All of the world’s best TVs offer laser-sharp detail and spectacular HDR dynamics, but you have to look beyond the surface to work out which makes for the best gaming TV.
There’s no shortage of top TVs for console or PC gamers, but pick the wrong picture preset and your experience will start to feel off immediately. That’s because there can be as significant a gulf between image presets when it comes to input lag – that’s time between when you push a button and see the results on-screen.
So why does selecting a dedicated Game mode make such a huge difference? Simply put, Game mode bypasses a lot of the picture processing used when you’re binging The Simpsons on Disney+, and picture processing really slows down response time. By disabling it, you can gain valuable microseconds, which in turn plays to your advantage in fast moving games.
To help give you the edge when battling online or off, we put some of the UK’s most popular screens though their gaming paces, measuring input lag to discover which models reward hardcore gamers and which are probably best suited to spare room retro arcade duties.
Of course, there’s an obvious price to pay when engaging low latency Game mode: picture quality suffers. Images can look less sharp, there’s more obvious noise and banding, contrast can also take a hit.
For this reason, we advise you don’t engage Game mode for all gameplay – some TV brands will prompt you to select game mode when it recognises a console, so ignore this. Animal Crossing really doesn’t benefit from Game mode, nor does Minecraft. It’s most useful for high octane shooters, racing sims and the like, where the winning edge can be measured in milliseconds.
Of course, we’re still going to be using these as TVs, so how good they are for watching movies is still a big factor.
Which is the best gaming TV?
The best TV for gaming overall is LG’s scintillating CX OLED range, which is a powerhouse for features and offers jaw-dropping image quality. It includes support for ALLM and VRR support, plus 4K at 120 frames per second support on all four HDMI ports, it should serve gamers well into the next generation of consoles. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are both set to support all three of these technologies, and we'll explain them in just a moment. The CX range also has Nvidia G-Sync support to boost PC gaming on it, and features remarkably low delay in its response times.
Our pick for the best LED TV for gaming is the Samsung Q80T, which gives you bright and vivid QLED HDR pictures, and supports all the major features of next-gen gaming. It comes in a little cheaper than the LG CX, and may actually be preferable to that set in some cases – we'll explain all below.
• OLED vs QLED: what they are, and which is right for you
If the CX and Q80T are both too rich for your blood, then there’s some genuine competition at the lower end of the price spectrum. Our favourite mid-ranger is the Panasonic GX800. Not only is this a fabulous 4K screen in its own right, but it really holds its own for responsiveness.
What to look for in the best gaming TVs
Let's start with the simple and obvious thing: we want our TVs to look great! We test the three big platforms – Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4 and Xbox One X – on them to see how they perform with regular HD and 4K HDR sources.
We want TVs that really make the most of the colour and lighting in HDR games – what's the point of incredible vistas and artsy locales if you don't get the full effect?
But we're also looking to balance that image quality, which often takes a lot of processing to achieve, with response times. The more work a TV does to spruce up an image, the longer it takes – the console sends the frame over to the TV, but there's a delay while the processing happens – this is known as 'lag' or 'latency'.
The problem is that you can only respond to to things happening in the game when you see them on-screen, and if the TV is adding lag, you're responding slightly late. This isn't much of an issue in some games, but in fast-paced action games, it means you're literally responding slowly.
Most TVs have a 'Game' mode that cuts back on processing to minimise lag, so we measure the lag using devices such as the industry-standard Leo Bodnar video input lag sensor, which measures latency at a median 1080p/60 signal.
This calculates the delay between a video signal passing from input to display. The lower the latency figure, the better. As a rule of thumb, 30ms or less can be considered a solid performance for consumer TVs, but our sets do much better than that (with one exception, but its value makes up for that).
A feature to help make sure that you're not suffering unnecessarily from lag is built into next-gen consoles. It's called Auto Low-Latency Mode (ALLM), and the idea is that it's a standardised signal the console can send that TVs can receive, and know they need to switch into a gaming-friendly mode that reduces latency. The crucial part is that it's all platform agnostic – as long as your console and TV both support it, it all happens seamlessly even if they're from different manufacturers.
