What is a VA panel? Is it the same as a VA monitor? Does it matter? As with so many modern tech abbreviations, there are a lot of questions surrounding VA panels, and getting a straight answer can be tough because searching around can lead to unreliable sources, or you can become completely sidetracked and end up finding out more about voice acting and how to change your career. We’ve all been there.
The good news is that there are answers out there. More importantly, there are answers in here too, just below this lovingly crafted intro. To help make sure you end up with a full grasp of things, we’ve broken down some of the most common questions around VA panels and VA monitors to help clarify everything, and leave you feeling full of knowledge, fulfilled with your life, and probably push out some old childhood memories by accident. Sorry about that.
What is a VA panel?
Let's dive into the main question, what is a VA panel, and do they deserve to be on a list of the best gaming monitors? Well, VA stands for vertical alignment, and it’s a style of LED panel. Things go a little off the rails here but bear with us.
It all starts with LCD, short for Liquid Crystal Display, which uses liquid crystals to help create an image. LCD panels usually use LED, which stands for Light-Emitting Diode, lighting to create the backlight for the LCD panels. From there, VA is how the LCDs on the LEDs are aligned, with them being vertically aligned, instead of other styles out there like IPS (in-plane switching), TN (twisted nematic), and also differs from OLED (organic light-emitting diode).
Look, we warned you that this was going to get a little heavy. To avoid needing to look up anything, a VA panel is a style of LED panel that uses a specific organisation method that brings with it its own pros and cons, which we’ll get to in a minute...
Is VA the same as LED?
So VA is a form of LED. You know the whole, all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs thing? That’s basically what this is. All VA panels are LED, but not all LED panels are VA. It’s a style of LED, and while it uses the same base technology, it uses a specific layout to create a screen that has unique properties when compared to some of the other ways of doing so, namely IPS and TN.
What are the downsides of a VA monitor?
There are upsides too, but let’s quickly dive into the downsides of a VA monitor. VA monitors are often viewed as the middle ground of gaming monitors and are good at a lot of stuff, but not the best at many. The colours they can display are good, but they can sometimes lack some of the vibrancy of their peers; they have a response time that is usually between 2-3ms, which is still absurdly fast, but not as fast as a TN or IPS monitor.
However, they do have the best contrast with the truest blacks on screen, which helps games look a bit better, even though the other colours might not be as eye-popping beautiful. It makes them fairly good at everything, which is why they’re so popular because modern-day gaming requires a bit of everything for most people.
Is VA better than IPS, TN, or OLED for gaming?
No. But also, not no. They’re not better than any of the other options, but they’re also not worse; they’re just different. It all depends on what you want. VA monitors are well-rounded but have especially potent contrast, which allows for more immersive darkness in games, making them good for many modern-day games because of how important lighting is.
IPS monitors not only have the best colours, but also have better viewing angles. However, they can’t match the speeds offered by TN monitors. They look good, but the beauty of the colours they display is hampered by their inability to properly display darkness, which can make games look less vibrant because the human eye and brain are weird.
TN monitors are all about speed. They allow for incredible response rates, which can be a boon when playing more competitive titles, but they tend to have weaker colours and viewing angles. They’re pretty good at displaying blacks though, but not quite as much as VA monitors.
Finally, we have OLED. The best OLED monitors, like the LG UltraGear 48"OLED gaming monitor, are undoubtedly stunning to behold. They have incredible colours, amazing contrast, and absurdly fast response times as well. In fact, they’re faster than even TN screens. However, despite the image quality, viewing angles, and speed being so good, they’re not quite as bright as VA panels. They also tend to be more expensive and can end up falling to burn-in if you’re not careful, which isn’t great for people who play one game a lot of the time. You can end up seeing the UI even when you’re not actually gaming.
As you can see, each screen type has its own strengths, but VA panels do tend to be the best ones for most people, because they’ve got a little bit of everything, all of the time, and that’s what the vast majority of us need. If you want something specialised though, at least you know what the other screens do now too.