Buying one of the best gaming TVs has never been more important. Especially now both the Xbox Series X console and PS5 consoles are available to buy (if you can find them in stock that is), having a smart TV able to show off the benefits of next-gen gaming is a must.
Even if you plan on sticking with a current-gen console, like the Xbox One, PS4, or Nintendo Switch, there’s still plenty of reasons to consider one of the best gaming TVs of 2021 to show off every visual advancement currently available to you. Because it doesn’t matter how powerful your console is if the TV screen is a pixellated mess.
But what makes a gaming TV so much better for gaming than, say, watching a movie? There are a key key features and formats that really help the best gaming TVs stand out from the rest. There’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) support, for one, as well as low input lag for more responsive play – but new TVs these days also come with a host of gamer-centric features and formats to assist on your gaming journey.
Most notably, you’ll want a TV that can handle 4K resolution, and comes with a 120Hz panel – though that holds true even for the current generation of consoles. The difference is that next-gen consoles can do both at the same time, though, making these specs even more crucial.
New Auto Low-Latency Modes and support for video sync technology, like AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, help to lower latency and prevent screen tearing too – especially if you’re planning on hooking up a gaming PC to your television.
You might even be swayed by an 8K TV, given the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles technically support 8K gaming. 8K games likely won’t be available for a while yet, so this probably isn’t the best use of your cash – but you may wish to futureproof your TV setup now.
You’ll also need to check that the connections are going to play nice with your new console. Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X use the HDMI 2.1 connection standard – which is necessary to support those high resolutions and frame rates. Most TVs are fitted with 2.0b connections rather than the 2.1 standard, though, so keep an eye out for this.
In the guide below we’ll run you through the best gaming TVs available today, from one of the latest Samsung QLEDs to a bargain TCL TV – along with some arguments for upgrading from your current setup and what you should keep an eye out for.
Best gaming TVs
Sure, there are more expensive new Samsung TVs out there, but none make the case for gaming quite like the Samsung Q80T. As much as we’d like to recommend higher-end models like the Q95T or (moving into 8K territory) the Q950TS, it’s the Q80T that really nails that price-performance ratio.
It’s the cheapest Samsung QLED with a full-array backlight, meaning you don’t have to skimp with an edge-lit display (like last year’s Q60R). Despite the name, it’s also the successor to last year’s Q70R, which previously topped this guide – but beating the Q70R’s 14ms input lag with an exceptionally low 8.7ms. That means you’ll get as little delay as possible between button mashing your PS5 controller and seeing the action onscreen.
That figure is reached by turning off Game Motion Plus (which reduces screen judder), but even without it you’ll get a respectable 19.7ms.
The externals of the television are a bit plainer than some of the higher-end QLEDs out there, like the zero-bezel Q950TS 8K QLED, and we found in our tests the odd speck of blooming around bright light sources – but the picture is still pretty exceptional, with bright HDR and AI-enhanced images to make this a great choice for any viewer-gamer buying a TV right now.
The OTS sound system also means you’re getting some serious audio credentials – whether you’re listening to the cry of enemies or the ambient sounds of walking simulators.
Keep an eye out for this year’s Q80A successor, too, which we expect will only improve what’s on offer.
Read the full review: Samsung Q80T QLED TV
The LG CX OLED TV doesn’t look like a big step forward from the acclaimed LG C9 model on paper, but LG has done an incredible job of focusing in on the niggles we had in the previous model, and rendering its flagship OLED TV perfect in pretty much every way. The result is a mesmerisingly cinematic performance that will give movies and TV shows the loving treatment they deserve.
But LG has also managed to make its OLED range an excellent choice for gamers. With sub-1ms input lag, you’ll be getting a astonishing level of responsiveness from your games, and the implementation of four HDMI 2.1 ports means you can plug in as many next-gen consoles as you can bear owning.
The HDMI 2.1 ports are technically 10-bit, rather than 12-bit – something that Samsung’s Q80T’s single HDMI 2.1 port has the upper hand with – but we don’t think you’ll be disappointed with what you see.
You’ll also get VRR (variable refresh rate), 4K/120fps support, and incredible OLED-assisted contrast alongside.
You may have concerns around image retention, when static sections of a picture (say, a HUD) are looped so often that they permanently mark the panel. This isn’t a massive risk, especially since OLED TV makers have developed ‘screen shift’ technologies to regularly adjust the placement of onscreen pictures to help prevent this (via LG).
With a new LG C1 OLED on the way, though, you may want to hold out for a bettered gaming television – even if it costs significantly more at launch.
