Finding the best gaming TVs in 2021 isn't just about the picture quality, size and price (though they're still really important, obviously). The greatest gaming TVs need a few specific extra features to stand out – some of which are supported by the PS5, Xbox Series X and PCs specifically, but some are essential for all gaming. Here, we'll explain these features are in plain English, tell you which TVs offer them, and help you work out pick out the ones that balanced them best with picture quality at the budget level you want.
Many of the best TVs overall, from budget sets to flagships, can be great for console gaming… but if you use the wrong picture preset while gaming on these TVs, things will start to feel off immediately. That's because the image processing that all TVs rely on makes a gigantic difference when it comes to 'input lag' – that’s the time between when you push a button on your controller and when you see the results on-screen.
What all the best gaming TVs have is an excellent Game mode. Simply put, a Game mode deactivates a lot of the picture processing used when you're watching movies or TV, because these features really slow down response time. By disabling them, you can gain valuable microseconds, which in turn plays to your advantage in fast-moving games. The difference doesn't sound like much, but it is – it makes games seem sluggish, and is really a problem in things that are fast-moving, or that require precision.
You've probably already worked out the price to pay when engaging low-latency Game mode: turning off some picture processing means image quality suffers. Potentially, things can look less sharp, there’s more obvious noise and banding, and contrast can also take a hit. So we're looking for TVs that still deliver great-looking pictures, balancing low latency still with a bit of processing.
You can turn the Game mode off in some cases, if you prefer: Animal Crossing really doesn’t benefit from Game mode, for example. It’s most important for high octane shooters, racing sims and the like, where the winning edge can be measured in milliseconds.
And, of course, we’re still going to be using these as TVs much of the time too, so we expect movies and shows to look their best too. It's that in our list of the best OLED TVs, for example, movie performance is the biggest factor and games are secondary, here it's games first and movies second.
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 (we'll explain what these mean in a moment), plus 4K at 120 frames per second on all four HDMI ports, so it will 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. 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 Sony XH9005, which provides excellent HDR, supports 4K at 120Hz over two of its HDMI ports (with VRR promised to arrive soon in an update), has extremely low input lag, and is notably cheaper than the LG CX.
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 on current consoles as well as seeing 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.
Latency is measured in milliseconds, and 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 (4K 120Hz) – 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 is created in half the time); the other is that everything on-screen should look 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 weird. In order to keep things in sync, console games 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.
You might also have seen that Sony is advertising some of its TVs as 'Ready for PlayStation 5'. To qualify, TVs need to have a really low response time – under 7.2 milliseconds – and support 4K 120Hz over HDMI. Note that the TV doesn't need to support VRR to quality. Also, right now, the TVs need to be made by Sony – we don't know if Sony will allow others to get this branding, but we wouldn't bet on it, so don't be surprised not to see this advertised on other sets. It doesn't mean they're not still perfect for the new PS5 features, though.
The best gaming TVs: the list
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.
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 without anything else appearing on-screen. LG also employs a dimming technology in these OLED TVs, which looks for static elements and makes them slightly darker, reducing risk of burn-in drastically.
• Read our full LG CX review
This Sony was already one of the best-looking TVs for its price, but recent cuts have made it even more tempting at 55 inches and 65 inches. At 75 inches, it was already the best bang-for-buck TV on the market in 2020, delivering really special image quality for a lot less than competitors. If you want to see the full quality of PS5 and Xbox Series X on a BIG screen, this is the way to do it.
This is one of two TVs branded as 'Ready for PS5' by Sony, which means that a TV has to have a fast enough response time, and must support 4K at 120fps over HDMI inputs. This high refresh rate feature was added via an update, so if you buy a new TV, make sure you let it update itself to ensure it has the latest features!
This TV will also support ALLM and VRR, giving it a full suite of feature ready for the next consoles… at some point. Sony is still waiting to confirm full support for these feature, and promises they'll come soon (plus eARC, for high-quality audio output to a soundbar).
It includes Dolby Vision and Atmos support, Android TV gives you a wide range of streaming apps and Google Assistant support, and it has better built-in speakers than your average mid-range TV.
It's fantastic for movies and TV as well as games – the only disappointment is that it's not available in smaller sizes than 55 inches. It's often available for pretty much the same price as the Samsung Q80T below, so here's our Sony XH90 vs Samsung Q80T feature comparison.
• Read our full Sony XH90 review
LG's cheapest OLED TV of 2020 will be a smash hit with gaming fans, and rightly so. It offers excellent image quality thanks to its OLED screen, and all of the technical features and gaming prowess of the LG C9, but for hundreds less.
When it comes to VRR support, ALLM and 4K at 120Hz from every HDMI port, the LG BX is exactly as well equipped as the LG CX. That goes for its great smart TV platform, and support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, meaning it's ready for the more advanced HDR that Xbox games can offer it.
