Looking for the best gaming TV in 2021 doesn't just mean balancing picture quality and price (though these are factors), but also looking at gaming-specific features that are compatible with next-gen consoles, so you get something that's future-proof. We want to see low-latency gaming modes and HDMI 2.1 features, so you want be desperate to upgrade a year down the line.
The best gaming TVs for PS5, Xbox Series X and PCs support features such as Variable Refresh Rate and 4K at 120Hz, so that you really get the best performance from these machines. That said, sets with HDMI 2.1 support don't tend to be very budget, so this guide will cover cheaper options that are great for gaming in other ways, as well as TVs at all budget levels that include next-gen HDMI.
In this guide, we'll explain what all these important features mean in plain English along with why you'll want them, and which TVs offer them. And we're still expecting them all to look excellent with movies, of course. You'll be able to find the perfect set that mixes next-gen features with great image quality at the budget you need.
Which is the best gaming TV of 2021?
The best TV for gaming for most people is the LG G1, which matches top-tier features with a high-quality OLED panel. 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's a perfect match for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, while G-Sync and Freesync Premium support mean that PC gamers are fully covered.
OLED TVs are fairly premium-priced, though, so if you're looking for something on a budget, check out the Samsung Q80A, which include an HDMI 2.1 port for next-gen consoles, along with bright and rich QLED image quality, plus Samsung's excellent Game Bar feature.
The best gaming TVs 2021: the list
The LG C1 is the 2021 version of the LG CX near the top of this list. Improved image processing means that it's noticeably better than last year's model for movies, but not transformatively better, and with the CX being such a great price, we're currently of the opinion that it represent better value overall.
However, the LG C1 certainly has good reasons you might go for it. Being newer is great for future-proofing, of course, but it has some new gaming tricks up its sleeve. You've still got 4K 120Hz, VRR and ALLM on all four HDMI ports, and a great low input lag level, but you can also now customise the gaming mode depending on what kind of game you're playing. Set it for the FPS mode and it'll make sure you're getting the best possible response time; set it for RPG and it'll apply more image processing to make things prettier, letting response time creep up just a little in exchange.
Overall, this remains a fantastic TV, as our LG C1 review explains. Image quality is top notch, the smart platform is excellent, and it's hard to beat on features. It's just that right now, you could buy the LG CX and save enough for one of the best soundbars, and we think a lot of people might prefer that.
The Samsung Q80A brings the rich colours and bright HDR of QLED at a more affordable price than some of its TV stablemates, but still includes the HDMI 2.1 feature we expect from a gaming TV.
The 50-inch model is the one that really brings the best price, being smaller, though it should be noted that this size includes weaker speakers than the others – the bigger sizes have Object Tracking Sound+ positional audio thanks to speakers around the edges of the screen.
However, all models feature an HDMI 2.1 port, with support for VRR, 4K 120Hz and ALLM. Just the one, mind you – so this is best for people who are happy with a single next-gen console and just want a great TV to really enjoy it. There are three regular HDMI 2.0 ports for other things, of course.
Image quality is really strong for the price, and the brightness is a match for the best OLED screens, and slightly higher than mid-range or budget OLEDs. Black levels are striking for a mid-range LED TV too – it really punches above its price range.
Throw in Samsung's clever Game Bar too – which makes it easy to tweak settings and check whether you're seeing everything exactly as you planned to – and it's quite the package.
You know what you're getting from a Hisense gaming TV: a big, well-specified TV at a price that makes other brand's entry-level models seem awfully underpowered. The A6G is priced aggressively and features both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR, and it also supports the VRR and ALLM aspects of HDMI 2.1 on all three of its HDMI inputs. There's eARC compatibility, integrated Wi-Fi, and USB, Ethernet, CI Card and RF connectors too. There's even composite video if you have old video kit kicking around.
In our review we found the Hisense picture quality sat somewhere between "acceptable for the money" and "really rather impressive". The motion control isn't unnatural, detail enhancement isn't too aggressive and skin tones are very lifelike.
Budget models do require some corner cutting, of course. The blacks aren't very deep – the darkest is a very deep grey rather than a true black – and it isn't hugely bright, so you don't get the impressive levels of contrast you'll find in more expensive sets. It's not brilliant at upscaling but it's very good with full HD 1080p and 4K content. If you're looking for a 4K gaming TV that won't break the bank, you should definitely have Hisense on your shortlist.
The Samsung QN95A is the company's flagship 4K TV for 2021, and boy does it show. It uses the brand new 'Neo QLED' Mini-LED panel for its backlight, which means extremely bright HDR performance, but small lights mean more fine control of local dimming, so when areas need to go dark, then can go really dark.
This is the closest LED TVs have come to OLED's control of contrast, and when you combine it with the cutting edge processing and better brightness, it's the most complete image quality package we've seen on a 4K TV so far. And it has a price tag to match, which is why we think the LG CX is still probably the better choice for most people, balancing cost, performance and price.
However, for those who demand those most control of their gaming performance, this again is second to none. It has four HDMI ports, which means total ALLM, VRR and 4K 120Hz support. But most interesting of all is the Game Bar, which is a special menu designed just for gaming. Want to make sure that what you're seeing is 120Hz, or that VRR is active? The Game Bar tells you, while also giving you control over the two different Game Mode types: one has a bit more processing to improve the image, and has 9.3ms of lag, or you can go extreme with the second mode, which turns off even more processing, and offers a tournament-level 6ms of lag.
