How to choose the best TV for gaming right now

How to choose the best TV for gaming right now

Nowadays, the best TVs for gaming aren’t much different from the best TVs you can buy as a whole. If you’re hoping to make your PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S games look their best on the big screen, though, there are a few key features to look out for. Nobody needs to splurge on an ultra-high-end set just to enjoy a video game, of course, but to help you get the most from your dollar, we’ve laid out a few key tips for buying a good gaming TV below. We’ve also highlighted a few well-reviewed examples that are available now, whether you’re on a budget or willing to pay a premium.

Whether you use it for gaming or not, all good TVs are built on the same foundations. You want a 4K resolution, high-enough brightness to overcome glare and make HDR content pop, a relatively high contrast ratio 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 does all of this well and fits into your budget can be tricky.

For now, top OLED TVs generally offer the best picture quality for gaming or otherwise. But good OLED sets usually cost more than their LCD counterparts, and some models may not get bright enough for those who have their TV set in a particularly bright room.

More specifically, modern OLED TVs may utilize different types of OLED display tech: WOLED (i.e., “White OLED”) or the newer QD-OLED. We won’t dig too deep into how the two diverge in panel composition and subpixel structure, but the simplified version is that QD-OLED displays use a layer of quantum dots (hence the “QD”) to deliver a wider gamut of more vibrant colors and higher overall brightness than traditional WOLED sets.

This doesn’t mean all QD-OLED TVs are inherently better: How well an individual set performs is more important than the panel it uses, and some premium WOLED TVs like the LG G4 utilize a new form of display tech called Micro Lens Array (MLA) to greatly improve brightness themselves. Those can be better at keeping colors natural in the face of reflections as well. And virtually all OLED TVs share the same core strengths. But as good QD-OLED sets have come down in price, they’ve started to look like the standout for those looking to balance value and superior picture quality.

If you opt for an LCD TV— whether to save cash or stick in room with poor light control — an advanced backlight with smaller and more precise mini LEDs and effective full-array local dimming will usually improve contrast and lighting detail. Many of these TVs, including some budget-level models, also use quantum dots to enhance colors. They usually aren’t as vivid or fast in motion as the top OLED sets, but they’re often brighter and more affordable, and the best can still produce an excellent image in their own right.

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 performance 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 sharp 4K video up to a 120Hz refresh rate with modern consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X, or up to 144Hz with a powerful gaming PC. Not every PS5 or Xbox Series X/S game supports frame rates that high — and some only do at lower resolutions — but those that do will look and feel especially fluid in motion. HDMI 2.1 also includes support for Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), which allows you to pass higher-quality lossless 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 HDMI 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 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) 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 quite as many titles designed to take advantage of HDR as there are movies (though the number is growing all the time), and the variance in HDR quality tends to be wider.

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 TVs, for instance, may prefer their TV’s Dynamic Tone Mapping setting. Use whatever settings you think look best.

ALLM allows a source (like your PS5 or Xbox) to tell the display to switch into a picture 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 will sound familiar if you’re a PC gamer. Most players have experienced slowdown, screen tearing or stuttering as a system struggles to render each frame at the target speed, which is most commonly 30 or 60 fps on a TV. With VRR, 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 frame rate.

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. A great 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.

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.

There’s never a perfect time to buy a new TV. Prices on current models are always dropping, and next year’s upgrades are always just around the corner. But if we had to narrow it down, the best times to pounce would be right around Black Friday — when we usually see larger-than-usual discounts on the newest sets — and during the late spring to early summer period, when last year’s models steadily drop in price as manufacturers clear out inventory.

As of this writing, we’re in the middle of the latter. The likes of Samsung, LG, Sony, Hisense and others have recently started to sell their new TVs for 2024, so many of the better sets from 2023 are in the process of being phased out. For now, grabbing one of those older models while they’re still available and on sale should get you the most bang for the buck. While we at Engadget do not formally review TVs, we’ve researched the market and rounded up a few sets that have been widely well-reviewed by other professional review sites we trust, including Rtings, Wirecutter, Reviewed and PCMag, among others.

Samsung

Screen sizes: 55″, 65″, 77″, 83″ | Display type: QD-OLED | Resolution: 4K | Maximum refresh rate: 144Hz (120Hz on 83″) | HDR formats: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG | HDMI ports: 4x HDMI 2.1 | VRR: HDMI Forum VRR, FreeSync Premium, G-Sync compatible | Smart OS: Tizen | Screen form: Flat | ALLM: Yes | TV tuner: ATSC 3.0

The Samsung S90C has a QD-OLED display 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 HDMI 2.1 ports that can play up to 4K 144Hz. It also supports HDR10 and HDR10+, ALLM and the major VRR formats. Sizes range from 55 to 83 inches. Like the rest of Samsung’s TV lineup, however, it doesn’t work with Dolby Vision HDR.