One of the most exciting new features of the next consoles is that they can output video in 4K at up to 120 frames per second – current-gen consoles offer 60 frames per second maximum. Higher frame rates mean two things: one is that you see the games responding to your inputs twice as fast (because a new frame appears in half the time); the other is that everything on-screen looks extra clear even in motion, because you're seeing its movement happen in smaller increments. Basically, for games that support this (which won't be all, by any means), you'll be able to react more quickly and accurately to action, and motion will look much smoother and more realistic.
Related is another key next-gen feature: Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), which is designed to help keep games looking smooth in balance with visual quality. The idea here is to sync how quickly your console generates a new frame with how often your TV is expecting to show a new frame – if the two aren't in lock, you can end up with what's called 'screen tearing', where you see a half-finished frame, making everything look off. In order to keep things in sync, games of the past have usually locked their output to 30 or 60 frames per second, because this will reliably stay in sync with a TV. But this causes restrictions on how much graphical wizardry can be put into the game, because these frame rates are inflexible. With VRR, the console and TV can stay in sync even if the frame rate needs to (for example) dip a little below 60fps so that an especially graphically impressive scene can happen. Everything will still look smooth and correct, but games can have more flexibility.
The best gaming TVs
1. LG CX
The best TV for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
• Read our full LG CX review
The LG CX is a gaming dream – so much so that it won our T3 Awards 2020 award for Best Gaming TV. It's absolutely packed with features ready for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X: there's support for auto low-latency mode (ALLM) for keeping the lag low, there's variable refresh rate compatibility to make sure that what you're seeing stays stutter-free, and you'll be able to play 4K games at 120 frames per second, which is going to be a (forgive us) game-changer in games that ask for quick reactions and have lots of action.
On top of that, there's support for Nvidia G-Sync for making PC gaming with Nvidia graphics cards look smoother on it, and LG promises that AMD FreeSync support will come later in 2020 too, which will make Xbox One X games and AMD PC GPUs run smoother on it too.
Oh, and it supports HGIG, which means the TV will optimise the HDR you're seeing based on what's intended by the game and console, rather than applying its own tweaks, so what you're seeing it closest to the intended look.
Perhaps most importantly, we get extremely low input lag from it – running in its gaming mode (which still has a bunch of processing improvements for the image going on, so everything looks better), you get just over 13ms of lag, which is among the best we've seen in those circumstances.
The TV itself is LG's best OLED panel to date, and improvements to how it handles detail in dark areas make it one of the most impressive sets ever for cinematic action. The nuance and realism is second to none, and the way it perfectly handles subtle variances across its entire contrast range are great for seeing everything that's happening in the frame.
Being an OLED screen, there is the theoretical potential for burn-in of graphics that stay on-screen for an incredibly long time without changing. This is not something the average gamer needs to be concerned about – it will only apply to games that have interface elements that don't change at all, and only if you're playing for extremely long amounts of time.
2. Samsung Q80T
Huge gaming optimisations meet bright HDR-friendly image quality
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
• Read our full Samsung Q80T review
Samsung's 2020 Q80T TV has basically every fancy bit of software technology the brand currently offers, but with a QLED panel that's not quite as fancy as what's in the company's top-tier 4K screen (the Samsung Q95T), or its flagship 8K TV (the Samsung Q950TS). And that's all good with us – it makes it a fantastic balance for gaming.
You've got support for loads of features that the PS5 and Xbox Series X will work with, including Auto Low-Latency Mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and 120Hz playback. These make it future-proofed for the next console generation.
But one of the real keys to its success is its astoundingly low levels of lag – when fully optimised, it responds in just 8.7ms, which is incredible for a TV. Even with just the TVs auto game mode on (which is what most people will use), lag is still a respectable 19.7ms, and that still packs in lots of image improvements, so it's ideal for anything where instant response is less important. For Assassin's Creed Valhalla and its big sweeping landscapes, it's going to look just amazing.
