’t it, Full HD? However, the problem is, although it always indicates the same 1,920 x 1080 pixel grid, it also means different things in the context of how different screens are designed. Those pixels spread over a 27-inch panel look very different on a 22-inch screen. This may all seem obvious, but the point is that a large screen often doesn’t give you any additional visual data.


Description: Is LCD technology getting any better?

Going nowhere fast

Is LCD technology getting any better?

CPU makers have been slapping in more cores and features. Graphics chips are becoming ever more powerful and programmable, and SSDs are taking over from silly spinning platters. But what about LCD monitors? Where’s the progress?

These are certainly valid questions. TN, IPS and VA technology have dominated for years, and progress has been depressingly incremental. The only major shift in terms of underlying image quality during the last few years has been the introduction of LED backlights. They make a small but tangible difference to vibrancy and colour purity. That’s especially helpful for TN screens.

Apart from that, it’s largely been a case of bolting on gimmicks, such as dynamic contrast or digitally enhanced colours. The panels themselves have only improved a little. But there is hope. One shape it takes is called Super PLS. A technology cooked up by Samsung, it’s a development of IPS and supposedly offers a 100 per cent improvement in viewing angles, 10 per cent better brightness and lower production costs. For now, the Sam sung 8 Series S27A8 SOD (which is reviewed page 20) is the only screen we’re aware of in the UK that offers Super PLS. For the record, Sam sung is also using Super PLS screens in some of its Galaxy tablet devices.

Further out, the end game for PC monitors must surely be some kind of organic LED or OLED technology. In theory, OLED will offer numerous advantages including more or less infinite contrast, perfect blacks and limitless viewing angles. While OLED-derived technology has been popping up in several smartphones, it’s been slow to make the move to larger screens.

However, Sony, Samsung and LG are all seriously considering OLED for large displays. So we think it’s only a matter of time. Don’t expect any affordable screens before at least 2015, however. Not big ones anyway.

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