What To Consider When Buying A Gaming TV

What To Consider When Buying A Gaming TV
Image: TCL
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With the huge amount of options currently available, we’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to buying a TV for gaming.

However, those vast options can be both a blessing and a curse. If you’re upgrading from something older or making your first big gaming TV purchase, trying to sort the wheat from the chaff can feel overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

To help you pick out a suitable gaming TV here’s what you need to consider when buying, along with a few suggestions.

Make sure Game Mode is enabled

As one of the grandfathers of first-person shooters noted, Game Mode is the biggest change you can make to any existing TV. Most modern TVs have the feature, but not every TV will automatically enable it when needed.

Game Mode ensures your TV is showing images at the lowest possible latency, which is the time between you pressing a button or nudging the stick on your controller to that action being displayed on-screen. You don’t just want good latency for first-person shooters or fast-paced fighting games. Unnecessary lag can make camera movements in slower, third-person adventure games feel sluggish and sickly; it can be the difference between that perfect dodge and having to restart a boss fight.

Precisely how much latency your TV has will differ, but just remember this when shopping around. Whenever a manufacturer quotes the fastest possible response times, those are always measured when Game Mode is enabled. You can get a buttery smooth experience on that big screen — just make sure Game Mode is turned on.

Look for high refresh rates

battlefield 2042
Image: EA DICE

Refresh rates measure how many times per second that the TV will refresh its image. A higher rate generally means you’ll have smoother on-screen motion, although there are some caveats with that.

The latest TVs with HDMI 2.1, for instance, can support 4K resolutions at 120Hz. That doesn’t mean all your games will run that smoothly though, as many consoles and PCs lack the power to push such high frame rates.

Older TVs — typically models from 2020 and prior that support the older HDMI 2.0 standard — are capable of running at 120Hz, but they’ll often have to do so at a lower resolution. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially since many games on the next-gen consoles are forced to lower their resolution to hit the higher frame rate target.

This is worth noting especially for Xbox Series X users. The console natively supports rendering at 1440p, which is the highest possible resolution you can have with 120Hz on TVs that support HDMI 2.0. And if you’re looking to really only play games like Destiny 2 or Warzone at those higher frame rates, it’s worth double-checking your TV and console settings — you might not need to upgrade your TV at all! And if you’re connecting your gaming PC to your TV, the Windows (or AMD/Nvidia, depending on your hardware) graphics settings will automatically detect all the highest possible combination of refresh rates and resolutions. Many games will also let you customise this through their video settings too.

PlayStation users, unfortunately, don’t have it so easy. At the time of writing the PS5 doesn’t support 1440p output at any refresh rate — it’s either 1080p or 4K. 120Hz output is supported if you have an HDMI 2.1 capable display as of the latest update, although you may have to specifically enable a higher performance mode in games that support it. Here’s a list of PS5 games that support 120 FPS at the time of writing. On the bright side, Sony has formally said the PS5 is technologically capable of supporting 1440p — we’ll just have to wait for a future update from Sony.

Size and resolution

Image: Nintendo

Any TV you buy these days will support 4K, and high dynamic range (HDR) is pretty much standard across the board as well. The more important kicker with the size and resolution of a TV is actually the physical space you’re installing the TV into.

There’s some simple math you can do to work out how far away you should be for any given TV. For a 4K TV, measure the TV’s vertical side, then measure out 1.5x that distance from the centre of the screen. That’ll give you the optimal distance for any 4K TV, regardless of what size it is.

If that’s too hard, however, a good general guide is to be about 1 metre away from a 55-inch TV. If you own a 65-inch screen, try and sit 1.2 metres away, and 1.4 metres away for a 75-inch screen. This puts you far enough away from the TV that you won’t be able to visually identify individual pixels, improving the overall experience.

What’s the difference between OLED, QLED, Mini-LED?

OLED, which is short for organic light-emitting diode, is a technology that emits light when hit with an electrical current. The key advantage is that every minuscule OLED pixel only emits light based on how much electrical current it receives. If a pixel doesn’t get any current, it doesn’t turn on at all. That allows OLED screens to display true blacks and much deeper contrast than what you’d find on competing technologies.

That on-or-off nature means OLED screens don’t suffer from the blooming effect you might see on TVs — instances where white text, or brighter lights, bleed into the dark pixels surrounding them. OLEDs also have almost near-instantaneous response time, although some screens (particularly mobile phones and smaller devices that use OLED technology) can still suffer from ugly motion blur due to persistence. To combat this, some OLED TVs and screens incorporate strobing or black frame insertion technology, which can be especially helpful for fast-moving video games.

But there’s a major downside to these motion blur offerings. It often results in a heavy reduction to a screen’s maximum brightness, which can be a huge problem for two reasons. The maximum brightness of OLED is substantially lower than LCD or QLED screens, and manufacturers will deliberately have an automatic brightness limiter. It’s designed to prolong the life of an OLED screen, but it’s most noticeable in bright outdoor scenes, especially in HDR content or games.

