When it comes to gaming it can be all too easy to plough your money into a nice performing rig, without thinking about the actual quality of the screen you’re going to be seeing all these beautiful sights rendered on. It is quite literally your window to your gaming experiences.
What we’re interested in with a gaming monitor essentially boils down to two things, how good it is to look at and how fast it interprets these images. There’s a fair old stack of monitors out there, all claiming they offer the best gaming experience on the planet, but with limited funds you need to know what provides the best value for performance in the gaming world…
Twisted Nematic or TN panels are the most common panels available, probably because they are the least expensive. If the monitors not specifically labelled anything then it’s safe to assume it’s probably a TN. They have the least accurate colour reproductions and the viewing angles are the narrowest, especially from above and below. Looking from an angle the colours can be washed out with many of the finer details lost.
However, TN panels are faster than other panel types, which is to say that the image can switch more quickly. Most TN panels nowadays have a very quick response time, usually less than 2ms. TN Panels are often found in premium gaming monitors because they run at refresh rates as high as 144Hz. That’s what allows some of these panels to be 3D-vision certified for 3D gaming. A higher refresh rate in gaming makes for some much more responsive action, something which the other panel types can’t keep up with.
TN panels are the budget option, costing anywhere from around $100 for the smaller 20” options up to $300 for the bigger 27”+ displays.
VA (Vertical Alignment) panels are very similar; they’re significantly better than TN panels in terms of both their colour reproduction and their viewing angles but not quite hitting the heights of the other premium panel types, making them a reasonable mid-range option. Despite being much brighter and offering improved clarity, VA panels struggle with black levels and the response time is usually not quite as fast as that seen in TN panels.
VA monitors are in a very similar price bracket as TN panels nowadays, with many of the smaller panels being available for just above $100, and the bigger panels stretching up to around $400+
In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels are premium panels suitable for enthusiasts and professionals, these also commonly found in higher-end tablet displays. The reason for the use in tablets is because the panel offers great viewing angles with very little colour distortion. Unfortunately with IPS screens, the refresh rate usually tends to be slower than that seen in TN and NVA panels, increasing your input lag when gaming and producing a fair whack of motion blur. Over recent years there’s been a shift to E-IPS (Enhanced) panels, with better viewing angles and crisper colours.
IPS panels come with a markedly higher price tag than the previous two types because of the fantastic picture quality and clarity of colour, but they are also the slowest of the bunch when it comes to input lag and response time, making these not ideal for many types of gaming.
IPS panels have seen a dramatic drop in price over recent years, with smaller IPS panels costing anywhere from around $150, up to $500 for a decent quality larger screen.
Plane-to-Line Shifting (PLS) panels are very similar to IPS, but are usually brighter with a better colour range and even better viewing angles. Again though, refresh rates are quite a bit slower than that seen in TN panels. These are currently some of the most expensive monitors on the market, offering around 5ms response time which may prove disappointing for some gamers.
Still, the overall image quality is fantastic on these screens, but the prices range from the bare minimum of around $200, up to easily $600+ for a better quality screen.
Which monitors do you think represent the best value for money gaming purchase?
What are some of the best monitors available on the market right now?
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