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Updated Jun 29, 2022 10:12 PM

If you play video games, buying a TV with gaming in mind is more important than ever. With the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, video game consoles have the processing power to run games that look sharper, brighter, and more vibrant at smoother frame rates. While you can play games on any TV with an HDMI port, there are a series of specs that you need to get the most out of those powerful consoles. Simply picking the best 4K TV isn’t necessarily enough. Let’s talk about what makes the best TVs for gaming and look at some of the best options you can buy right now.

How we picked the best TVs for gaming

Prior to joining Popular Science, I’ve written about the gaming industry and technology for nearly 10 years at a variety of publications, including IGN, Gamespot, GamesRadar, PCMag, and Digital Trends. In other words, I have been playing video games professionally for a long time. More specifically, I covered the rise of the first 4K/HDR-compatible consoles—the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro—and spent a good deal of time learning how to tell the difference between a good video game screen and a great one.

To pick the best TVs for gaming, I relied on a combination of hands-on testing and viewing, combined with professional reviews and critical analysis. After hearing about a slate of new TVs at CES 2022, where gaming-focused features were put front and center, we plan to update this throughout the year as we get hands-on time as they arrive on the market later this year.

What to look for when buying a TV for gaming, specifically

The basics of picking a gaming TV aren’t that different from picking a TV in general. Many of the basic requirements, like picking the right size for your space, do not change because you have a controller in your hand. Likewise, many of the super-technical aspects, such as wide color gamut and good viewing angles, are incredibly important for picking any TV.

There is, however, a set of specs that the average TV buyer might overlook or consider to be relatively minor that makes all the difference when buying a TV with gaming in mind. Everyone knows that they want the biggest, sharpest, and brightest TV out there, but are you thinking about your TV’s refresh rate, as you would with a gaming monitor for your PC? What about brightness, which dictates your TV’s ability to take advantage of High-Dynamic Range (HDR)? These are not things you’ll see just by walking into a big box store and staring at the wall of TVs, so it’s important to have to go a little deeper so that you can pick your next TV with clarity and confidence.

Resolution

Let’s start with the easy part. If you have PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or Xbox One X, you want a 4K TV. Even if you don’t have a 4K-capable console, like the Xbox Series S or Nintendo Switch, you likely still want a 4K TV, because some consoles feature supersampling technology that can enhance a game’s fidelity without taking the resolution a full step higher. 

Luckily, we’ve reached the point where most new TVs are 4K TVs, so you’re covered no matter what you get unless you’re shopping in the very low-end models. And though Sony and Microsoft have said the current consoles have the power to run games in 8K, it is not possible to do so yet and adoption is moving very slowly, so we do not recommend spending an absurd amount of money on tech you won’t be able to use for the foreseeable future.

Backlight type

The big question, with regards to visual fidelity, is what kind of display technology should you look for in your gaming TV. At this juncture, it mostly comes down to three major categories: LED, or “light-emitting diode”; OLED, or “organic light-emitting diode”; and QLED, or “Quantum dot … yeah, you get it.” We have a full-length explanation running down the differences among all three technologies, so I’m going to give you the short version.

As you can see by the names, all three versions are variations on LED technology, which runs electricity through a power cell to emit light. A standard LED TV does this uniformly for the whole screen using a backlight array that shines through an LCD panel. High-end QLED displays augment that basic LED technology by adding dots on the display that enhance the brightness of the backlight, allowing for a brighter screen and sharper, more precise colors. These TVs fit into a category called “transmissive” because they rely on a backlight shining through colored filters. 

Despite the name, OLED TVs are something of a different breed called emissive TVs. They feature a large number of small diodes that individually light up to illuminate the screen rather than relying on an LCD panel. This allows the display to turn individual lights on and off, allowing for a wider range of brightness and the darkest possible blacks.

With the options currently out there, OLED is, generally speaking, the superior display type for gaming. It allows for the best use of HDR, which creates an array of different in-game lighting conditions. QLED also enhances this to a degree, at least in theory. Generally speaking, OLED and QLED sets sit at the top of the TV food chain right now, so we’re basically just saying, “The good TVs? Yeah, they’re really good.” The important thing to note here is that, all things being equal, gamers should go for an OLED over other types of TVs.

