What Does Monitor Response Time Mean? (Jargon Free!)

by Lisa Hayden
What Does Monitor Response Time Mean

What Does Monitor Response Time Mean? Hmm...

Have you ever considered response times when buying a new TV? Was it explained to you when you’re looking for a TV for your games and movies? If you haven’t heard of it and you’re looking for a TV or a monitor, then this post will help you understand what it is. You might even get to ask that from the saleslady at the store.

What is Monitor Response Time?

Simply put, a monitor response time is the time it takes for a pixel to change from black to white or from grey to another shade of grey. It’s the actual changing of colours of the pixels and not the overall display you see on the screen (although it can affect the overall display when there are blurs).

Response time is often confused with input lag because they are often top priorities for a person who plays a lot of video games or watches fast-paced movies. Input lag, on the other hand, refers to the time it takes for your monitor to register the clicks and punches you make on your controller, mouse, and keyboard. Response times are mentioned by manufacturers on their products while input lag isn’t.

Why is response time so important?

For the monitor response time, the faster (or, the lower) response time is better. This means that it takes a shorter period of time for the pixels to change from one colour to another. When the pixels take a long time to change colour, you might experience what people call “ghosting”.

Ghosting is when the “remains” of the pixel’s colours remain in the screen (not forever, though) for a time after the actual display has been passed. It’s a lot like a blur you see when you watch fast movements on the screen. This happens when a pixel takes a long time to change from one shade of grey to another.

Why is Monitor Response Time Important?

Is response time even a big deal? When should it be a priority? When can it be ignored?

For some people, response time is something they have never heard of before but went pretty well with their TVs and monitors. For some, it’s really a necessity. The consideration to prioritize response time almost always comes down to preference and need.

Think about it this way. You’re playing a racing game on the monitor, and instead of seeing where you already are, there’s a blur on the monitor. Instead of knowing how to react to the display real-time, your reactions become delayed because the screen registers it a few milliseconds later. How else are you going to win your game? So if you plan on buying a monitor for your games and action movies, then you might want to consider looking at the response time.

response time key elements

However, if you’re not a gamer and you’re not sensitive to blur, then you can easily forego response times. In reality, longer response times are not that bad, and they are not too obvious, especially if you’re just browsing the internet. You won’t even notice the blur because there’s nothing fast about the displays. Besides, the fast response time will just be wasted especially if it’s something you won’t take notice of.

TN vs IPS vs VA - What’s the Difference?

When you’re looking at screens that have the lowest response times, then you’ve probably encountered “TN”, “IPS” or “VA”. Here’s a rundown on what each is and how different they are from each other in terms of response time and video quality.

1. TN

The first one is TN which stands for Twisted Nematic. Among the three, the TN has the shortest response times; usually at approximately 1 millisecond. A millisecond is the unit of measure for response times because the average time pixels are displayed on the screen is 17 milliseconds. Going back to TN displays, this type of panel monitor often has narrow viewing angles. This means that you have to be in front of the screen and not further to the side.

While it’s easy to fall in love with the TN panel monitors because of the response time, you have to take into consideration the colour reproduction. Among the three, the TN has the worst colour production, so you really have to balance it out with your need for a fast response time.

2. IPS

The IPS stands for In-Plane Switching, which is basically a panel monitor that offers better colours. They have more consistent contrast, and they are meant for those who prefer or need high-quality colour displays.

What’s great about the IPS is that it can give you almost a 180-degree viewing angle. You don’t have to worry about missing out on the colour quality even when you’re not right in front of the screen. If you play games with your friends, this can be a good choice.

However, an IPS panel takes longer than a TN panel. The IPS has a response time of approximately 4-5 milliseconds. It’s a good thing that newer models are slowly improving by having a shorter response time, almost the same with some TN models.

IPS vs TN vs VA – Which Panel Type Should I Choose?

3. VA

VA, or Vertical Alignment, is a lot like the IPS because it also offers nearly a full 180-degree viewing angle. It has a high contrast ratio which makes it ideal for those who want vibrant colours. They are not as consistent as IPS, but they definitely top the bar in terms of image quality.

However, since VA has a higher contrast ratio, this implies that the pixels take a longer time to go from black to white and vice versa. In effect, you can expect blurs when you play fast-paced movies and games. On average, its response time ranges from 4-5 milliseconds.

Overall, TN and IPS are more ideal panel monitors when it comes to response times. If you prefer a higher quality display with fast response time, then IPS is a good fit for you. Just make sure that you are buying a newer model. You might also want to consider the VA, especially if response time is not a priority for you.

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