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Finding a suitable TV for your PlayStation or Xbox used to require a careful look at spec sheets. But that’s not the case these days as the best TVs for gaming are usually the best TVs you can buy, period. While nobody needs a fancy TV to enjoy a good video game, the right set can help you maximize your gaming hardware’s potential. If you’re unsure of where to start, we’ve laid out some helpful advice for buying the right model below, along with a few recommendations for the best gaming TVs you can buy today.
What to look for in a gaming TV
Whether you use it for gaming or not, all good TVs are built on the same foundations. You want a 4K resolution (which is standard nowadays), sufficient brightness, high contrast ratios with deep and uniform black tones, colors that find the right balance between accuracy and saturation, and wide viewing angles. For video games specifically, you want a TV with minimal input lag and fast motion response, with no blur or other unwanted artifacts behind quick-moving objects. Of course, finding a set that ticks all those boxes and fits into your budget can be the trickiest part of the process.
For now, a top OLED TV will offer the best picture quality for gaming or otherwise. Good OLED TVs still tend to cost more than LED LCD alternatives, however, and they still may not get bright enough for those who have their TV set in a particularly well-lit environment. (Some OLED TV makers say they’ll address the latter with future models.) If you opt for an LCD TV, an advanced backlight with mini-LEDs and effective full-array local dimming will usually improve contrast and lighting detail, while a quantum dot filter can enhance colors.
One thing you don’t need to worry about is 8K support. Although the PS5 and Xbox Series X are technically capable of outputting 8K video, very few games are made for that resolution, and 8K’s practical benefits are extremely minimal unless you plan on sitting unreasonably close to a massive TV. The few 8K TVs on the market are also very expensive.
All that said, there are a few terms you should look for in particular when buying a TV for your new game console or high-end graphics card.
To get the most out of a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S, your TV should have full HDMI 2.1 support. This is the latest major update to the HDMI spec, enabling a higher maximum bandwidth – 48 gigabits per second, up from HDMI 2.0’s 18 Gbps – and a handful of features that are beneficial for gaming specifically. These include variable refresh rate (VRR) and automatic low latency mode (ALLM), which we detail further below.
Beyond that, perhaps the chief perk of HDMI 2.1 is its ability to transmit ultrasharp 4K video at up to 120Hz refresh rate. Not every PS5 or Xbox Series X/S game supports frame rates this high – and some only do so at lower resolutions – but those that do will look and feel especially fluid in motion. HDMI 2.1 also brings support for Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), which allows for higher-quality 5.1- and 7.1-channel audio from a source device connected to the TV to a compatible soundbar or receiver.
The more full HDMI 2.1 ports your TV has, the better. “Full” is the key word there. As reported by TFT Central, because HDMI 2.1 is backwards compatible with HDMI 2.0, TV and monitor manufacturers have been allowed to brand ports as “HDMI 2.1” even if they lack full (or any) support for the spec’s upgraded features. We recommend a few TVs below that have true HDMI 2.1 ports, but if you’re buying a new TV for gaming, make sure your chosen set isn’t trying to hide any capabilities you may consider essential.
HDR — High Dynamic Range
HDR refers to a TV’s ability to display a wider range between the darkest and brightest parts of a picture. This broader range can bring out details that would otherwise be missing on a standard dynamic range (SDR) TV, in both the very dark and, especially, the very bright areas of an image. HDR typically comes with an improvement to color reproduction as well, displaying a larger palette of more vibrant colors that brings content closer to its creator’s original vision.
To get an HDR picture, you need both content that is mastered to take advantage of the tech and a TV capable of displaying that content. HDR also comes in a variety of formats, which are generally split between those that utilize static metadata (e.g., HDR10) and those that utilize dynamic metadata (e.g., HDR10+, Dolby Vision). In short, the latter allows a TV to optimize its brightness and colors on a per-scene or even per-frame basis, while the former uses one set of optimized settings for the entirety of the given content. Support for these formats can differ depending on the TV, content and game console you use. The Xbox Series X and S, for example, support Dolby Vision for gaming, while the PS5 does not.