The reason it's cheaper than the LG CX is that the image quality isn't quite as strong. It's a little less bright, for a start – no problem if you place it somewhere where you control the light well, but it just means it'll be a little harder to see and more washed out in bright sunlight, say. It also means its HDR performance isn't quite as dazzling.
The image processing is slightly less clever too, but is still really strong overall – we're talking a step down from LG's most advanced, flagship processing to its second best, rather than a sudden drop to budget TV quality or anything.
With a latency looking to be comfortably under 20ms (we're still working on our testing), this is the complete package for gaming.
The difference between the LG CX and LG BX the kind of thing that image quality nerds pick up, but for most people won't matter at all, so given how strong the images from this TV are overall, and what a great price it is for a 55-inch or 65-inch OLED TV, it'll be a huge hit with PS5 and Xbox buyers, and rightly so.
There is one thing to note, which is that as an OLED, it's technically susceptible to burn-in. But LG's dimming tech is again employed to reduce it, and it should be a problem for normal users.
• Read our full LG BX 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, from 55 inches right up to a giant 85-inch gaming super-screen. There is also a more bedroom/office-friendly 49-inch model, but it doesn't include 120Hz or VRR, so while it's a great TV, it's not as strong for gaming.
It doesn't support Dolby Vision HDR, however, which is disappointing when the Xbox Series X has new been confirmed as the first console to support Dolby Vision for more dynamic HDR that can be tuned for different scenes.
• Read our full Samsung Q80T review
Most of the TVs here cover off most of the new console features – 120Hz support and Variable Refresh Rate, in particular – but there's one feature we haven't discussed as much: 8K support. That's because neither console maker has said what their 8K support will be, only that there will be some.
If you want a TV that future-proofs you for this (on top of 120Hz, VRR and ALLM) then, the Samsung Q800T is the TV to pick. It starts from the not-unrealistic size of 65 inches, at a not unrealistic price – though it's definitely at the 'very premium' end of the market.
Before we even get to the resolution, it's a beautiful-looking TV. It's one of Samsung's brightest panels, and that makes it real bright – for HDR that really dazzles, it's very hard to beat Samsung's high-end QLED sets. The brightness comes from a direct backlight, and this also has a lot of local dimming zones, which really helps it with black levels too – it's not quite as assured as OLED, but it's closer than almost any other LCD set. If you want a TV that really shows off a game's dramatic HDR vistas, this is among the best.
The 7680x4320 display is just astoundingly detailed, and for movies and TV, Samsung's Quantum AI processor does an amazing just of upscaling beyond 4K – things really look more detailed than any 4K TV can manage, even if it's not native 8K content (which, let's remember, it won't be, because there isn't any).
However, the 8K processing doesn't apply to games (it would add too much lag), so you're still looking at 4K when playing, really. Very good-looking 4K, but still. The 8K side of things is a promise that there might be something amazing to come from Sony and Microsoft in the future, so it's up to you whether you want to get ahead of that. This TV won't disappoint, either way.
• Rear our full Samsung Q800T review
The Samsung Q70T keeps the HDMI 2.1 connectivity and excellent smart TV platform of the Samsung Q80T further up, but delivers it at a lower price. That obviously comes with a catch: the panel here is edge-lit instead of feature a direct full array backlight, which means it's not quite as bright as the Q80T, and contrast isn't quite as impressive. It also doesn't have the Object Tracking Sound multi-speaker setup around the sides, packing just regular stereo sound instead.
You still get strong brightness and great-looking HDR, paired with excellent motion handling at top-tier upscaling, so HD stuff steps up really well to 4K. The overall image might not be as finessed as more expensive models (or the Sony XH90/X900H which is a very similar price) but the overall package is great value.
When it comes to gaming-specific features, one of the HDMI ports is fully equipped for 4K 120Hz, VRR and ALLM. Right now, it's the cheapest TV that supports every next-gen feature. It has two gaming modes: the pure Game mode offers just 9.2ms of lag, which is fantastic. There's also Game Motion Plus, which is what a lot of people will end up using – this delivers a still perfectly respectable 19.8ms of lag, but includes more processing for blur and judder reduction, so gives you a bit more visual pizzazz for your games.
• Read our full Samsung Q70T review
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 HX800 LED LCD is one of the best-value TVs for gamers right now, as long as you don't mind giving up VRR and 4K at 120Hz support.
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 really good, although unsurprisingly the more expensive TVs outperform it.
That said, you could buy a 58-inch HX800 and the PS5 together for the price of the fancier TVs, and still have some change left over for a takeaway.
• Read our full Panasonic HX800 review
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 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, partly thanks to Dolby Vision support, ready for games on Xbox that use it.
The brightness isn't as strong as the other sets here, which is no surprise for the price – every other TV here offers a big upgrade for contrast control and rich HDR. But for the price, we've very few faults to find in this set.
But we don’t just want to watch TV – and this Hisense remains up to the gaming job, too. Low input lag means it's great for pretty any gaming type, but no next-gen features are supported. Again, that's no surprise given the price, and we don't mind – we just want to make sure you're aware.
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