IPS vs PLS: The Best Screen Panel for Your New Monitor

IPS vs PLS

Giving up on trying to figure out the difference between an IPS vs PLS screen? Here’s the truth: While the popularity of some panels, like TN and VA, have been hit hard by ever developing screen technologies. As users we’ve all been reaping the benefits of the shifting sands. In this post, we’ll cover the difference between IPS and PLS screens, and guide you on how to choose the right screen technology for you. Now, before we begin, a warning: don’t get hung up on the perfect panel as it relates to PLS and IPS. Especially if you’ll only be using it solitarily. We reveal why in what follows.

First Things First, What’s a Screen Panel?

If you’ve been shopping for a large monitor to connect to your laptop recently, you’ve probably been disoriented by the amount of technical jargon in this industry.  

Between the resolution, matte vs. glossy surfaces, refresh rates, and connectivity options; the process of buying a monitor might feel a bit intimidating.

If you ask us, we think there’s a much more fundamental aspect to focus on that can save you a lot of effort:  the panel type.  Deciding on the panel technology will determine the overall performance of the monitor and what tasks it will excel at.

Between all the commercially famous panels, IPS and PLS are the most important.  We’ll briefly identify the technology behind each before going into the toe-to-toe comparison.

IPS: In-Plane Switching

Understanding display technology needs more than one simple article.  Nevertheless, we’ll do our best to simplify things to help you fully grasp the differences.

In IPS panels, the liquid crystals that produce an image move horizontally, for the most part.  The result is better color quality and wider viewing angles.

IPS panel technology was initially invented by LG.  IPS was created to compensate for the poor quality of TN (twisted nematic) and VA (vertical alignment) panels.  Even though IPS provides exceptional improvements, the former types still excel in a few aspects that we’ll explore later.

PLS: Plane-To-Line Switching

As you can see, the two technologies share strikingly similar names.  In fact, they also share the same working principle.

Samsung was the first manufacturer of PLS panels in 2010.  To be exact, it’s the only brand that releases PLS panels since they hold their technology as a protected intellectual property (read: patent).

As you might guess, Samsung didn’t reveal how exactly its technology works until today.  Yet, their claim was that it excels over IPS in the following aspects:

  • Wider viewing angles
  • 10% brighter luminescence
  • Can be 15% cheaper
  • Better, crisper quality
  • Can accept flexible designs
Curved PLS Monitor

IPS vs. PLS: A Toe-To-Toe Comparison

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can put the two panels next to each other to find out the actual and tangible differences that can affect your viewing experience.

Brightness and Contrast

As was said earlier, IPS came to revolutionize image quality in laptop screens, computer monitors and of course, TVs.  Unlike TN and VA panels, IPS monitors deliver higher brightness levels and more satisfying contrast.

The reason traces back to the way liquid crystals move inside the polarizer layers:  The horizontal mobility allows more light to pass from the LEDs in the backlighting layer.

Samsung claimed that the crystals in its PLS screens achieved a higher range of motion, allowing for about 10% brighter screen and more contrasting colors.

The Takeaway

Gamers, graphic designers, and anyone regarding color quality as a priority should opt for a PLS screen.

Viewing Angle

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, viewing angle denotes the range from which you can look at any screen and still see what’s on it clearly.  The wider the range, the better you’ll be able to see what’s on the screen regardless of the angle at which you’re viewing it from.

Wide Viewing Angles

IPS panels were mainly developed for this reason.  Since their liquid crystals move horizontally, you’re able to view images clearly with high color fidelity while sitting at extreme off-center angles.

Samsung’s adjustments came and pushed this perk even further!  There’s no definite value, of course, but it’s possible to view PLS screens from even more extreme angles.

The Takeaway

Gamers and working professionals probably won’t notice the difference.  But both IPS and PLS panels provide a generous amount of range for solo users.

The benefits of a PLS screen become most evident when your using your monitor in a meeting or any venue where a large number of people need an accurate view of the screen.

Response Time

The response time is the technical term denoting the duration required for the screen’s pixels to change from one color to another.  It’s expressed in milliseconds where lower values mean faster image transitions and less visual glitches.

In this aspect, IPS and PLS panels are fairly similar; both offer low response times that typically don’t exceed 4ms.

The Takeaway

If you’ll be using your laptop’s new monitor for general professional and entertainment purposes, either an IPS or PLS screen will deliver the same benefits.

For gamers, however, a TN panel will likely be best.  Shocking, right?  That’s because a TN panel can have a stunning response time of 1ms.  This is especially important if you play first-person shooters and similarly fast-paced games.

Price

Judging the difference in price between both panels can be quite tricky.  After all, the screen has many other components that can cut down cost or make it soar.

Technically speaking, PLS panels cost less than their IPS counterparts.  This has to do with the materials used and the overall manufacturing process.

Nevertheless, since Samsung is the sole producer of PLS panels, these monitors are generally pricier.  To put things into perspective, a Samsung PLS 27” Full-HD screen costs around $250, while an Acer IPS screen with the same specs costs less than $170.

But to be fair, Samsung does charge more for its IPS panels.  A Samsung IPS monitor with the aforementioned specs may cost more than $320.

The Takeaway

If you’re super tight on budget, an IPS screen is much more affordable in the long run.  Don’t get us wrong; you won’t have to sacrifice quality.  But being able to buy from different brands opens the possibility for ditching extra features that might not be important to you.

If Samsung is your favorite brand, an IPS panel can save you at least $50.  The difference can be even higher with bigger screens.

Bonus: Recommended Products

Now that you know the differences, we thought we should give a brief shout-out to our favorite monitors in each screen type.

Dell U2518D IPS 25″ Ultra Sharp LED Monitor

As the name implies, Dell impresses its customers with the extra crisp details that this screen delivers.  The HDR playback guarantees better color depth and higher contrast levels.  This is especially evident when compared to SDR alternatives.

On the downside, this screen has a 5 ms response time, which can make your gaming experience pretty ugly and frustrating.

Samsung SH650 27” FHD Desktop Monitor

In addition to the better, vivid colors, this screen is equipped with eye-saver mode and flicker-free technology.  This is such a useful perk for gamers and any user that will spend most of their day in front of the screen.

If Nothing Else, Just Pick the One You Think Looks the Best

Take a deep breath. If you’re new to screen panels, the specifics we’ve laid out for IPS vs. PLS technologies is a great place to start. Explore the differences in what the monitors you like most actually look like given their respective specifications including the technology supporting them. Think of what you’ve just learned as a jumping off point in the world of screen panels. But don’t allow the information to paralyze you. Make a decision. If it’s wrong, at least you’ll be that much closer to making a better decision.