So if you’re in a room with a lot of natural light, OLED screens might not be the best choice. But that’s where QLED comes in, which is basically an LED screen that uses a layer of nanoparticles in between the LCD layer and the backlight. While QLED doesn’t have the contrast precision that OLED can achieve, it can get much, much brighter than OLED is ever capable of. That makes a big difference, especially in bright HDR games or scenes, like an open-world adventure where you’re looking into the clouds on a bright day.

QLED and LED screens won’t suffer from image retention, also known as burn-in. Modern QLED screens also have better colour reproduction than OLED TVs, primarily because OLEDs can’t hit the same brightness highs, although their advantages with contrast mean they’re still excellent at displaying dark colours. QLED is also a much more accessible technology, so if you’re looking to buy a screen today — or a screen on a budget — then chances are you’ll find a QLED model available for much cheaper, from more manufacturers, than an OLED screen.

The latest technology on the market is mini-LED. It’s the evolution of LED/LCD technology that’s designed to allow LCD screens to pack in more diodes into a single screen. The benefits of this are two-fold: by having more LEDs, it’s possible to increase the amount of dimming zones on a screen, negating some of the blooming effects mentioned prior. More LEDs can also lead to a brighter screen. And in the long-term, mini-LED TVs will be cheaper to manufacture — although the cost of OLEDs has reduced dramatically over the last 5 or 6 years.

Double-check your connections

Image: iStock/Kameleon007

If you’re buying a TV for use with a PS5 or Xbox Series X, you’ll want to make sure the TV comes with HDMI 2.1 support. The standard is fairly new, so not all new TVs have HDMI 2.1 support across every port. (You’ll want HDMI 2.1 capable cables too, although either console will ship with one in the box.)

You’ll also want to keep in mind that one of those HDMI ports will likely be used in the future — if not now — for your audio setup. Modern TVs support a technology called HDMI eARC, which is the most efficient way of getting in-sync audio from your soundbar or AV receiver. The downside is that HDMI eARC, as implied by the name, requires the use of an HDMI port — and in many current modern TVs, at least one of the HDMI 2.1 capable ports will be dedicated as the HDMI eARC port.

This is generally only a problem once you start connecting multiple HDMI 2.1 devices to the same TV. So if you only have one next-gen console, this might not be an issue — but it’s worth double-checking your equipment, and what it needs to plug into, before you buy.

Our suggestions for gaming TVs

TCL 65″ X925 8K Mini-LED Google TV, $3,495

gaming tv
Image: TCL

This Google-powered mini-LED TCL TV gives you fantastic picture performance, with enhanced brightness, contrast ratio, and colour reproduction. The X925’s Variable Refresh Rate will automatically adjust refresh rates (up to 120HZ), which helps to create a much smoother experience while gaming. It’s also a good option if you want to be an early adopter of 8K.

TCL 65″ C815 4K Premium UHD Android QLED TV, $1,395

Image: TCL

TCL’s C815 QLED TV gives you a wide colour gamut, resulting in some of the brightest colours you can get. This smart TV acts as an all-in-one entertainment hub for your non-gaming needs too. It also supports both Dolby Vision and Atmos to help enhance its audio and picture.

LG C1 65″ 4K Smart Self-lit OLED TV W/ AI Thinq, $3,995

Image: LG

We weren’t joking when we said that OLED TVs come with premium prices. If you want cinema-quality picture, the LG C1 is a great OLED TV with some of the best colour and contrast that you can find. With a refresh rate of 120Hz, it also comes bundled with gaming-specific features, like AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync.

Sony 55″ A8H 4K UHD Android Bravia OLED TV, $2,495

gaming tv
Image: Sony

Sony is a pretty reliable option for OLED TVs. With a 4K Ultra HD resolution, Sony’s A8H is a solid mid-range pick if you’re after a TV with outstanding picture quality. It has great colour depth and some nice, inky blacks.

Hisense 65″ U8G 4K ULED Smart TV, $1,595

gaming tv
Image: Hisense

If you’re on a tight budget, Hisense’s U8G range is a solid pick. With a QLED HDR10+ display, you’ll get a wide range of colours with sharp accuracy and low input lag. It doesn’t have HDMI 2.1 inputs, so you’ll only get 4K @ 60Hz.

Comments

  • I’ve had a Sony Bravia TV for years now, and it was the best purchase I made. I actually use it not only for my consoles, but for my PC gaming too. When I do eventually upgrade I plan to stick with the Bravia line. Such an amazing TV.

  • I would also throw the Sony X90J into this list. At under $1800 for the 55 inch model, it’s a premium Tv with 2 x HDMI 2.1, high contrast and amazing HDR.

    It’s only let down by no VRR or ALLM (though supposedly coming in a future patch though I wouldn’t bet my life on it) and the viewing angle isn’t as wide as others. I don’t know about others, but I tend to sit in front of my TV when playing games, so I don’t think that’s an issue.

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