Also, for the vast majority of people who aren’t spending $1,000 to $2,000 on a TV, there is nothing wrong or bad about playing games on an LED TV. OLED and even QLED simply provide some extra advantages.

High-Dynamic Range (HDR)

High-Dynamic Range, or HDR, is a display technology that allows your TV to create a wider range of lighting conditions on screen by making different parts of your screen brighter than others. The actual “range” refers to the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black. My favorite example is walking into a cave or other unlit space: Without HDR, games have to choose by making you unable to see and pretending that the cave is magically lit, but colored darker. With HDR, games can actually simulate that grainy, textured low-light look of peering into the dark.

On TVs, there are two primary HDR standards: HDR10 and the more exclusive Dolby Vision. Experts say that Dolby Vision ultimately produces a better picture, but there is relatively little content for it. Both Xbox Series consoles and PS5 support HDR10, but only the Xboxes support Dolby Vision. Even on Xbox, though, only a small fraction of games from the past two generations support it. Luckily, every modern TV supports HDR10, so you don’t have to choose. If you play games primarily on Xbox, you may want to go the extra mile of looking for a Dolby Vision-capable set.

Regardless of standard, though, not all HDR is created equal. The technology relies on brightening the TV to different degrees, so it’s very important that your TV actually gets bright enough to do that. Ideally, you want a TV whose maximum brightness is 1000 NITS or higher to ensure optimum performance.

Input lag and “Gaming Mode”

In the menus of most modern TVs, you’ll find options for different display modes, including an option specifically for playing games. Generally speaking, TV gaming modes remove certain processing elements to reduce the amount of time it takes for the TV to process what’s happening on screen, which reduces input lag.

Input lag, or latency, is a gap in time between when you press a button on your controller and when the action occurs on screen. There is always some amount of input lag because your console or computer needs to process your inputs and send them to the screen, but it should be imperceivable in ideal conditions. If you sometimes feel like you press a button at a precise time, but you miss your window, that may have been because of a lag issue.

Of course, cutting down on image processing impacts picture quality. Most experts agree that using gaming mode only leads to a noticeable drop in picture quality in extreme cases. Still, just like there is no such thing as a lag-free experience, there is no way for a TV to reduce lag without a tradeoff. As I mentioned, the actual processing that gets turned off in game mode varies from brand to brand and may vary from TV to TV depending on what features you have.

Obviously, this list will avoid TVs with notorious input lag and/or game mode issues, but if you’re thinking about whether or not to use “game mode,” just try it and see. The worst-case scenario is that you don’t notice a difference in how you play and you turn it off.

Refresh rate

Refresh rate-related features are the hottest new features in TVs right now and they’re making waves because of video games. Refresh rate, a core feature in gaming monitors for PCs, represents the number of times your TV can redraw the entirety of the screen to reflect a change in what it’s showing each second. For video games, it effectively translates to the maximum frame rate your TV can handle: If it maxes out at 60 Hertz (Hz), as most TVs made before 2020 do, that means your TV can output at up to 60 frames per second.

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles have the ability to run some games at up to 120 frames per second, but in order for you to actually see that, you will need a TV with a 120Hz refresh rate. We’ve noticed an uptick in interest in monitors for PS5 and for Xbox Series X, and I imagine that the frame rate gap is part of the reason why.

TV manufacturers are already responding; at CES 2022, most of the major manufacturers showcased new 120Hz TVs. It’s still a high-end feature, but something that we expect will filter down into new sets over the next few years.

In addition to higher refresh rates, TV manufacturers are also starting to support adaptive sync technology into TVs. Adaptive sync, or variable refresh rate, is a display technology in monitor hardware and software that allows your screen to adjust its target frame rate to match the computing power of the device delivering its image. This minimizes input lag and prevents some display glitches like screen tearing, a visual distortion where two frames of animation overlap.

