*** Updated: 14th July 2016 ***
Modern HD TVs offer a far better viewing experience than was available just a decade ago. With almost all of the models that you will find on the current market, movies and TV shows look great. Many of the best models, however, do not stand up well to the demands of gaming.
Many of the technologies that enhance the experience of watching movies and TV will actually make the TV less suitable for playing video games. For this reason, it can often be difficult for a gamer to find a TV that will provide a satisfying experience for their favourite games.
As a gamer, you want to look for a TV that is going to provide a high-quality image, while also have a low lag time and the ability to display the often fast-paced action of a game without blurring or distorting the image. The following includes some of the things to consider when you go shopping for a gaming TV and then a short description of a few of the models that perform well for this purpose.
The Importance of Input Lag
If you are shopping for a TV with gaming being an important consideration, then input lag is arguably the most important factor. Unfortunately, this is a point that few manufacturers advertise and it is usually difficult to get an accurate listing for this stat.
Input lag refers to the amount of time it takes a change to occur on the screen after the TV has received the signal. This is obviously important for gaming because you want to see, and respond to, the action that is going on in the game in a timeframe that is as close to real time as possible.
The issue with many of the modern, and more expensive TVs, is that they have a range of processing effects that are designed to improve the image. It could be a colour enhancer, advanced backlight dimming or motion blur reduction. All of these features take time to process, and they all add time to the lag that occurs between the TV receiving the signal, and the change happening on the screen.
The closest measure that you will find in the specs of most TVs is the response time, but response time is slightly different from lag. The response time is the time it takes for a pixel to change from one state to another. This is part of what goes into the overall input lag, so it can be a helpful measure to look at, but it is not the entire picture when it comes to input lag.
Things to Consider When Buying a TV for Gaming
When you are shopping for a TV that will be good for gaming, there are some features and specs that you should study in detail. In general, these are good points to consider, but some of the specifics can vary from one manufacturer to the next.
The refresh rate refers to the frequency with which the image on the screen is updated. With a higher refresh rate, the frame changes more frequently. A high refresh rate can be good for gaming because it means that there will be less motion blur, but it also adds processing to the image. That means that it could increase the lag if you go too high. Many experts now say that refresh rate (or equivalent, see below) is more important than response time as TVs have evolved so much over recent years that response time has become less relevant. Many TVs on the market currently will have either a 100 Hz or 200 Hz refresh rate but this will steadily increase over time as technology advances. You’ll notice that some of the TVs we mention below have a rate as high as 800 Hz which is obviously a significant step up and a significant bonus for gaming.
Please note as of 2016, not all manufacturers quote a refresh rate preferring to use their own standards which can be pretty confusing. Examples include Samsung’s Clear Motion Rate (CMR), LG’s Motion Clarity Index (MCI) and Philips’ Perfect Motion Rate (PMR) etc. These standards tend to be at least double the basic offering of 100 – 200 Hz. Where possible we will try to estimate a comparable refresh rate figure if one isn’t quoted to help you make your decision. Watch this space to see if a universal standard develops over coming years.
As an additional point, you want to look for a TV that has a game mode in the picture options. Firstly, this at least tells you that the manufacturer considered gaming in the design of the TV, but with most models, it also does something that is beneficial for gaming. When you switch to the game mode, it disables many of the processing effects that increase the lag time. With some models, this could make for a noticeable reduction in the picture quality, so it could be a trade off.
TV Screen Size
After you consider things like gaming mode and refresh rate, you will also want to make sure that you get a TV that is the right size. The correct screen size is going to depend on where you sit in relation to the TV and some of your personal preferences.
Beyond the distance between you and the TV, there are some advantages and disadvantages of going with TVs of different sizes. A large TV can be good because it makes some of the details easier to see and it can provide a more immersive experience for the games. But a smaller TV can be good because you can more easily see all of the action on the screen and this can make it easier to process what is going on in the game. Ultimately this point comes down to personal preference.
If presented with a choice of two similar TVs, one which is slightly larger, and one that has a higher refresh rate, we would recommend going with the higher refresh rate as this is likely to have a greater impact on your enjoyment than the extra few inches of screen ‘real estate’.
This point is pretty obvious but worth mentioning briefly. You’ll almost certainly already be aware of the various different screen resolutions currently available ie HD Ready (720p), Full HD (1080p) and 4k Ultra HD (2160p). You can find more information on the subject of resolution in our guide here. As a general rule you’ll want to aim to get a TV with the highest resolution you can for your budget (having taken into account the other factors mentioned above).
And so, bearing these points in mind, below we have listed some of our favourite gaming TVs. These cover a range of the most popular screen sizes and vary in price from a little over £200 to about £500 (at the time of writing) but all will deliver good gaming results. You’ll notice under each listings we provide a price comparison chart which will show you the current price at a wide range of major online retailers including Amazon, Currys, John Lewis, Argos etc. These prices are refreshed at 5 am each morning so you can be confident they are accurate. To be 100% sure just click the ‘Visit Store’ buttons to double-check.
We hope you’ll find something that suits your needs, but if you have a specific requirement, or still need additional help or advice feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.
Our Top 5 Gaming TV Recommendations
To Sum Up…
If you are serious about your gaming, then you need to find a TV that will perform well under gaming conditions. The good news is that there are many TVs on the market that will do a great job and you don’t have to look that hard to find one. TVs generally are now of such a high standard that most will do a good job and some will perform exceptionally.
The TVs listed above are,in our humble opinion, some of the best for gaming, but if you know what to look for (and hopefully you now do), you should certainly find other models that will get the job done admirably.