Are you shopping for a new monitor? If you encountered the different types of panels, are you curious about what is IPS monitor? If you suddenly become overwhelmed by the many display technologies available in the market, then this guide is for you.
If you are buying a computer monitor, do not just rely on the size and screen resolution. These days, you must also pick the display technology that best fits your requirements.
One popular panel type is IPS screen, which refers to "in-plane switching." This kind of panel is embedded with LCDs (liquid-crystal displays) as well as modern smartphones and computer monitors.
IPS technology is usually featured in higher-end gadgets as a powerful tool to give consistent colors regardless of angle, so expect to find newer phones or the best 40 inch 4K screens to have IPS display.
What Is IPS Monitor and How Does It Improve Viewing Experience?
What is IPS monitor? What sets it apart from other types of panels?
To understand what IPS is all about, you must know several things:
- IPS is a family member of the LCD panel technology
- IPS is only 1 of 4 types of main panels (aside from OLED, VA and TN)
- IPS uses liquid crystals that are aligned in parallel, resulting to rich colors
- As its name suggest, IPS is characterized by how the liquid crystals switch their patterns and create better viewing angles
- Other "IPS-type" panels exist - they are PLS (plane-to-line switching, S-IPS, H-IPS, P-IPS and e-IPS). All of them are characterized with outstanding color and wide viewing angles.
IPS monitors are preferred by those in the art profession (such as graphic designers, cartoonists or photographers) simply because this technology prioritizes accurate color reproduction, color accuracy, sufficient response times, and maximum viewing angles available.
For artists, one major benefit of using IPS monitors is that because IPS is able to display more colors, they completely support professional color technologies, such as Adobe's RGB. They aren't even expensive - pro artists could easily invest in an IPS monitor under $400.
Response time used to be an issue with an IPS gaming monitor, which is why experts recommend serious gamers to consider another type of panel since this one is infamous for having blurred images in motion in the past.
Of course, the pixel response times of IPS monitors is a highly debatable topic and these claims could vary on a case-to-case basis. And since the technology has improved through the years, you might even have no issues with lagging response times.
Which Devices Have IPS Panels?
An IPS panel can be incorporated into different devices, from phones and tablets to laptops and computer monitors, and even televisions.
In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel was developed by Hitachi in the mid-90s as a way to address the color inaccuracies or lack of viewing angles provided by the more traditional TN (twisted nematic) panels.
With over a decade now in the market, you have to understand that different companies may add something to their own product, so it is impossible to compare two smartphones with IPS displays from two competing brands. The IPS backbone may be the same, but the quality of a phone's display is not only about whether it uses IPS LCD or not.
In addition, IPS panels could be used by a particular brand, but not disclosed as "IPS." This is because IPS technology can fall under different names, such as "Super-IPS" (S-IPS), "Advanced Super-IPS," "Enhanced S-IPS", "Super TFT" and so on.
Here are examples of companies who’ve used IPS panels on their devices:
- Apple - When the late Steve Jobs unveiled the long-awaited iPad in 2009, the 9.7-inch tablet used IPS LCD. This update came with the release of iPhone 4 in June 2010.
- Lenovo - If you're a fan of Lenovo, you know that Lenovo's ThinkPad X Series Laptops were designed with IPS tech to provide 180-degree wide-screen viewing. Other Lenovo products equipped with IPS tech include the IdeaTab, Yoga, ThinkPad and Lenovo Miix 2 tablet series.
- LG - This company has introduced IPS screens for many of its computer monitors and television units, promising its users that the "LG IPS tech solution will get you ready for true-to-life colors, deep black levels and rich colors for amazing contrast and color."
- Samsung - The company uses the term “PLS” or “plane-to-line switching” when referring to their IPS models.
When it comes to IPS monitors and televisions, leading brands like ASUS, HP, Viewsonic, TCL, and Acer also have their versions of IPS LED desktop computer monitors to compete directly with LG. Although some models do provide better screen quality, TN panels are still available in the market due to their cheaper price tags.
Are IPS Monitors Expensive?
Now that you know what is IPS, you probably already have an idea that IPS monitors are more expensive than other panel technologies.
The IPS monitors are usually compared side-by-side with TN (Twisted Nematic) panels for several reasons:
- Price-wise, TN panels are definitely cheaper. The lower-end IPS desktop monitors average about $300 brand new and can go higher or lower depending on brand, size and other features, while high-end IPS monitors with outstanding resolution start at around $1,000.
- TN panels may be enough for general use and gaming. If your computer use revolves around gaming and office work without heavy graphics, then TN monitors could be enough to do the job. The advantage of TN monitors is that they have lightning fast response times, which make them suitable for gaming.
- IPS monitors are designed for very specific users. Those whose profession relies on a computer capable of displaying a wide range of colors, the IPS monitors are perfect since they were crafted specifically to provide exceptional color accuracy for painters, graphic designers, architects, photographers, cartoonists, font creators, web designers, and other artists can do their work more precisely.
- TN panels are getting “close” to IPS-level features. The most expensive TN panels in the market can be compared to the cheaper IPS monitors in terms of color precision and improved viewing angles. For this reason, it can be tricky to choose which route to go. Do you go by price or feature? The answer will surely depend on your specific requirements.
With these considerations in mind, your next question should be: IS INVESTING IN AN IPS MONITOR WORTH IT?
Simply put, if your job requires you to create graphics, mix colors, or edit artwork, IPS is the only panel technology that could give you the most accurate color your screen could possibly display.