There are two versions of adaptive sync: Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync. As with gaming monitors, you’re more likely to find TVs with FreeSyncs support than G-Sync, though some TVs can play with both standards. Outside of PC, the only consoles that support adaptive sync are the Xbox Series and Xbox One consoles. There have been rumors about Sony adding adaptive sync support to the PS5, but it is not available now.

HDMI 2.0 and 2.1

If you want to play a game in 4K at 120 frames per second, you will need to plug your TV into an HDMI 2.1 port. Despite the fact that it’s generally treated as a single, ubiquitous port, there are many versions of HDMI. The ports all look the same and newer ones are always backward-compatible so you’re never asked to throw out cords if you get a TV with newer ports, so most people wouldn’t even notice until you’re locked out of using a feature.

As we explain in our best HDMI cables roundup, newer HDMI standards can transmit more data per second than older versions, which roughly translates to a resolution and frame rate for TV, film, and games. The most common port you’ll find now is HDMI 1.4, sometimes called “high-speed HDMI,” which can output in 4K at 30Hz: That’s what you need to watch TV and movies in 4K. To play games in 4K at 60Hz, you need HDMI 2.0, aka “HDMI UHD,” which can handle 4K resolution at 60Hz with HDR10. The highest standard is HDMI 2.1 or “Ultra High-Speed HDMI,” which unlocks 4K at 120Hz or 8K at 60Hz.

As you may expect, both the PS5 and Xbox Series X support HDMI 2.1 out of the box. But to use the consoles at their highest level of performance, you will need a TV with the same. At the start of 2022, that’s pretty rare, but the coming wave of 120Hz TVs will generally come equipped with HDMI 2.1 ports to match their high refresh rates.

The best TVs for gaming: Reviews & Recommendations

So now that we’ve covered all the ways picking a “gaming TV” differs from picking a TV for watching TV and film, it’s time to get to the good part. Based on our testing and research, these are the best TVs for gaming you can pick up right now. We’ve done our best to provide you with some options based on criteria you may have, including what high-end console you have and display technology. All of these TVs, though, should provide you with the features you need to make your games look great.

Best overall: LG C1

Why it made the cut: The LG C1 checks all the gaming TV boxes, offering a sharp, bright OLED with a high refresh rate.

Specs

  • Sizes: 48, 55, 65, 77, and 83 inches
  • Display Type: OLED
  • Refresh Rate: 120Hz
  • Adaptive Sync: FreeSync, G-Sync
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 4, USB-A x 3,
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision

Pros

  • Wide size range
  • Sharp, vibrant picture
  • High refresh rate with adaptive sync support
  • Four HDMI 2.1 ports

Cons

  • Low brightness compared to similar QLED models

Everybody loves the LG C1. Users and professional reviewers almost universally consider it the best TV for gaming, pound-for-pound. LG’s high-end OLED offers precise, vibrant colors, and the true blacks that only an OLED can (right now). What’s more, it has every single one of the gaming-focused features that we want in a perfect gaming TV. It supports 120Hz for high refresh rates and both adaptive sync technologies. All four of its HDMI ports support HDMI 2.1. And, while it is not the brightest TV set on the market, it gets close enough to the brightness mark that no one will complain about their HDR experience. Simply put, it does everything a gamer needs from a screen, regardless of the platform they use to play.

Best for PS5: Sony Bravia XR A90J

Why it made the cut: The Sony A90J doesn’t have every single gaming-focused feature, but it has all the stuff PS5 fans need making it the best gaming tv for PS5.

Specs

  • Sizes: 55, 65, and 83 inches
  • Display Type: OLED
  • Refresh Rate: 120Hz
  • Adaptive Sync: N/A
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 2, HDMI x 2, USB-A x 3,
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision

Pros

  • OLED with Incredible color and contrast
  • High refresh rate
  • HDR and Dolby Vision
  • Reportedly brighter than LG C1

Cons

  • No variable refresh rate

The Sony Bravia XR A90J was the company’s flagship OLED in 2021 and it delivers an absolutely incredible picture. Like the LG C1, it offers incredible vibrant colors and the signature “perfect” blacks of an OLED display. In general, I find Sony tends to be the “upgrade” brand—you have to pay extra for their stuff, but you get what you pay for. For multiplatform gaming, the A90J falters because it lacks adaptive sync support and only two out of four HDMI ports support HDMI 2.1. Luckily, the PlayStation 5 currently doesn’t support adaptive sync, so that’s no loss for PS5 players. And, if you’re locked in on a single 4K console, chances are you don’t need more than two HDMI 2.1 ports. 

