Twisted Nematic – TN panels explained

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TN Film – Twisted Nematic + Film LCD panels

The TN panel is the most widely used panel type on the market. The reason behind this is cheap production cost of this kind of panel and the excellent response time. This makes them perfect for gaming purposes with fast action ongoing on the screen.  Pixels of a TN panel can quickly change their state. This results in a smoother image. Although this technology is quite old it is still present on the market. You will see it present on all screen sizes ranging from 20 inch up to 28 inches. The monitor’s resolution can get as high as ultra high definition, 4k at 3840 x 2160 pixels on lower end monitor models.

TN panel technology explained

Advantages

I have already highlighted one of the advantages of the TN panel. The low cost of production won’t leave a deep hole in your bank account. Another advantage of this panel is its responsiveness. Current TN panels have a response time ranging between 2ms to 5ms. This is great, especially when playing games. Some Twisted Nematic panels have double of the usual refresh rate. Consequently instead of 60Hz, these are capable of running at 120Hz. This allows them to take advantage of “active 3D shutter technologies”. For this reason they are able to display twice the amount of information every second allowing to a much smoother gaming experience. At these values it is trying to compete with monitors having refresh rates of 144Hz.

Disadvantages

Although a lot of improvements were made for the Twisted Nematic panel, still it has some weaknesses. A good TN panel can provide great image quality with vibrant colors. The native contrast (“dynamic contrast mode turned of”) of a typical TN monitor is  1:1000. But the real problem relates to the viewing angles in comparison with other panels. These are advertised with 170 degrees horizontal  and 160 degrees vertical viewing angles. This is marginally lower than other panel technologies.

Since modern screens can get quite big, up to 28 inches, this will affect the overall usability of monitors and screens with this kind of panels. If you are not sitting straight in front of it, you will see color shifting when viewed from any other angle. This makes them unusable for image editing. Therefore, if you are on a budget, picking a TN panel monitor for photo or video editing is the worst decision you could make.

TN panel crystals close-up

You will find it really difficult to set up the colors correctly on this kind of monitor.

TN panels are only 6-bit, unlike most IPS/VA panels that are 8-bit. Consequently the Twisted Nematic panel is unable to display the full 16.7 million colors available in 24-bit true color. Hence they can mimic the 16.7 million colors of 8-but panels by using dithering and Frame Rate Control (FRC) methods.

Conclusion

The TN panels are widely available even today. Although it is quite an old panel technology it will be present on the market. Thanks to improvements it tries to compete with other panel technologies like IPS. Although not recommended for photo and video purposes, these panels offer some benefits when it comes to gaming. Nowadays most TN Film panels are manufactured with a Full-HD 1920 X 1080 resolution, although larger sizes became available. The new generation of monitors with TN panels offer Quad HD resolution also known as 2K (2560 X 1440 pixels) at a screen size of 27 inches. You can also see these TN panels on low cost 28 inch 4K models available on the market.

If you want to buy yourself a gaming monitor and you are on a budget the TN panels are a good option. The slightly narrower viewing angles and some color shifts will not be your major concern. In addition you will remain with some cash in your pocket to spend it on your favorite game.

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