Everything You Should Consider When Buying A Gaming TV

Everything You Should Consider When Buying A Gaming TV
Image: TCL
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TV manufacturers have caught on that video games might just be a big deal and have been going out of their way to cater for our needs, so we’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to buying a TV for gaming.

However, a vast amount of options can be both a blessing and a curse. All TVs are not made equal and if you don’t know what you should be looking for when buying a new one, you can potentially saddle yourself with something that isn’t going to enhance your gaming experience.

Buying a new TV isn’t the kind of thing you can be doing regularly (unless you’re Elon Musk rich), so it’s important to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth (and potentially future-proofing needs).

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

gaming tv
Image: iStock/Girts Ragelis

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 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. We’ve also seen a fairly recent rollout of TVs geared toward next-gen gaming from TCL and Samsung that can support 144Hz refresh rates. However, 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 gaming console’s 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, 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

Everything You Should Consider When Buying A Gaming TV
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 from 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

Everything You Should Consider When Buying A Gaming TV
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 55″ C835 TCL Mini-LED 4K TV

tcl 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 C835’s Variable Refresh Rate will automatically adjust the TV’s refresh rates (up to 144HZ), which helps to create a much smoother experience while gaming. It also supports both Dolby Vision and Atmos to help enhance its audio and picture.

Where to buy: Bing Lee ($1,595) | eBay ($1,595) | TCL ($1,999)

LG C1 55″ 4K Smart Self-lit OLED TV W/ AI Thinq

lg gaming tv
Image: LG

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. If your budget can handle it, the newer LG C2 TV could also be worth your time.

Where to buy: Catch ($2,379) |  eBay ($2,359) | The Good Guys ($2,495)

Samsung 55″ QN85B 4K QLED Smart TV

samsung gaming tv
Image: Samsung

Samsung is a pretty reliable option for QLED TVs – after all, it’s the brand that’s probably the most associated with these types of displays. With a 4K Ultra HD resolution, Samsung’s QN85B is a solid pick if you’re after a TV with outstanding picture quality. As a “Neo QLED” TV, it uses Samsung’s take on a mini-LED backlit screen to achieve rich colours with high brightness.

Where to buy: Bing Lee ($2,695) |  eBay ($2,695) | The Good Guys ($2,695)

Hisense 55″ U7HAU Series 4K ULED Smart TV

Everything You Should Consider When Buying A Gaming TV
Image: Hisense

If you’re on a tight budget, Hisense‘s U7HAU range is a solid pick. With a QLED HDR10+ and Dolby Vision IQ display, you’ll get a wide range of colours with sharp accuracy and low input lag. It includes HDMI 2.1 inputs, so you’ll get all of the gaming optimisation features like ALLM and VRR, while also hitting 4K @ 120Hz.

Where to buy: The Good Guys ($1,295)

This article has been updated since its original publication.

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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