Plus, it is one of a handful of new Sony Bravia XR TVs that supports a series of “perfect for PlayStation 5” features, including Auto HDR tone mapping, which automatically calibrates your HDR, and “auto genre picture mode,” which switches between standard mode and lag-reducing “game mode” whenever you turn on a game or start watching a movie or TV.

Best for Xbox Series X: Samsung QN90A NEO QLED

Samsung

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Why it made the cut: While it isn’t an OLED, Samsung’s QN90A offers incredible color and contrast, along with most of the key gaming features.

Specs:

  • Sizes: 43, 50, 55, 65, 75, 85, and 98 inches
  • Display Type: QLED
  • Refresh Rate: 120Hz
  • Adaptive Sync: FreeSync
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 1, HDMI x 3, USB-A x 2,
  • HDR: HDR10

Pros

  • Mini-LED-powered QLED TV delivers incredible brightness and strong contrast
  • 120Hz with FreeSync
  • Absolutely incredible size range

Cons

  • No Dolby Vision
  • One HDMI 2.1 port

While we generally recommend an OLED display for gamers, all things being equal, Samsung’s QN90A NEO QLED is a reminder that there’s an exception to every rule. Samsung’s highly touted flagship Neo QLED TV features Mini-LED TV and local dimming, allowing for tremendous brightness that you won’t find on OLED screens while offering highly precise color. Of course, it also has all the gaming-focused features we want to see—including an HDMI 2.1-powered 120Hz refresh rate and AMD FreeSync, which the Xbox One and Series consoles support. It isn’t a perfect fit, as Samsung TVs don’t support Dolby Vision, but given the small amount of natively supported content, we chose to prioritize the best picture, even at the expense of a minor, feature-related blemish.

Best budget 4K: TCL 6-Series Google TV (R646)

Why it made the cut: The TCL 6-Series is arguably the best television under $1,000 right now and the new Google TV adds additional, gaming-friendly features.

Specs

  • Sizes: 55, 65, and 75 inches
  • Display Type: QLED
  • Refresh Rate: 120Hz
  • Adaptive Sync: Yes (Not FreeSync or G-Sync)
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 2, HDMI x 2, USB-A x 1,
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision

Pros

  • High refresh rate
  • HDR10 and Dolby Vision
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • Adaptive sync doesn’t support industry standards

It should come as no surprise that TCL, a brand well known for its really strong budget and mid-range smart TVs, offers the best value in gaming TV for under $1,000. The TCL 6-Series is a crowd-pleaser, offering a bright QLED picture and 120Hz refresh rate. The newest version of the 6-Series, which features Google TV instead of Roku’s smart TV operating system, adds two HDMI 2.1 ports and, reportedly, improved picture quality, making it the superior option for top-of-the-line gaming setups.

It does come with some tradeoffs, of course: While it supports adaptive sync, TCL isn’t officially compatible with FreeSync or G-Sync, so its variable refresh rate may not be as reliable as other choices. That said, you are getting most of the things we look for in a gaming TV for substantially less than most of our top picks.

Best OLED TV (besides our top pick): LG G1

Why it made the cut: The LG G1 may actually be a slightly better TV than the LG C1, even if its high price keeps it out of the top spot.