The good news is that most TVs you’d buy in 2023 are HDR-ready in some fashion, even on the budget end of the market. The catch is that some TVs are much better at getting the most out of HDR than others. The same goes for actual content mastered in HDR. With video games in particular, there aren’t as many games designed to take advantage of HDR as there are movies (though the number is growing), and the variance in quality tends to be wider.
HGiG — HDR Gaming Interest Group
HGiG stands for the HDR Gaming Interest Group. Sony and Microsoft are both members, as are many TV makers and game developers. What this means is that, ideally, all the groups communicate information so that you can start up a new game on a console or PC and have it automatically recognize your display. Once that happens, the game can adjust the internal settings to adjust for that display’s capabilities and give you the best picture quality possible, without losing details in the brightest or darkest areas of the screen. For example, daylight at the end of a dark tunnel may portray a brightly lit environment instead of looking like an overexposed white blob.
This is a good thing, but the reality is a bit more complicated. Not all TVs highlight HGiG compatibility in their settings menu, while only some PlayStation and Xbox games recognize and follow the guidelines. If an HGiG option is listed in your TV’s tone mapping settings, you should turn it on prior to running the console’s HDR settings. Then, if you’re playing a game that supports HDR and HGiG, you should be in good shape without having to adjust the various luminance levels again. Still, how all of this looks to you might differ depending on your TV and the game you’re playing. Owners of certain LG OLED models, for instance, may prefer their TV’s Dynamic Tone Mapping setting. Use whatever settings you think look best.
ALLM — Auto Low Latency Mode
ALLM allows a source (like your PS5 or Xbox) to tell the display to switch into a mode that reduces lag between receiving each frame of an image and displaying it on the TV. This cuts out additional processing that could be the milliseconds of difference between landing a precise input or not. A good modern TV can automatically switch to game mode, then back out when you’d rather watch a movie or TV show.
VRR — Variable Refresh Rate
VRR is a familiar feature to PC gamers, but it’s still relatively new for most TVs. Most gamers have experienced slowdown, screen tearing or stutters that can happen as your system struggles to render each frame at the target speed, which is usually 30 or 60 fps on a TV. If the game stutters, then the TV either stays on the same frame or displays part of two different ones, which is the visual artifact of tearing.
With VRR, however, everything stays in sync — your display won’t show the next frame until it’s ready, which can make things feel smoother and more responsive, even if the system fails to deliver on its target of 30, 60 or even 120 fps.
There are a few different implementations of VRR available, including Nvidia’s G-Sync, AMD’s FreeSync and the HDMI Forum’s VRR spec, which is part of the full HDMI 2.1 standard. Both a TV and an input device need to support the same VRR tech for it to work, and different devices may only support VRR within a specific refresh rate window. On a 120Hz display, for instance, the PS5’s VRR only works between 48Hz and 120Hz.
As a reminder, the PS5 supports HDMI Forum VRR, the Xbox Series X/S support HDMI Forum VRR and FreeSync, while gaming PCs may support G-Sync or FreeSync depending on whether they use a Nvidia or AMD graphics card. An ideal gaming TV supports all the big VRR formats, but missing, say, G-Sync, isn’t a killer if you only game on a PS5 or Xbox.
The best gaming TVs you can get right now
We’re updating this guide during a transitional period for the TV market. The major brands have largely announced their TV lineups for 2023, but most aren’t available to buy yet. When the new sets do arrive, their prices will be higher out of the gate than last year’s models, which manufacturers often sell for less now to clear out inventory. Since some of those 2022 TVs are still excellent, they can offer strong value while they’re still available at a discount, particularly if their successors only wind up being iterative upgrades.
All of this is to say that, if you can wait for prices on 2023’s TVs to come down, or if you don’t care about paying more for the latest and greatest set, it’s best to hold off and see how this year’s models stack up. However, if you can’t wait for a new TV, a good set from last year should provide the most bang for your buck as of this writing. While Engadget doesn’t formally review TVs, we feel confident in the recommendations below based on our hands-on experience with some of them and the consensus from TV review sites we trust, such as Rtings, Wirecutter, and CNET, among others.
