Currently there are two major technologies used for LED/LCD television: IPS (In-Plane-Switching) and VA (Vertical Alignment).
They have different levels of performance and each panel type offers advantages and disadvantages. TVs which use a VA panel include all models of Samsung’s lineup, part of Sony’s 4K lineup like the X930D and X940D, and the Vizio lineup. TVs which use an IPS panel include part of Sony’s 4K lineup like the X850D series, the X800D series, and most of LG’s LED TV lineup like the UH8500 series, UH7700 series, and UH9500 series. Knowing the native characteristics of each of these panel technologies will be very useful when you want to buy a TV so you won’t regret your decision later. There are some major points when comparing the differences of these panel technologies. Let’s discuss one by one for the differences and which choice is superior between them?
But before we discuss the difference between the IPS and the VA panel, this is a good time to first explain how the LCD television display works. LCD or Liquid Cristal Display consists of two important parts, the backlight and the liquid crystal that forms the pixels. The backlight is usually colored white because white is composed of thousands (even millions) of color in the spectrum. Liquid crystal itself serves as a filter for the light to pass through and it reacts and changes position when charged with electricity for passing the light spectrum that is intended and to block the others. This means when displaying blacks, Liquid crystal will block all the light spectrums while when displaying whites, liquid crystal will pass all of the light spectrums.
Technically the IPS Panel and the VA panel have differences in how their liquid crystal is aligned and how they react and change position when charged with electricity. The Liquid Crystals on the IPS panel are aligned horizontally so that when they are charged, they only rotate to pass the light spectrum intended. For the liquid crystals of the VA panel, they are aligned vertically and when they are charged, they will change to a horizontal position and then the processing is similar to the IPS panel. That’s why an IPS panel has a faster response time than a VA panel. When displaying blacks (meaning there is no electric current sent to them), the crystals are aligned vertically to block light better than when they are aligned horizontally. That’s why the VA Panel delivers deeper blacks and a better contrast ratio.
In talking about the television display, the viewing angle refers to the maximum angle from center where the TV can maintain the quality of the picture before the contrast and visible color drop. This is certainly an important consideration if a TV is to be used in a wider room where people watching the TV may sit at an angle from the center of the TV screen. Overall the IPS TV has a critical angle of about 36 degrees then the quality will start to be seen as dropping off, while the VA TV has a narrower viewing angle. These are just general numbers because even some IPS TVs can offer a good display up to 50 degrees. The picture quality on the VA panel will typically drop at around 20 degrees off center and front. This means the TV with an IPS Panel offers a wider viewing angle than a TV with a VA panel. From here we can conclude that if you’re searching for a television for a wide room where many people might watch the TV, then consider a good IPS TV like the LG UH8500, the LG UH7700, the LGUH9500, the Sony X850D, and there’s also other IPS TVs that are a good value. Otherwise if you don’t need a wider viewing angle for watching TV, of course you can also consider a VA TV.
Winner : IPS Panel
Contrast and Black Level
Contrast is the one of most important components of picture quality. The use of any IPS panel or VA panel technology on the TV also has a great impact on the contrast produced. The IPS panel is superior to the VA panel in terms of viewing angle, but when it comes to contrast the VA panel is vastly superior to the IPS panel. The Black level reached by a VA TV is much deeper than what’s reached by the IPS TV. When looking at the measurements, the native contrast ratio of an IPS TV is not as strong as a VA TV. The VA TV usually has a contrast ratio between 3000:1 to 6000:1 and sometimes even higher; while the IPS TV usually has contrast ratio at around 1000:1. Considering that in the HDR Era where the standard needed is 0.05 nits or lower of black level to be able to display HDR 10 fully, at least until now, there is no IPS TV that can achieve a black level deeper than 0.05 nits. That’s why there is no IPS TV which is compliant with the Ultra HD Premium Certification. Additionally the weak black level reached by the IPS TV makes the blacks appears grey when used in a dark room, and this doesn’t matter if it is displaying HDR content or SDR Content. With a deeper black level and stronger contrast, which can be ascertained by the quality of the picture displayed on a VA TV that’s better than an IPS TV, so long as the viewers watch TV from the center and in front of the TV.