In fact, even the cheapest IPS monitor you could find is still better than any other monitors when it boils down to color accuracy.
However, if you are able to work, play games, video chat, or perform your regular computer tasks even with a slightly different color on your display, then any type of monitor would do. In this instance, buying an IPS monitor may be too much.
Advantages of IPS
IPS displays are not exclusive to artists. There are IPS monitors designed and marketed to gamers as well, even if not many gamers flock to buy IPS panels for their rigs.
If you're still in doubt if an IPS monitor is the right way to go, let's explore the 5 main benefits of this kind of panel:
1. Improved Viewing Angles
The TN panels were the best during its time, but it didn’t support the widest viewing angles. If you check out a TN monitor or screen right now from any edge (either top, bottom or sides), you'll notice the color of the display changing or inverting. On top of this, TN panels are quite sensitive to movement, so you'll experience bursts of brightness even with just small movements.
These shortcomings were addressed by the development of IPS panels. Hitachi created IPS panels in a way that the screen would look as consistent as possible even from different angles. Note that the brightness or color could still change when viewed from a bad angle, but using an IPS monitor will definitely give you a better experience.
IPS panels are able to provide a wider viewing angle and better color reproduction because IPS technology literally changes the physical behavior of the liquid crystal layer.
Plus, IPS panels do not shift colors so quickly with sudden movements. Generally, IPS monitors feature an average 178-degree viewing capability from all directions. This is a BIG deal for users who rely on consistency when working on digital art.
2. More Accurate Color
Historically, IPS monitors were used to pair higher-end systems as well, so the color accuracy can also be attributed to the overall higher-end components.
For artists, this factor is another BIG deal. IPS panels are equipped with a higher bit depth, which means it could reproduce 8-bit color (that would be equal to 256 shades of a primary color) as natural as possible.
The trick here is that IPS monitors are able to do this without blending 6-bit colors (or 64 shades of a primary color), which TN panels are infamous at doing. This means it is able to achieve 8-bit color without the need to "dither" or show you two almost-accurate pixels next to each other to give you an illusion of an accurate color.
You may think that it is impossible for you to notice this slight difference, but for the trained eye (and those who do this as their profession), the difference can be visible.
In simple language, the 8-bit feature of IPS monitors mean whatever you're working on the screen would naturally look smoother. Of course, this could still depend on the type of IPS monitor you're using, since some brands could lack color accuracy, or worse, produce bad color gradients.
As for native true 10-bit, you can't find any other LCD panels with this feature except for IPS monitors.
3. Larger Color Gamut
The gamut of a monitor refers to the range of colors it can display.
If you need a wide-gamut display, TN-based monitors do not come close to your requirements since they could only meet the sRGB color space.
TN monitors are limited because most manufacturers skip the wide gamut backlight to lower the price tag. On the other hand, IPS monitors often include sRGB backlights with expanded gamut, such as Adobe RGB or others.
Even though there isn't a single monitor in the world that is capable of showcasing all available colors humans can see, a mid-ranged IPS monitor gets you pretty close. This is why IPS monitors are often advertised with " 99% sRGB Color Gamut" or "100% sRGB coverage" since the larger color gamut is always preferable.
And why would you need to see a large gamut of colors? It's simple: this is so you could create art, edit photos, change the mood of videos with colors as accurately as you picture in your mind.
4. Better Contrast Ratio
The brightness of an IPS monitor compared to other LCD panels have very little differences because the backlight, which determines brightness, isn't connected to the liquid crystal panel. However, you should look at the monitor's contrast ratios.
Contrast ratio of a display is shown as 1:1000 or something similar. These numbers may not matter to the regular day-to-day computer user, but for those who deal with color, shades and light, having a monitor with good contrast ratio should be the goal.
Contrast ratio is directly associated with the panel technology. Monitors with the best contrast ratio will show you black colors that are black, or white colors even on light backgrounds. You'll notice low-end monitors showing gray colors in dark environments - this is due the display having a bad contrast ratio.
Because IPS monitors tend to have better contrast ratio than TN panels, the experience of digital painting, drawing, editing, or doing other art-related tasks won't be frustrating.
Do note that IPS panels could sometimes suffer from a phenomenon called "IPS glow," which is a white glow that appears when viewing dark imagery at a certain angle. You can quickly fix this by tilting your head to another view, but it is still a pretty common issue worth mentioning.
5. Linear Response
IPS monitors have a more linear response than its TN counterpart. Linearity is important, especially if you're working with a high dynamic range of shades that cause darker or lighter shades to be unnoticeable.
With IPS monitor's excellent linear response, you wouldn't have to worry about image or video quality for parts showing the extreme ends of the shade spectrum.
The Bottom Line
Sure TN monitors have their strengths (such as the fast response) and newer models are catching up to provide better contrast ratio or linear response, but for now, the IPS technology still reigns supreme when you're dealing with art, graphics, and similar tasks. Just don't expect too much on IPS panels when it comes to response times and refresh rates.
Some people may even argue that the benefits of IPS can easily be matched by TN panels and properly adjusted settings. Unfortunately, the intensity of primary colors, depth of shades, and range of accurately-available colors result in very obvious differences that cannot be fixed by mere setting adjustments on a TN monitor.
Hopefully, this post helped you understand what IPS monitors have to offer professional creatives and whether or not you need one for your own work.
Overall, there's a reason why professional photographers, graphic designers and other artists choose IPS monitors. If you're looking for color precision, then IPS is the way to go. If not, there's always the cheaper TN panels, or AMOLED that are geared for general use.