When you game, you want to be immersed in the experience. You want to notice how great the game looks; you do not want to be plagued by things that look “off.” A great television can make this a reality, particularly if you are willing to invest in one. It can bring out the best in your console or PC (if you want to use the TV as a monitor).
While a lot of attention is paid to gaming computer monitors, with specialist options allowing for maximum FPS and range of image, not as much gets said about televisions. Yet we know that gamers want the absolute best, and being able to relax on the couch with your Switch, Xbox, or PS5 (once you get one) is an afternoon or evening well spent.
We do not necessarily recommend buying a new TV just for a slight increase in gaming performance. Still, if you are upgrading or buying one anyway, why not take your gaming wants and needs into consideration?
Yet, where do you begin? What is important? Shopping for a TV can be tricky anyway, and you can’t spend days on end looking at every model, making comparisons you are not entirely sure about. Do not worry, as that is what we are here for.
What to Look for in a Gaming TV
While there is certainly overlap between what makes a great gaming TV and what makes a great general television, there are some things you will look at or prioritize differently and some numbers you will want to pay closer attention to. Here is what you need to know:
Low Input Lag: Input lag is how long it will take a button press to show up on your screen. After all, your TV needs time (however minuscule) to process the instructions it is getting from your console to create the image on-screen. It is measured in milliseconds (ms), and you will likely be OK with anything below 40ms. People who want to be absolutely sure this will not be an issue will want an input lag of less than 20ms—naturally, the lower the number, the better. However, there is a point of diminishing returns where the difference will not be worth the price.
People who mostly play JRPGS, turn-based games and simulations probably do not need to care as much about input lag as people who play first-person shooters or fighting games day in and day out. However, as stated, after a certain point, the input lag is not a concern.
Picture Quality: While you will likely want to fiddle with the settings both in-game and on your television to get the best image, you want to make sure the TV you choose can adjust those settings and that there is a base to work from. The exact parameters and default preferences will change from person to person (perhaps you like to play games with the screen a bit brighter than usual, or the opposite), but making sure to focus on this is paramount to making the right call.
Some gaming TVs might even have some pre-sets to choose from. If you are worried about messing up your picture, these can be helpful (though you can usually restore the default settings if needed).
Resolution: If you are looking at gaming TVs, we will not even talk about anything outside of 4K. All the new consoles (save for the Switch) can reach 4K resolution at one frame rate or another, and 4K gaming is simply the new norm. Do not get a new 1080p TV at this point for any reason, and if you cannot afford one, save up for one. You will thank us later.
There also may be TVs that can theoretically reach higher resolutions, but there is no need for them at the present moment.
Refresh Rate: As you might be able to figure out, the refresh rate is how often the television screen refreshes itself. Most television sets made today have at least a refresh rate of 60hz (meaning it does so 60 times a second), but some might be able to reach 120hz. In most cases, higher is better, though you will not find a refresh rate higher than 120hz with a 4k TV.
As a gamer, you want a minimum of 60hz, as the latest consoles will often run games at 60 FPS. While few games will run at higher than that, there might be some in the future that do or have an unlocked frame rate (though this has been rare thus far). PC gamers hoping to use their TV as a monitor might want to have a TV that has a higher refresh rate as well, effectively as high as possible while knowing the maximum FPS your graphics card can put out.
Some televisions might have an option for a variable refresh rate (VRR), which can help save energy and your new purchase’s longevity.
Design: How does the TV look, how would the TV look in your home, and how would it be set up? Is there a plan to mount it on the wall or use stands? Does it fit safely in or on appropriate furniture? You probably have done the measurements already, and most televisions look relatively the same, but you should make sure that it will be a good fit before you make a purchase you regret.
Size: Except for the absolute extremes, size will be a matter of preference. You might have limited space or need a larger television for a larger living room or distance from the couch to the TV. However, you should note that you might not commonly find the high refresh rates, extra features, and resolutions you want from a gaming TV in smaller TVs. If you want a 4K TV, there will be a floor for screen size.
Sound Options: If you are willing to invest in a new TV that is great for gaming, you are probably keen to invest in a halfway-decent sound system (or pair of high-end headphones) for gaming as well. This means that the speakers built into the TV might not matter so much (though there should still be some, and they should be acceptable), but the TV should have the ports to support quality sound, wherever it might come from.
Panel Technology: What type of panel does a TV you are looking at use? We cannot get into every panel’s specifics; we can say that each has its benefits and disadvantages, even if the drawback is just being more expensive. While we will not get into the science of each type, you should know the benefits and disadvantages. Some options include:
- CRT (cathode ray tube) TVs are outdated and rarely sold now. You might want to have a set for some retro gaming, but it should not be your main TV. They use a lot of power, and the picture quality will be relatively poor.
- LCD (liquid crystal display) TVs were effectively the norm a while back and were good for their time, but effectively are now outdated. A new TV good enough for gaming likely has a different panel technology. However, most of what follows is an advancement or variation of LCD technology.
