A Brave New World of IPS LCD Displays

Everyone agrees that an LCD monitor is substantially better than the old CRT monitors; however when they were first available to the public a lot of people didn’t switch over because they were too expensive. Like most technologies, after time the price drops, and now you can’t give a CRT monitor away for free. We are at that crossroad again as there is an LCD screen producing amazing pictures and images.

IPS (In-Plane Switching technology) panel technology was developed by Hitachi in 1996 to solve the two main limitations of TN-matrices at the time: small viewing angles and low-quality color reproduction. In-Plane Switching involves arranging the crystals in the cells in a single plane parallel to the plane of the panel,

Jeff Atwood, CEO of Stack Overflow, recently wrote, “When I wrote about TN LCD panels 5 years ago, I considered them acceptable, despite their overall mediocrity, mostly due to the massive price difference. But when the iPad 3 delivers an amazingly high resolution IPS panel, I found myself a whole lot less satisfied with the 27″ TN LCDs on my desktop. And on my laptop. And everywhere else in my life. In the past, I favored my wallet over my eyes, and chose TN. I now deeply regret that decision. But the tide is turning, and high quality IPS displays are no longer extortionately expensive.”

An Overview of LCD Technology

There are various types of LCD screens, and generally speaking, you get what you pay for. As Atwood observed, twisted nematic (TN) screens are the overall mainstream option. As a rule of thumb, any screen costing less than $300 is likely a TN. As Eric Franklin notes in the CNET Review, “The main advantages of TN panels are their fast–usually 2ms–response time and, of course, low price. Their major disadvantages are narrow viewing angles, relatively low brightness, and inaccurate color reproduction.”

It would be remiss not to mention the vertical alignment (VA) screens: running from $400-800, these monitors have better viewing angles and color quality, but their response time is not quite so good at the TNs.

In-plane switching (IPS) displays trump both TN and VA in color reproduction and viewing angles, although they are the slowest of the bunch. Formerly these screens were so expensive they were limited to professional designers but recently, the new e-IPS screens have become available, although mostly on tablets.

Which Monitor Is Right For You?

A monitor is a personal decision. It depends largely on what you plan to do on your display and in what environments. For that reason Franklin recommends you buy your monitors somewhere that you can test them, or at the very least, somewhere that has a generous return policy.

However, if you know exactly what you want, you can do what Atwood did, and order them directly from the source: Asian vendors on eBay, where he reports that he purchased three 27” IPS LCD monitors for less than $1,000 total. Fortune favors the bold, and now that you know what you’re missing, do you really want to wait?

Have you used IPS displays? Do you think they’re worth the hassle to track down? If no, what are you currently using and what are your thoughts?

[image: ThinkStockPhotos]