That's party thanks to this being a QLED, with all of QLED's standard strengths: it's intensely colourful, and it's bright in ways that produce dazzling HDR, with localised dimming of the backlight helping to enrich dark scenes. It doesn't have as many dimming zones as the Q90R above (and isn't as bright), so when you have bright and dark next to each other there can be some blooming. And it means it's not as good for nuance in darker games as an OLED set would be.
It comes in a wide range of sizes too, from a more bedroom/office-friendly 49 inches right up to a giant 85-inch gaming super-screen. It doesn't support Dolby Vision, which is a shame for using it for movies and TV as well – this is the most common form of advanced HDR. But HDR still looks fabulous on it, no matter the source.
3. LG C9
Every next-gen feature, excellent OLED images, but cheaper
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
• Read our full LG C9 review
If the hugely impressive LG CX further up is a bit too much for you, its predecessor might be the ideal option: the LG C9 is one of the best-value OLED TVs you can buy, putting top-level screen quality in an affordable package, and with basically every major gaming-focused feature that the newer set has.
The TV looks sublime with consoles and high-spec PC rigs alike. When it comes to image lag, we measured latency at under 13ms, and significantly there’s no obvious penalty visually between its regular image presets and the dedicated Gaming mode, so you need sacrifice very little of the image quality for quick responsiveness.
Adding cherries to the gaming cake, the C9 uses its four HDMI 2.1 inputs to offer ALLM and VRR support, plus the ability to play in 4K at 120 frames per second. On top that, it supports Nvidia G-Sync for smoother play from Nvidia graphics cards on PC.
As we mentioned, there is a small chance of burn in from OLED screens, but if you just play in average bursts on games that don't have the exact displays on-screen all the time, you'll be fine. It's all-day sessions in sim games with non-changing interface you'd need to worry about.
4. Panasonic GX800
The best mid-range gaming TV
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Offering universal HDR (HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and HDR10+) support, along with all the connected apps you might want to watch when thumbs are aching, and most importantly, a blisteringly fast gaming performance, Panasonic’s GX800 LED LCD is arguably the best-value TV for gamers right now.
Panasonic has long made much of its cinematic credentials, enlisting the help of noted Hollywood colourist Stefan Sonnenfeld to fine tune colour performance, as well as perfecting its HCX image processor to replicate the performance of Hollywood Studios (as best it can on a budget). But it turns out this screen has some serious gaming chops as well.
We measured a sharp 10.2ms response time in its dedicated Game mode, which is a terrific performance for a large-screen TV. The good news is HDR games also look reasonably good, although unsurprisingly the more expensive TVs outperform it.
That said, you could probably buy this and pre-order an Xbox Series X for the price of the fancier TVs, and still have some change left over for tortilla chips and salsa.
5. Philips PUS6814
The best budget gaming TV
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
There’s no doubt that gaming with Ambilight (Philips' built-in LED mood lighting technology) is a sensory delight, and this Series 6 Philips 4K model offers that and a good deal more besides – including both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ HDR, plus Amazon Alexa voice support – at a frighteningly attractive price.
But how does the 55PUS6814 shape up when it’s time for a Fortnite marathon? Depends... If you carelessly play using the Standard image preset, you’ll flop on the leaderboard. Image lag is a woeful 123.7ms. However, with Game mode engaged, you can expect your scores to soar, as latency drops to 19.1ms, one of the best figures we’ve ever recorded for a Philips LED LCD TV.
Philips' panels tend to be colourful and rich, leading to great HDR images for the price, with solid image processing.
6. Hisense Series 7 B7500
The best entry-level gaming TV
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
A 4K TV with Dolby Vision support, wide colour gamut and well stocked smart platform with Amazon Alexa support, for little more than chump change? Surely this Hisense looks too good to be true?
Well, the shocking news is that this budget buster could actually prove to be a bargain display for gamers too…
That’s because this 7-series set is more premium than the price tag indicates. It offers a trio of 4K HDMI inputs, and looks great with native 4K HDR sources.
But we don’t just want to watch TV – and this Hisense remains up to the gaming job, too. We measured input lag at 27.4ms, with Game Mode engaged. That’s not too slouchy given what you get for your cash. As long as you’re not a hyper competitive FPS addict, you’ll not feel disadvantaged playing against your self-isolating mates.
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