- LED panels is a variation of an LCD TV and are usually slimmer, more energy-efficient, and have a longer lifespan. They are still relatively affordable and have a clear picture even if the viewing angle is not perfect.
- QLED (quantum dot LED) TV is a variant of a LED TV, but one worth its own section. They can provide incredibly bright images and produce excellent colors, though they can be relatively expensive.
- OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs are not a LED variant. Instead, they use different technology to provide an incredibly lifelike image and deep blacks that are great for gaming. Image quality is excellent, and they can be superb for gaming. Unfortunately, they can be expensive and will not get as bright as many LED TVs.
Price: Of course, price matters when you are searching for a television. Otherwise, you would just stuff the $20,000 model in your online cart and call it a day. If you are looking for a TV for gaming and want to get a good one, you will need to spend some money, but there is a certain point where it is hard to recommend a television due to diminishing returns.
Only you know your budget, but we can say for sure you can get a great TV for less than $1000 and that you will likely have to spend at least a few hundred for a TV you will want for more than a few years.
Additional Features: Televisions are not just televisions anymore. Practically any set made is now a smart TV, which has streaming capability built-in, a variety of apps (though not nearly as expansive or effective a catalog as the average smartphone), and ease-of-use features that can allow you to switch devices quickly. For the most part, any smart TV will have all the features you might want for gaming.
On top of all the above, you should keep in mind that in most cases, whatever you choose as your gaming television will also be what you use for a lot of content, whether watching shows, streaming content, or something else. You also will have to keep in mind what your family wants and the fact that you may have this television for several console generations, so budget and future-proofing matter.
The Top 5 Gaming TVs for 2021
Instead of simply taking the top five all-around options, we decided to pick out the best in class for several categories, as you probably are not interested in the fifth-best all-around option when there are so many good choices. While each of these picks has its niche, all would be a great buy unless there is a specific disqualifying factor. If screen size is relevant, we will mention it, and if not, note that there is likely a very similar option for you in a different screen size.
Without further wait, here are our top picks:
1. Best All-Around Gaming TV: LG OLED CX
The LG OLED CX Series is our all-around top pick for a good reason. It is an OLED display that can provide you with a clear 4K picture and fantastic motion. Blacks can be perfect (the TV can turn pixels off individually), while the TV can be bright enough to overcome some glare and outside lighting. All this makes this TV perfect for gaming in a wide range of conditions. It is even compatible with G-SYNC and other common features found in gaming.
For other gaming specs, you will benefit from the 120Hz refresh rate, HDR performance (if your games and consoles can use it), extremely low response times, and usage of HDMI 2.1 to enhance all of that. Variable refresh rates are supported, and whether you are using a PC with this TV or any console currently on the market, you will likely be able to get the most out of it with this screen.
There is the 48″ version if you are looking for absolute performance in a reasonably-sized package, or 65″ or even 77″ if you want the full living room experience. In either case, the picture quality is astounding, and it would be hard to be disappointed with this TV. It can be costly at around $1500 to $2000 depending on the screen size, but it is worth it for your gaming experience.
We recommend the LG OLED CX if:
- You want an upgrade to your television and game frequently, but otherwise, want a generally good TV with all the expected features.
- You are making a recommendation to someone else or buying them a (very nice) gift and do not know their entire situation.
- You are willing to spend a good deal of money on an absolute top-class gaming TV.
2. Best Big Screen Gaming TV: VIZIO 75″ Class P-Series Quantum 2020
When it comes to screens, there is an argument for bigger is better. Yet bigger is also much more expensive, and it can be difficult to get a screen that is large enough to nearly fill a wall (outside of a projector, which is a different discussion). This is where the VIZIO P Series Quantum 2020 comes in, an excellent all-around large television that can show deep blacks (it has local dimming), rich colors, and in 4K.
This TV is not only good for gaming but is also great for movies. With bright colors and a high contrast ratio, your games and content will likely be vibrant and feel more “alive” than on your old TV. It does not have the best viewing angles, but ideally, its large size mitigates this effect. Few TVs beat it for the single-player cinematic experience that so many modern games like to create.
Otherwise, the set is 120Hz, has 4K resolution, has a sub-20ms input lag, and 4 HDMI ports (along with other ports) to fit all your consoles and equipment. Installed apps and smart features are standard, and the set will make a fine addition to many homes for general usage.
There is also a 65″ option if you want something a little smaller, but we truly recommend the 75″ if you want a big screen that remains affordable and great for gaming. With smaller televisions, there is likely a better option for the price.
We recommend the VIZIO 75″ Class P-Series Quantum if:
- You have a large crowd to play with and want a TV that can provide a theater experience.
- You want an incredibly immersive experience, do not want to deal with a projector, and have the wall space and set up for a TV of this size.
- You are looking to balance screen size, price, and other factors in a reasonable manner.