We’ll also note the Samsung S95C, a higher-end model. It, too, can play in 4K up to 144Hz, and some reviews say it can get a bit brighter than the S90C in HDR. Since it runs its ports through an external box, its actual hardware is thinner as well. But it costs a few hundred dollars more, so it’s harder to justify unless money is no object.

Samsung has released the 2024 version of the S90C, the S90D. However, the company is selling it with both QD-OLED and lesser WOLED panels depending on your country and chosen size. In North America, the 55-, 65- and 75-inch models still use the superior QD-OLED display, but the rest may lose some of the aspects that make the TV stand out in the first place. Given that the QD-OLED version doesn’t appear to be more than a minor upgrade in the first place, it’s hard to fully recommend right now.

The new Samsung S95D, meanwhile, is notable for having a matte finish, which seems to help it reduce glare. It’s far more expensive than the S95C as of this writing, though.

Beyond Samsung, the Sony A95L is another QD-OLED TV that’s received practically universal praise, with many reviewers saying it tops any alternative from Samsung or LG. It’s technically a 2023 model, but Sony will continue to sell it through 2024. But it’s another super expensive one — a 55-inch model currently costs $2,800 — and it only has two HDMI 2.1 ports, one of which is the eARC port you might need for a soundbar or receiver. That makes it a bit less convenient if you want to keep multiple consoles hooked up at once.

Pros

  • High contrast with deep blacks
  • Good brightness for an OLED TV
  • Available in sizes up to 83 inches
Cons

  • Doesn’t support Dolby Vision HDR

$1,598 at Amazon

LG

Screen sizes: 42″, 48″, 55″, 65″, 77″, 83″ | Display type: WOLED | Resolution: 4K | Maximum refresh rate: 120Hz | HDR formats: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG | HDMI ports: 4x HDMI 2.1 | VRR: HDMI Forum VRR, FreeSync, G-Sync certified | Smart OS: webOS | Screen form: Flat | ALLM: Yes | TV tuner: ATSC 1.0 

The panel can’t get as bright as a QD-OLED TV like the Samsung S90C, but it still performs excellently in terms of contrast, input lag, motion response and viewing angles. It’s occasionally available for a little bit less than the S90C, too. 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 to . If the S90C runs out of stock, it’s a fine alternative. It’s just a bit less color-rich, and it doesn’t support a 144Hz refresh rate for those who may want to get the most out of a gaming PC.

The new adds 4K/144Hz support for PC players, and it should bring a slight upgrade in overall brightness and color performance. Again, though, it costs a good bit more right now, so most people are better off saving cash with the older version.

Pros

  • High contrast with deep blacks
  • Dolby Vision HDR
  • Available in sizes up to 83 inches
Cons

  • Not as bright as top QD-OLED TVs
  • Doesn’t support 144Hz refresh rates for PCs

$1,297 at Amazon

Samsung

Screen sizes: 43″, 50″, 55″, 65″, 75″, 85″ | Display type: QLED with mini-LED backlight (VA panel on 43″ and 50″, ADS panel on 55″ and up) | Resolution: 4K | Maximum refresh rate: 120Hz (144Hz on 43″ and 50″) | HDR formats: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG | HDMI ports: 4x HDMI 2.1 | VRR: HDMI Forum VRR, FreeSync Premium Pro, G-Sync compatible | Smart OS: Tizen | Screen form: Flat | ALLM: Yes | TV tuner: ATSC 3.0

If you need the improved brightness of a LCD TV, or if you think you might play one game (extremely) long enough to worry about burn-in, consider the Samsung QN90C. It can’t match the contrast, response time or viewing angles of a good OLED model, and Samsung’s Tizen software isn’t the cleanest. But the QN90C’s mini-LED backlight 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 gets brighter than the OLED TVs mentioned above. It still doesn’t support Dolby Vision, but it has four full HDMI 2.1 ports, ALLM and all the big VRR formats. It also comes in several screen 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 43- and 50-inch versions of these TVs use VA panels, though, which should result in better contrast but worse viewing angles.

The 2024 version of this set is, you guessed it, the QN90D, and it promises improved contrast and brighter highlights. But it costs about $1,000 more than the QN90C right now depending on the size, and its upgrades don’t seem to be nearly worth that much.

The Sony X93L is another highly-rated premium LED TV that does support Dolby Vision, albeit at 60Hz only, plus it can auto-calibrate HDR on a PS5. It has two fewer HDMI 2.1 ports than the QN90C, however, which makes it a tighter fit for those with multiple gaming devices. Its sizes also start at 65 inches. The same HDMI port restriction applies to the new Sony Bravia 7, which is effectively the X93L’s replacement for 2024, and Bravia 9, a flagship mini LED TV that seems tremendous for bright rooms based on early reviews but currently starts at a hefty $3,000.

