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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

4 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
2
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.
2
Hello, I recently purchased a Vizio P55-C1 (the only one in the P series that has an IPS panel). Should I have gone with the Vizio M55-D0 (the cheaper model but it has a VA panel)? I was hoping you guys could do a test on the IPS panel in the Vizio 55" P series since it is the only IPS panel in the series it would be very interesting to see the results of the top of the line Vizio IPS panel and what contrast it can achieve.
We only review one model in a series, we have too many other TVs to test. The best contrast ratio of an IPS TV we have ever tested was 1418:1, so we don't expect the Vizio P55-C1 to be any better.

Your P55-C1 is best in a bright room or if people will be often sitting to the side of the TV and viewing it on an angle, because of its IPS panel's good viewing angles and good peak brightness. If you are viewing the TV from straight on in a dim room, the M60-D1 is the best if you can afford it; if not the P50-C1 is best if you watch a lot of HDR content and the M55-D0 is best if you don't.

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.
0
I'm having an exceptionally hard time deciding between a few TV's that are all great. I'm looking at either the 55" Vizio P series or the 55"/60" Samsung KS8000 as I know the prices are starting to drop for spring. My concern is the IPS screen of the Vizio vs. the VA screen of the Samsung. I watch a lot of movies usually in darker settings but I also enjoy gaming; my living room gets a fair amount of light in the evening as well. The light leaks on the edge lit KS8000 really bothers me as does the vertical blooming, but the brightness and quantum dot technology of their VA panel is hard to beat. The Vizio 55" is a 120hz panel if my information is accurate and should also support 1080p@120hz should I want to use it as a monitor which is a huge plus. I'm upgrading from a now 6 year old Vizio that has a true 120hz IPS panel and it still looks fantastic and blacks and uniformity are actually fairly good (CCFL). My other newer Vizio with what I believe is an edge lit VA panel looks like utter garbage. Would moving to the newer IPS Vizio be on par with my current experience? I also understand that the VA panels don't produce very good reds, leaning on the orange side. I have considered the 65" VA Vizio P if the price drops enough, but I'm concerned it will simply be overkill in my living room. Your website has been a exemplary source of information.
We haven't tested the IPS version, so I cannot comment on its specific performance. If you're already used to an IPS display, the Vizio should be an improvement over your current TV. While watching movies, turning on the local dimming should greatly help the very limited IPS contrast ratio. Even when comparing both VA versions, the Vizio P will come out top because of its feature set. If your main usage is going be PC use, the Vizio P will be a better choice.
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