Specs

  • Sizes: 55, 65, and 77 inches
  • Display Type: OLED
  • Refresh Rate: 120Hz
  • Adaptive Sync: FreeSync, G-Sync Compatible
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 4, USB-A x 3,
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision

Pros

  • Incredible picture
  • Brighter than C1
  • High refresh rate with FreeSync and G-Sync
  • 4 HDMI 2.1 ports

Cons

  • More expensive than top pick, despite only a minor upgrade

The LG C1, our top pick, is realistically the best OLED TV you can buy right now, but did you know that LG makes more than one OLED model? If you’ve done some research already, you’ve probably heard of the slightly brighter, but substantially more expensive LG G1. It has everything the LG C1 has: sharp, vibrant colors; that OLED brightness control; the high refresh rate with FreeSync and G-Sync compatibility. According to reviewers, it even goes a step further and amps up the brightness over the C1, mitigating its primary technical weakness. As at other publications, the G1 fails to earn the best overall rating because that little extra touch of brightness will cost you a few hundred dollars on top of an already steep price. While it isn’t as financially efficient for TV buyers, the G1 is an excellent TV if the C1 isn’t available.

Best LED: Sony Bravia XR X90J

Why it made the cut: Even without an OLED panel, the Sony Bravia XR X90J offers an incredible picture and all of Sony’s great suite of gaming-focused features.

Specs:

  • Sizes: 50, 55, 65, and 75 inches
  • Display Type: LED
  • Refresh Rate: 120Hz
  • Adaptive Sync: FreeSync
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 2, HDMI x 2, USB-A x 2,
  • HDR: HDR10

Pros

  • Very bright picture w/ local dimming
  • High refresh rate w/ FreeSync

Cons

  • Expensive for standard LED TV

The Sony Bravia XR X90J, for a “standard” LED TV, sure seems to check all the boxes. Its high brightness ensures that you get bold, vibrant colors and maximized HDR in your TV, movies, and games. It features the same great suite of gaming features as its OLED counterpart, the Bravia XR A90J, including Sony’s “perfect for PlayStation” configuration options. While it doesn’t achieve the same contrast as the OLEDs on this list, it goes toe to toe with those TVs in many ways … including the price.

FAQs

Q: Should I use a TV for PC gaming?

Since modern graphics cards feature HDMI ports, there’s no reason why you couldn’t or shouldn’t plug your gaming PC into your TV and play them on your biggest screen. If you’re used to a traditional PC setup, remember that you’ll need to either figure out a way to use a mouse and keyboard on your couch or play with a controller. Also, keep in mind how changing screens might impact your PC’s performance. If you use a 1080p or 1440p gaming monitor, running games in 4K will be more demanding.

Q: Do I need a TV with HDMI 2.1 for PC gaming?

Distinctions between the different types of HDMI are based entirely on how much data you’re trying to push from your computer to your display, whether it’s a TV or a monitor. To play games in 4K at 120Hz, you will need HDMI 2.1.

So why do PC gamers talk about frame rate all the time? Gaming monitors that support 4K resolution are still considered a luxury in PC gaming circles, so it’s much more common to see PC players using 1080p or 1440p displays with higher refresh rates. By contrast, 4K is now all but standard on new TVs, but 120Hz support has only been added to high-end sets in the last few years.

Q: What size TV do pro gamers use?

I’m sure most professional gamers, whether we’re talking about esports players or influencers, play games on a TV from time to time, but most pros use a gaming monitor when they’re on the job. For competitive play, a small monitor with the highest possible refresh rate gives you a slight advantage because it allows you to read changes in your game more quickly. For influencers, the issue is more logistical: A PC desk setup makes it easier for most streamers and YouTubers to manage chat, monitor audio levels, switch scenes, and use a pro-grade camera while playing their game. The pro players most likely to use a TV are game critics like myself, and we tend to use whatever we’ve got.

Final thoughts on the best TVs for gaming

The nitty, gritty details of picking TVs can, honestly, get exhausting very quickly. Wide color gamut, viewing angles, brightness levels … if you stare at these numbers on a spec sheet they can start to turn to gibberish real fast. In the end, the best thing to do when picking a TV is to do the eyeball test: If you can and feel safe doing so, go to a store and see what TV looks right. If you can convince somebody to run a game demo for you instead of the usual electronics store tech demo, even better. The gaming-related features of a TV are, surprisingly, slightly less obtuse. For the time being, they’re a little more straightforward: Is it bright enough? Is it fast enough? And, frankly, at this point, even those questions are reserved for those who plan to spend a lot of money—$1,000 or more—on their next TV. For a lot of people, the best gaming TV is still the best overall TV you can afford.

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