Pros

  • Mini-LED backlight and quantum-dot color
  • High peak brightness
  • Available in wide range of sizes
Cons

  • Doesn’t support Dolby Vision HDR
  • Can’t match the contrast of an OLED TV
  • Smaller models use worse panels

$1,098 at Amazon

Hisense

Screen sizes: 55″, 65″, 75″, 85″, 100″ | Display type: QLED with mini-LED backlight (ADS Pro panel on 75″, VA panel on others) | Resolution: 4K | Maximum refresh rate: 144Hz | HDR formats: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG | HDMI ports: 2x HDMI 2.1, 2x HDMI 2.0 | VRR: HDMI Forum VRR, FreeSync Premium Pro, G-Sync compatible | Smart OS: Google TV | Screen form: Flat | ALLM: Yes | TV tuner: ATSC 3.0

The TVs above are all pretty expensive. If you’re on more of a budget, the Hisense U8K, another QLED TV with mini LEDs, should be a strong value. It may not be a better gaming TV than the QN90C in a vacuum, as it only has two full-fat HDMI 2.1 ports, and its image will wash out more dramatically when viewed from an angle. But reviews suggest that, for a few hundred less, it’ll still look good in any lighting environment, with impressive brightness levels, 4K 144Hz support, all the main HDR formats, VRR, ALLM and low-enough input lag in game mode. You’ll still sacrifice contrast compared to a good OLED TV, however, and motion won’t look quite as fast or smooth.

Hisense’s updated model for 2024 is the U8N. This ups the contrast, brightness and response times based on initial reviews but may be less color-accurate than higher-end LED TVs out of the box. If the U8K goes out of stock or the U8N is priced in the same ballpark (but still costs less than the Samsung QN90C), it should be a safe replacement.

The TCL QM8 looks to be an impressive QLED option in this price range as well. It can get a little brighter than the U8K and supports up to a 144Hz refresh rate in 4K or a super-fast 240Hz in 1080p. Unlike the U8K (but not U8N), it also keeps its eARC port separate from its two HDMI 2.1 ports, which means you could keep a PS5, Xbox Series X and eARC-compatible soundbar hooked up and optimized without ever having to mess around with inputs. Its smallest size is 65 inches, though, and a few reviews say it’s a bit worse than the U8K at upscaling lower-resolution content, which may affect those looking to play retro consoles. TCL has launched a new QM8 model for 2024, though we haven’t seen enough feedback to say if it’s worth considering just yet.

Pros

  • Strong value
  • Impressive brightness
  • 4K 144Hz support
Cons

  • Contrast isn’t as good as that of an OLED TV

$1,000 at Best Buy

Hisense

Screen sizes: 55″, 65″, 75″ | Display type: QLED with mini-LED backlight | Resolution: 4K | Maximum refresh rate: 60Hz | HDR formats: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG | HDMI ports: 4x HDMI 2.0 | VRR: HDMI Forum VRR, FreeSync compatible, G-Sync compatible | Smart OS: Google TV | Screen form: Flat | ALLM: Yes | TV tuner: ATSC 1.0

On the lower end of the price spectrum, the Hisense U6K is the rare budget-level TV with quantum-dot color, a mini-LED backlight and full-array local dimming. Various reviews say all of this helps it deliver better contrast and color volume than most value-oriented models. ALLM and the major HDR standards are supported as well. Technically, it’s also a VRR display — but, like many cheaper TVs, the U6K is limited to a 60Hz refresh rate, so that support only goes so far. There are no HDMI 2.1 ports either, and the TV’s brightness levels and motion handling will still be a clear step down from more expensive options. But at $350 or so for a 55-inch model, those issues should be easier to overlook.

If the U6K becomes totally unavailable, the newer Hisense U6N is out now and appears similar on the spec sheet, though there aren’t any reviews out for it as of this writing.

The TCL Q5 is another notable budget option, as it’s one of the few cheap TVs that can play up to 120Hz, albeit only at a 1080p or 1440p resolution. It lacks a local dimming feature and the U6K’s mini- LED backlight, but for competitive-minded gamers who are willing to trade some sharpness and picture quality for a more responsive image, it could be a decent value. The same sentiment should apply to the TCL Q6, which offers slightly higher brightness levels but costs a bit extra. There are updated versions of these sets for 2024 as well, including one budget line, the Q68 series, that does include full-array local dimming. But again, exactly how much of an upgrade these are still remains to be seen..

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Mini-LED backlight
  • Quantum-dot color
Cons

  • Limited to 60Hz refresh rate
  • No HDMI 2.1 ports

$498 at Walmart

Richard Lawler contributed to a previous version of this report.


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