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IPS vs VA
Comparing LCD types found in TVs

There are two types of LCD panels used in LED-backlit TVs today: In Plane Switching (IPS) and Vertical Alignment (VA). While they are both Liquid Crystal Display types, there are many differences between the performance of these two technologies.

IPS TV

What it is: LED TV with an In-Plane Switching type panel.

Who should buy it: People with a wide living room who might watch the TV while sitting at an angle.

VA TV

What it is: LED TV with a Vertically Aligned type panel.

Who should buy it: Those looking for good picture quality in a dark room, and who don't have a need for wider viewing angles.

  IPS VA
Viewing angle ~36 ° ~20 °
Contrast ~1000:1 >3000:1
Black Uniformity Poor Good

We will compare over the course of this article the main differentiations between the two: contrast, viewing angle, and black uniformity.

See the best LED TVs we reviewed

Viewing angle

(IPS) Sony X850D

Viewing Angle: 36 °

(VA) Samsung KS8000

Viewing Angle: 20 °

Viewing angle refers to the angle at which you can watch the TV without seeing a noticeable drop in picture quality. Some types of LCDs do this better than others.

IPS TVs are a clear winner here. This is one of their advantages over other types of LCD. Most VA TVs will have a sizable degradation in quality by 20° to the side, the way it can be seen is a dramatic loss of saturation. IPS TVs will lose luminosity instead. They generally go until around 36° before losing half their brightness, but we have seen some go over 50°. The narrow viewing angle of VA type TVs is also problematic when the TV is used as a PC monitor from up close since the edges of the display will end up losing picture quality.

Winner: IPS

Learn more about viewing angle

Contrast

Contrast: 1248 : 1
Contrast: 6906 : 1

Contrast is the most important factor in picture quality. While neither of these LCD technologies will achieve the black levels of OLED, some are better than others.

VA technology is far beyond IPS panels when it comes to contrast. Blacks are far darker, and it shows. When in a dark environment, blacks will appear gray on IPS TVs, substantially diminishing the experience. VA contrast ratios usually range from 3000:1 to 6000:1, IPS are more in the surrounding of 1000:1. Because of this, VA LCDs will always top our Movie ratings, only surpassed by OLEDs. This only impairs the dark room performance, though, since the difference is far less visible in a bright environment.

Winner: VA

Learn more about contrast ratio

Black uniformity

Std. Dev.: 1.792 %
Std. Dev.: 0.534 %

While neither technologies are inherently worse at it, almost every IPS type panel we've tested have been made by LG. These all come with the same flaw of having lesser than average black uniformity. VA panels tend to perform better on average in this metric when compared to IPS ones, in fact, IPS TVs dominate the bottom of our lists.

There's an additional type of clouding present on IPS TVs. It appears when you are off-angle vertically, this is what we call "IPS Glow." It is very similar visually to standard black uniformity issues, but it will normally have a yellow tint.

Winner: VA

Learn about black uniformity

Technical Differences

Liquid crystal displays (LCD) function by having, as the name suggest, liquid crystals in the little colored packets that form the pixels. These crystals react and change position when charged with electricity, and they block more or less light depending on their position.

IPS displays have their crystals aligned horizontally at all times. When charged, they only rotate to allow light out. VA displays have their crystals aligned vertically. When they are charged, they move to a horizontal position allowing light through, similar to IPS. When current isn't sent through them, however, their vertical alignment blocks light far more efficiently, thus creating better blacks and giving better contrast.

You can also find PLS type displays. These are fundamentally the same as IPS, except made by Samsung. They tend to have excellent response times but are otherwise no different. When you compare the pixels visually, IPS will look like chevrons; VA will look like very straight rectangles and PLS will look like round edged capsules.

Conclusion

Neither technology is inherently superior to the other, they both serve different purposes. In general, IPS TVs will have a wide viewing angle suitable for use in a bright living room for sports or TV shows. They also benefit PC monitor use, since edges darken with a low viewing angle. VA TVs will instead have better contrast rendering them better for use in a dark, home-theater type of environment. Choosing between the two is a series of trade-offs and qualities, so pick depending on your usage as neither are the absolute best.

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Questions & Answers

2 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
1
My current usage is watching movies, tv and sports in a kind of well lit room, and price being similar which is better: the Vizio M60-D1 or the Samsung 60KU6300?
The M60-D1 is better in a well lit room. It has wide viewing angles thanks to its IPS panel, so people sitting off to the side of the TV can still have good picture quality; wheras the KU6300 has worse viewing angles due to its VA panel. The M60-D1 is also a 120 Hz TV, which provides smoother motion when motion interpolation is enabled.

One disadvantage of the M60-D1 is that it has a lower peak brightness than the KU6300, so if there is a lot of bright light reflected in the screen, such as from a window without curtains shining on the screen, then the KU6300 becomes a better choice.
0
I plan to use a 55" strictly to display photography. It will be in a well lit room with a lot of windows. It will be viewed at an angle at least 1/2 of the time depending on where in the room the person is standing. Is IPS the way to go? I've got the option of getting a good deal on a LG 55UH7650 that Costco sells. I'm also considering a Sony IPS but they seem to be more expensive. What would be your recommendation assuming around $700 price point? Thanks!
An IPS TV is definitely what you're looking for. The LG 55UH7650 seems like the best option for 700$. Note that if you are displaying photos larger than 7 megapixels the UH7650 will be less accurate than other 4K TVs because of its RGBW pixel structure. A Sony XBR55X700D or LG 55UH7700 would be better, but you're unlikely to find them for $700.
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