The only downside here is no support for Dolby Vision HDR, or Dolby Atmos sound decoding. You won't really mind about the former, because its HDR performance is so good anyway. The latter has yet to make a big impact on gaming, though the set can pass Atmos audio out to a compatible soundbar, so it's not a dealbreaker. Nothing about this TV is – even that high price, as you can see in our five-star Samsung QN95A review.
The LG G1 is the first ever TV with LG's new 'OLED evo' panel in – it's a next-gen screen that can go brighter than previous LG TVs, while still offering the infinite black levels that OLED is famed for. As a result, this offers better HDR performance than almost any TV in the world, and LG's excellent processing really makes the most of it when watching movies or TV, even if they're upscaled from HD to 4K.
But that's only part of what gets it a place in this list. The other half is that it's crammed with gaming-friendly features, starting with having four HDMI 2.1 ports, all of which are ready for 4K 120Hz, VRR and ALLM. Couple that with LG's support for both Nvidia G-Sync and AMD Freesync Premium and you've got every gaming feature you could want catered for.
Crucially, input lag is minuscule too – you can play with just 12.4ms in the regular Game mode, or employ the Boost mode for just 9.4ms. LG's new Game Optimizer also gives you flexibility over exactly how you want things to work.
Dolby Vision HDR support means that you'll really make the most of Xbox games that support this option, and there's Dolby Atmos support for 3D audio in compatible games and movies.
There are some downsides. First and foremost: this TV doesn't come with a stand. It's an expensive, premium set, and is made for wallmounting (it comes with an impressive mount arm that holds it totally flush to the wall). You can buy a regular stand or a tall floorstand for it, but factor it into your budget.
And this new OLED panel may still be prone to burn in of interface elements if you leave them on-screen for really long periods unchanged. The new screen should be better for avoiding this, but the potential is still there. Not a problem for most gaming, but some truly hardcore players will need to be wary of it. Finally, though the OLED screen is brighter than before, LED screens can still go brighter, so if you like to play in a strongly living room during the day, you may find this is harder to see clearly than a bright LED model would be.
Read our full five-star LG G1 review if you want the detailed run-down of why this TV gets such a strong recommendation from us.
Of the TVs here released in 2021, the Sony X90J is the most competitive for delivering really special image quality for the lowest price, while still including HDMI 2.1 features. That's especially true at the huge 75-inch size – 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.
The selling point here is really bright and punchy HDR performance, thanks to its full array backlight. Local dimming means it handles contrast well too, though isn't a patch on the OLED sets (or the Mini-LED Samsung QN95A) for dark area detail. But it's still absolutely at the top of the pile for similarly priced LED TVs. That said, it's more prone to reflections than a lot of sets here, which can interfere with making those bright images look as good as they could. Its image quality also degrades a bit when not viewed straight on – more so than other sets here – which isn't a problem for gaming, but if it'll also pull family movie viewing duty, it's a bit of a shame.
The other selling point is gaming performance of course, and you get 4K 120Hz support over two of its four HDMI ports, along with decent input lag times (though Samsung sets do it better). VRR is promised to come in an update, just like is still promised for the XH90. We presume it'll come whenever the PS5 gets it.
For other viewing duties, the processing on the X90J is just excellent – Sony's handling of motion and upscaling from lower resolutions to 4K remains class-leading – as our full Sony X90J review attests! It's often available for pretty much the same price as the Samsung Q80A, so here's our Sony X90J vs Sony Q80A feature comparison. We've also got a guide to how it compares to Sony's next model up, so check out our Sony X95J vs Sony X90J article for that.
The Samsung QN85A is the most affordable model in the 2021 range with the next-gen Mini-LED panel, which provides stunning brightness and more precise local dimming than regular LED tech is capable of. Compared to the QN95A above, there are fewer dimming zones here, so there's a bit more blooming from light areas to dark, but the overall effect for HDR is stuff just absolutely amazing.
You've got HDMI 2.1 support with 4K 120Hz, VRR and ALLM all on board, and it's easy to see and tweak your settings thanks to Samsung's useful Game Bar interface, which lets you customise which game-friendly features are turned on.
With extremely low input lag, this makes it a real winner for gaming overall, and it's a fantastic TV for regular viewing too, as our full Samsung QN85A review says. The only issues are that it doesn't come in a smaller size than 55 inches, and that it doesn't support Dolby Vision HDR, which is now starting to roll out in games on Xbox.
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. Our full Panasonic HX800 review gives you all the details on why this set impresses us so much for its price.
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. Check out our full Hisense A7500F review for more on this set.
What to look for in the best gaming TVs
Many of the best TVs overall, from budget sets to flagship OLED TVs, 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.
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. Here's our full 120Hz gaming explainer, if you want more details.
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. It's a big deal – our VRR explainer will tell you exactly how it works, if you want to dig in further.
These three technologies (ALLM, 4K 120Hz, VRR) are all supported by HDMI 2.1, which is the new generation of the venerable connection. HDMI 2.1 uses the same connection type as previous HDMI ports, so everything is backwards compatible – but its big upgrades are supports these new technologies, as well as 8K. Our HDMI 2.1 explainer can tell you everything you need to know about the new standard. Sadly, you won't find HDMI 2.1 on on many of the best TVs under £1000, and none of the best TVs under £500, which is why our top picks here are fairly premium. However,
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 32-inch TVs – perfect for bedrooms and offices
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