Winner : VA Panel
VA TV also usually offers a much brighter peak brightness than the IPS TV, and that also makes for a better picture when used in a bright room. But even then, this also depends on the model. Since HDR technology comes on the TV, peak brightness has become a main component of HDR which determines the HDR picture quality produced. The brightest IPS TV like the LG UH8500 and the UH8500 can reach about 700 nits of black level while the brightest VA TV like Samsung’s SUHD TV lineup and the Sony X930D series can reach brighter than 1000 nits as the minimum standardization of HDR 10, and taking it further the Samsung KS9800 and the Sony Z9D series can reach brighter than 1500 nits. This indicates the peak brightness reached on an IPS panel is not nearly as bright as what’s reached by a VA TV, and its below the 1000 nits required by the HDR10 standard. This also becomes the reason why there is no IPS TV certified by Ultra HD Premium as set by the UHD Alliance.
Winner: VA Panel
The other thing impacted by the difference between an IPS panel and a VA panel is the black uniformity. Black uniformity refers to how great the performance of a TV is when displaying the blacks that are evenly distributed throughout the screen and across the screen. This is very useful to display blacks of images on the screen with the same level of depth. As an example, two dark parts of images at different areas that have the same black level, they should be displayed with the same black level. But with poor black uniformity, it will be displayed with a different level of blacks. And this will be noticeable especially in a dark room. In this case, TVs with a VA panel offer better black uniformity than TVs with an IPS panel.
Winner: VA Panel
Pixel Response Time
Although not the case for all (and this also depends on each model), but typically the IPS panel has a faster pixel response time than a VA Panel. Pixel response time itself means how quickly the pixels can change color. The impact affects motion blur when displaying fast motion images. The quicker the pixel response time of a TV, the motion blur will be less noticeable. And because IPS TV has a faster pixel response time than a VA TV, the IPS TV is better for handling motion blur. But once again, this depends on each of model and the native refresh rate panel too.
Winner: IPS Panel
How to Tell if You have an IPS or a VA Display panel
There’s advantages and disadvantages of each and one technology is not really better or worse than the other. Because of the different advantage and disadvantage to each, you can use this fact to save money (compared to an OLED / QLED) and still achieve your intended purpose. The IPS TV has a wider viewing angle and it will work better for your needs if you plan to use it with many viewers in a wide room. The VA panel has a deeper black level and stronger contrast so it’s best purposed for a dark room with limited viewers although the VA panel also works nicely in a bright room too.
If you have purchased a TV already or let’s say you’re at a friends house watching their TV, there’s a couple ways to tell if the TV in front of you is IPS or VA.
The most accurate way is to find the model number on the back of the TV and get on the internet and check that model number with our website here. Our listing of that model will show you that it is either IPS, VA, OLED, QLED — and that can answer your question quickly and matter of factly.
A low tech way can also work. One low tech way is to get near the TV from an angle and see if the black on the picture looks degraded and appears more like a gray and if the picture quality quickly degrades. If this happens, then you’re probably viewing a VA TV. Another low tech way is to turn off the lights and if the black on the screen appears to be more like a gray and there doesn’t seem to be much contrast, then you’re probably viewing an IPS TV. If the picture looks perfect with bright lights on or off and it looks perfect from an angle, then its likely you’re looking at an OLED or QLED TV. Sometimes it’s just fun to be at a friend’s place and quietly find out to solve your own curiosity.
With the advantages and disadvantages between each technology, one is not inferior or superior to the other. Each are designed for different purposes. The IPS TV with its wider viewing angle and faster pixel response time is suitable for use in a wider room with many viewers for TV show and sports. Otherwise, the VA panel with its deeper black level and stronger contrast is suitable for watching home theater movies in a dark room with limited viewers. On the other hand, if you care about HDR performance, the VA TV certainly is a better choice particularly for TV certified by Ultra HD Premium. Currently there is no IPS TV that is compliant with the Ultra HD Premium Certification – although this also depends on each model of TV because there is a VA TV that has peak brightness lower than what reached by IPS TV. The comparison above is about the maximal results reached by a VA Panel and an IPS Panel.