LG C2 OLED
The LG C2’s OLED panel can’t get as bright as a QD-OLED TV like Samsung’s S95B, but it still performs excellently in terms of contrast, input lag, motion response and viewing angles. It’s just less ideal in a brightly-lit room. It follows the HGiG’s HDR guidelines, supports ALLM, works with all the major VRR formats and has four full HDMI 2.1 ports capable of outputting 4K 120Hz with a PS5, Xbox or PC. It also supports all the major HDR standards, including Dolby Vision, and it’s available in a wide variety of sizes, from a 42-inch model to an 83-inch one. It costs a bit less than most competing OLED TVs, too.
Samsung S95B OLED
The aforementioned Samsung S95B uses a QD-OLED panel that combines an OLED panel with a layer of quantum dots. This allows it to display the high contrast and deep blacks of any good OLED TV without sacrificing as much in the way of peak brightness or color saturation. It should deliver consistently smooth motion, and it has four full HDMI 2.1 ports, so it can play up to 4K 120Hz. It also supports ALLM, all the major VRR formats and HDR10 and HDR10+.
However, the S95B doesn’t work with Dolby Vision HDR, and it’s only available in 55- and 65-inch sizes (the new S95C will include a 77-inch model, in addition to supporting a faster official maximum refresh rate of 144Hz). Beyond that, some S95B owners have complained about issues with the TV’s picture quality while in “Game Mode” after recent firmware updates. This shouldn’t make the S95B anywhere close to a poor TV, and it can still be worth it if you play in a bright room. But with an updated model just around the corner, we’re a little more hesitant to recommend it over the LG C2 for gaming specifically.
Sony A95K OLED
Sony’s A95K is another well-regarded QD-OLED TV, plus it supports Dolby Vision. It doesn’t support HDR10+, though, and it only has two full HDMI 2.1 ports. It’s also much pricier than the C2 or S95B, starting at $2,300 for a 55-inch model as of this writing. The upcoming A95L is worth monitoring, as it’ll be the first TV to support Dolby Vision at 4K 120Hz.
If you’d prefer the extra brightness of a LCD TV, or if you think you might play one game (extremely) long enough to worry about burn-in, consider Samsung’s QN90B. It can’t match the contrast, response time or viewing angles of a good OLED TV, but its Mini LED backlighting and quantum dot color should make for a richer image than most LCD TVs, particularly in HDR. Its motion and input lag shouldn’t cause problems, either, and it can get much brighter than the models above. Like other Samsung TVs, it doesn’t support Dolby Vision, but it has four full HDMI 2.1 ports, ALLM and all the major VRR formats. It also comes in several sizes, with the 43- and 50-inch models capable of hitting a 144Hz refresh rate. The rest go up to 120Hz, which is the max for a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S.
The QN90B isn’t cheap, though. For those on a tighter budget, TCL’s 6-Series (R655) TV should work fine. It’s a step down from the QN90B, particularly when it comes to HDR performance and viewing angles, but it should still look good in any environment, with low input lag, support for all the main HDR and VRR technologies, and a 144Hz refresh rate. It only has two full HDMI 2.1 ports, though. Note that this is a Roku TV – if you’d prefer Google’s TV OS, Hisense’s U8H is a close competitor around the same price.
Vizio’s M-Series Quantum X, on the other hand, doesn’t look as nice, but for frame rate junkies it supports a 120Hz refresh rate, with its 50-inch model capable of reaching 240Hz, albeit at a 1080p resolution. For PC gamers who want to dabble in competitive shooters like Counter-Strike, it’s an outlier for a big display in this price range.
On the lower end, TCL’s 5-Series (S555) is a highly-rated QLED TV with low lag, HDR, local dimming and better contrast than most models in this range. It technically supports VRR, too, but like many cheaper TVs, it’s limited to a 60Hz refresh rate and lacks HDMI 2.1.
Richard Lawler contributed to this report.
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