Read the full review: LG CX OLED
The Sony X900H/XH90 is a solid choice for a mid-spec LCD television, offering smooth motion, excellent HDR, and capable processing all at a reasonable price point.
You may be wondering why we’re featuring the XH90 instead of the higher-spec XH95 model, but it’s worth noting that the former is the only of the two that offers HDMI 2.1 support. While it didn’t launch with the TV, a firmware update in late 2020 brought the HDMI 2.1 standard to two of the television’s ports, making it a smart choice for an affordable 4K TV with good support for dedicated gaming TV features.
You’re getting under 10ms of input lag in the dedicated Game Mode, and you can get up to 120fps on this TV’s panel at 4K resolution – reportedly with some blur issues, meaning this TV is a bit lower in this list than others, though an early 2021 update seems to have fixed them.
You’re not getting VRR (variable refresh rate) or ALLM (auto low latency mode) just yet either, but Sony is expected to introduce it at some point.
The upscaling is on point too for showing off HD sources, while the 20W of audio offer full-bodied sound and even Atmos support, making a dedicated soundbar less of an urgent buy.
You’re lacking some premium technologies, but with Sony’s X1 Ultimate processor, and basic HDMI 2.1 support, you can’t go overly wrong here.
Read the full review: Sony X950/XH95
If your living room – and budget – can’t handle a 65-inch TV, take a look at the truly spectacular TU8000 Series. You’ll get an incredibly low input lag (just 9.7ms) as well as a motion handling technology to keep the action looking consistently smooth. What else could you ask for?
You’re not getting all of the gaming technologies of some other sets in this list, as HDMI 2.1, VRR (variable refresh rate), or a 120Hz panel – but for the everyday gamer, this is a set that gets the basics very right.
You will need to watch out for the narrow viewing angles: content looks best straight on, with color draining from the sides, so it might not be the best choice for four-party Switch game sessions. On the whole, though, this is a solid choice for those wanting a gaming TV on the cheap.
Read the full review: Samsung TU8000
If you have deep pockets and a checkbook filled with blank checks, we’d tell you to reach deep and shell out for only the best 4K TVs on the market – or the pricier models listed above. But that’s not always realistic: for the vast, vast majority of us, our budget to spend on a 4K UHD TV is limited to somewhere under $1,000 – and often it’s even less than that.
To that end, it’s absolutely fair to say that the TCL 6-Series is the best TV you can possibly get in this price range. Its performance per dollar is unmatched and its picture quality – despite a few minor flaws – will truly impress you for what you’re paying.
Said simply, if there’s a better value 4K TV on the market, we’ve yet to see it.
Read the full review: TCL 6-Series (R615, R617)
Why to upgrade your gaming TV
You may be wondering why you need a gaming-specific television. After all, won’t a regular TV do the job just fine?
Sure, any old HD or 4K TV will be able to display the picture information sent through from a games console, as long as it has an HDMI 2.0 port. But there are a host of reasons worth getting a TV with dedicated gaming specification, to really elevate your play in how it looks, sounds, and feels.
Low, low input lag
If you’re a really serious gamer – especially when it comes to reaction-based online games – you need to care about input lag. That’s the time it takes for a particular TV to render image data received at its inputs. Obviously you’re looking for low numbers if you don’t want to be gunned down by an opponent your TV hasn’t even shown yet!
Manufacturers don’t tend to provide input lag figures in their provided specifications. However, we generally measure input lag on the TVs we test, and have provided the measurements for each set included in this guide.
If you’re looking for one of the best TVs for gaming, the most basic requirement is 4K. The Xbox One S outputs all of its games in 4K, which is achieved via surprisingly good built-in upscaling, though the Xbox One X is required for native, game engine-integrated 4K support. The PS4 Pro also outputs games in 4K, using a mix of upscaling and in-game enhancement – while the Nintendo Switch only outputs at HD to a TV, though there’s chatter around a possible 4K refresh coming in 2021.
Frame rate handling
Now that the Xbox One X is almost here and promising native 4K resolution games running at 60 frames a second, make sure that whatever TV you buy has the latest specification HDMI sockets. If it doesn’t have at least one HDMI socket built to the v2.0a specification, it won’t be able to receive 4K resolution at anything higher than 30 frames a second.
Fortunately far more of this year’s 4K TVs do feature HDMI 2.0a sockets than in previous years, but it’s still something that’s worth double checking – especially if you’re buying a particularly cheap TV.