3. Best High-End Gaming TV: Samsung 85″ Class Q950TS QLED 8K UHD HDR Smart TV
Are you willing to spend a lot of money on a gaming TV that should last you a while and provide the absolute best experience? If so, then we recommend a variation of the LG OLED CX. Still, if you want to go even further, then we recommend the 85″ Class Q950TS QLED UHD HDR Smart TV, which boasts a massive screen size, small frame, 33 million pixels, 8K resolution, and every feature you could possibly want from a TV, all for the price of $10,000-$13,000.
When using this TV, the limit will not be your television, but whatever device you are using for gaming. Unless you are among the most hardcore of PC gamers and are experimenting with something new, you likely will not use this TV’s full potential when gaming. In fact, you probably will not use this device’s full potential when you get the next generation of graphics cards and consoles.
In terms of some of the key specs, it has a 120hz refresh rate (240 motion rate), 8K UHD (7,680 x 4,320) resolution, full smart features, plenty of ports for all your gaming needs, and is HDR compatible.
In short, be very sure you know what you are doing before you get this TV, but you will get the absolute best gaming performance possible from it.
We recommend the Samsung Class Q950TS if:
- You not only want something current but something that is a flagship TV and could belong to the next generation.
- You are willing to spend upwards of $10,000 on a TV (and that is a sale price), many of the features and maximum potential of which will currently be challenging to find content for.
- You want a larger TV than our big-screen option, with more pixels than nearly any other TV commercially available, that is beautiful with an almost invisible frame, and you have space and budget for it.
4. Best Budget Gaming TV: VIZIO 50″ M7 Series Quantum LED 4K UHD Smartcast TV
Alternatively to the above pick, perhaps you are looking for something a bit more modest? In this case, we recommend the VIZIO 50″ M7 Series Quantum LED 4K UHD Smartcast TV. It has 4K resolution, excellent picture quality, and low input lag required by the best gaming TVs while still having a reasonable price point. It also is large enough for a modest living room gaming setup while small enough to not cause a massive price jump.
The main disadvantage it has compared to other options here is that it only has a refresh rate of 60Hz, but that will still be fine for the latest gaming consoles and nearly all games made today. This model’s other disadvantage is that it generally requires direct viewing for the best viewing experience, so angle viewing at those gaming nights might be subpar. Finally, HDR might not be as convincing or compelling with this TV as with other models on this list.
Note that with this class of televisions from VIZIO, you can get a larger screen for a modest price increase. While the 50″ is $440 as of this writing, a 55″ equivalent costs only $500, which is a great price for a TV of this quality. You can, of course, find a TV of these sizes and resolutions for $200-$300, but the features and some of the screen quality just will not be there for gaming.
We recommend the VIZIO 50″ Class M Series if:
- You do not have more than $500 to spend on a gaming TV but still want an option that will last for years and provide a great picture.
- You do not mind a slightly smaller screen than some of the other models listed here.
- You are looking for a balanced choice but find our all-around pick to be just a bit too much for your needs.
5. Best Compact Gaming TV: Samsung Frame 2020 43″
Whether it is for a bedroom, side room, or dorm room, we recommend that you get Samsung’s 43″ Frame TV. While there are smaller TVs and even a smaller Frame model, few have 4K resolution that is so important to modern gaming. The Frame is not just for gaming or even really designed for it. It is, in fact, designed to show art when not in direct use and can be easily wall-mounted for maximum space usage.
It is a QLED TV, and the picture quality shows. It also has an extremely low input lag for a TV of this price point. The refresh rate is only 60hz for this size model, but finding 120hz would be difficult regardless. The other features are all there as expected, including ports, compatibilities, and more, and while the ads on the TV interface itself can get annoying, your games will genuinely look like works of art with this TV, despite how small it is.
Note that there are larger models of the Frame, but we would recommend other options in that case unless there is something about the Frame that speaks explicitly out to you. If you are looking for something even smaller than this, we recommend looking at gaming computer monitors instead. They will often have the same picture quality and functionality, though connecting to your television service provider will be difficult, if not impossible.
We recommend the Samsung Frame if:
- You are willing to sacrifice more money to fit a better picture and more features into a smaller TV.
- You like the TV’s look, which can blend into most environments easily and provide a lovely image when you are not gaming.
- You are OK with a TV not designed for gaming so much as a general TV with some great gaming functionality.
- You want some of the picture quality of a dedicated gaming monitor while still using the device as a TV.
There are so many options for gaming TVs (and TVs in general) that it would be impossible to go over them all. There have likely been some new releases between the time of this writing and the time you are looking at this article. Yet, we hope that one of the selections above piques your interest and the general ideas of what to look for are helpful. There is no absolute best TV for gaming. Every gamer is looking for something a bit different and will have a different budget. Thank you for reading, do not forget to bookmark this page if you think you might need to reference it, and the best of luck with your search and purchase.
Related:A Beginner’s Guide to Frame Rate