The new HDMI 2.1 standard will no doubt become the benchmark for high-end gaming in time, but we’re yet to see it really rolled out across commercially-available sets.
High dynamic range (and high peak brightness)
Sitting right alongside 4K in today’s video world is high dynamic range (HDR) technology. This delivers pictures with a much wider light range than the standard dynamic range pictures we’ve been living with for decades in a bid to get the pictures we’re seeing on our screens looking closer to the way our eyes see the real world.
This is something the Xbox Series X has an advantage in, with an Auto HDR feature that applies some HDR magic even to SDR games that haven’t been purposefully remastered for high dynamic range. The PS5, as well as last-gen consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One, though, do display in HDR in games that support the format.
The Xbox Series X also supports Dolby Vision – a dynamic HDR format with more precisely calibrated contrast – though currently only for streaming apps. You won’t find it supported on the built-in 4K Blu-ray player, or actually in any Xbox Series X games – though that latter point is expected to be amended before 2021 is out.
Most people would say that HDR delivers more impact than 4K, especially on small TVs. The only problem is that HDR puts a lot of pressure on a TV, since it demands both much more brightness than SDR, and better contrast so that the extra brightness and deeper blacks can potentially share the screen simultaneously.
Many movies and games target 1,000 nits or so for their brightest elements, so if you have a TV less bright than that it won’t unlock HDR’s full potential. That’s especially true in a video game environment, where graphics can be more stark in contrast terms than ‘real life’ tends to be.
When considering HDR, you might want to think about your gaming TV’s bit depth. too. The best HDR experience requires a 10-bit screen able to support 1024 values of each RGB colour – otherwise you’ll get an inferior colour performance, including, possibly, colour striping where you should see subtle blends. Most premium HDR TVs these days are 10-bit, but it’s far from a given at the affordable end of the TV market.
Xbox and PlayStation consoles automatically assess the bit-depth of your TV and select the optimum HDR video output accordingly. Xbox models even provide a description of your TV’s capabilities under 4K TV Details in its Advanced Video Settings menu.
To be clear, it’s entirely possible for an 8-bit TV to deliver a good HDR colour performance if they have a strong video processing engine – but 10-bit panels certainly have an immediate advantage.
One other point to add here is that some TVs – including high-end Samsung models – actually support 12-bit colour management/processing, even though their panels are only natively 10-bit. Xbox consoles however do provide Colour Depth boxes in their Video Fidelity settings that let you select the maximum bit performance for your particular TV.
Another advanced setting but important thing to consider for the ultimate gaming visuals is chroma subsampling.
This video compression term refers to a TV’s colour purity, and is usually written in such terms as 4:4:4 and 4:2:0. These numbers reveal how many pixels colour is sampled from in the top and bottom rows for every two rows of four pixels. So with 4:2:0, for instance, colour is being sampled from two pixels in the top row and no pixels in the bottom row.
From this it follows that the bigger the numbers are, the purer the colour performance will be, as there’s less ‘guesstimating’ of what colours should look like. The problem is, full 4:4:4 colour support requires a lot of extra image data, and so cannot be handled by the HDMI connections or processing of all TVs.
In truth, the differences in picture quality between 4:4:4 and 4:2:2 and even 4:2:0 aren’t usually enormous. They can be more pronounced with gaming graphics than video, though, so it’s worth trying to check what a TV you’re thinking of buying can support – even though it’s not information regularly carried in TV spec lists. The latest consoles are pretty good at detecting the optimum chroma subsampling a TV can support, automatically adjusting their outputs according.
It’s something that can cause annoying ‘handshaking’ issues with some TVs, though, and home consoles now tend to provide subsampling ‘limiter’ options in their video output menus (‘Enable 4:2:2’ on the Xbox One S, and 2160 YUV4:2:0 on the PS4 Pro).
Sound design has always played an integral part in a great gaming experience. It’s getting taken to another level these days, though, with the arrival of surround sound gaming. In fact, the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X even support Dolby Atmos: Dolby’s most advanced sound system yet, which introduces a height channel and ‘object based’ precision to the soundstage.
Things to pay attention to are whether speakers are facing forwards (as this will almost always give you a more direct, clean sound); rated power output; whether there’s a dedicated bass speaker (often found on a TV’s rear); built-in soundbars; and the number of individual speakers used.
Sony is making much of the ‘3D Audio’ capability of the PS5, too, so expect good TV speakers to become even more crucial when the next-gen console launches. (There’s no Dolby Atmos support on the PS5, though.)