TV for games in 2021: everything you need to know

Display technology has come a long way in a decade. If you want a gaming TV, including a state-of-the-art console and PC titles, your needs are quite different from the average shopper and consumer.

TV for games

The Importance of HDMI 2.1

The next generation of state-of-the-art PC consoles and graphics cards has arrived. THE Sony and Microsoft are fighting the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, both with HDMI 2.1 ports. NVIDIA also released its 30 series boards with full support for HDMI 2.1.

So what's the big deal about this new standard with gaming tv?

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High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is how your TV connects to consoles, Blu-ray players and many PC video cards. HDMI 2.0b achieves a bandwidth of 18Gbits per second, which is sufficient for 4K content at 60 frames per second.

TV for games

HDMI 2.1 allows speeds of up to 48Gbits per second. This includes support for 4K at 120 frames per second (with HDR) or 8K at 60 frames per second, which is great on a gaming TV. Uncompressed audio and a host of other features are also supported, such as variable refresh rates ​​(VRR) and low latency auto mode (ALLM) to minimize input delay.

Keep in mind, though, that HDMI 2.1 is only worthwhile if the TV has a 120 Hz panel. Some TVs, like the Samsung Q60T, advertise support for HDMI 2.1, but they only have a 60 Hz panel. that they can't take advantage of 120 frames per second because the screen is only capable of 60 frames per second.

Do you need all that extra bandwidth? If you want to get the most out of new consoles, you do. However, it's not clear how many high-end games will support 4K resolution at 120 frames. Microsoft has announced that a handful of Xbox Series X titles will support 4K / 120. The list includes multiplayer title Halo Infinite (deferred until end 2021), compelling platformer Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Dirt 5 and Gears of War 5.

Most previous generation games ran at 30 frames per second, including big-budget releases like The Last of Us Part II and third-party pillars like Assassin's Creed. Microsoft improved this with Xbox One X, optimizing some games to run at 60 frames.

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Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X will reference 4K 60 frames. If you want to be prepared for the future, buy a 120Hz screen with HDMI 2.1 compatibility, even if the ports are limited to 40Gbits per second (like some 2020 TVs and receivers from LG and Sony). The 40 Gbits per second is sufficient for a 4K signal at 120 frames with full 10-bit HDR support.

Even NVIDIA has unlocked 10-bit support on its 30-series cards. This allows 40Gbits per second monitors to handle 120 frames in 4K at 10-bit without chroma undersampling (ie causing some channels to omit certain information by heart).

If you're staying with your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One for a while, or if you don't need a 120 frames per second game, the HDMI 2.0b is fine for now. It's also no problem if you're getting the cheaper Xbox Series S, which targets 1440p instead of full 4K.

In the coming years, more and more models will support HDMI 2.1 and you'll have more options, which means more opportunities to save money. However, currently, one of the best models with this entry and technology is the Smart TV 55″ 4K, from Samsung, which, in addition to being huge, has the company's state-of-the-art imaging technology, Crystal UHD, which will make it yours experience on a TV for exceptional gaming.

Smart TV 55" 4K Samsung UN55TU8000GXZD, Crystal UHD, Infinite Edge, Alexa Built In, Cable-Free Visual, Photo Environment Mode, Single Control
  • Display: Resolution 3.840 x 2.160, 4K Ultra HD, Screen Frequency 60Hz, Infinite Edges, Clear Motion Rate 120,
  • Functionality: Tizen Operating System, Crystal 4K UHD Processor, Bixby Assistant and Alexa Built In, Smartphone Mirroring for TV, Voice Command, HDR 10+, HLG, HDR Premium, PQI 2.100, Micro Dimming
  • Audio: Dolby Digital Plus, Speaker Type 2.0 channel, Multiroom Link, Ambient Mode, Game Mode,
  • Connections: 3 HDM, 2 USB, 1 Composite Input (AV), 1 Ethernet (LAN), 1 Optical Digital Audio Output, 1 RF Input
  • Includes Unique Crystal UHD Remote Control

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Variable refresh rate, low latency auto mode and quick frame

Some of the new HDMI 2.1 features are also available through the old HDMI 2.0b standard and have been implemented on TVs that do not explicitly support HDMI 2.1.

Variable refresh rate (VRR or HDMI VRR) is a technology that rivals NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync. While the latter are mostly for PC gamers, HDMI VRR is for consoles. Currently, only Microsoft has committed to this feature on the Xbox Series X and S, but the PlayStation 5 must also support it.

TV for games

VRR is designed to prevent screen torn, which is a nasty side effect of a console that can't keep up with the screen's refresh rate. If the console isn't ready to send a full frame, it sends a partial one, which causes a tearing effect. When the refresh rate is in unison with the frame rate, tearing is virtually eliminated.

Low Latency Auto Mode (ALLM) is an intelligent method of disabling processing to reduce latency when playing. When the TV detects ALLM, it automatically disables features that may introduce latency. With ALLM, you don't have to remember to switch to Game mode for best performance.

Quick Frame Transport (QFT) works with VRR and ALLM to further reduce latency and screen tearing. QFT transports frames from the source at a higher rate than existing HDMI technology. This makes games look more responsive.

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All devices in the HDMI chain need support for these features to work, including AV receivers.

Let's talk about latency

When you buy a new gaming TV, you're likely to see two similar-sounding terms that refer to different things: latency (or delay) and response time.

Latency is the time it takes for the display to react to your input. For example, if you press a button on the controller to jump, latency is how long it takes your character to jump across the screen. Lower latency can give you the edge in competitive multiplayer games or make single player games faster and more responsive.

This delay is measured in milliseconds. Typically, a latency of 15 ms or less is unnoticeable. Some high-end TVs reduce this to around 10 ms, but anything below 25 ms is usually enough. The importance of this depends entirely on the type of game you play.

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Response time refers to the pixel's response. This is the time it takes for a pixel to change from one color to another, often referred to in “gray to gray” performance. This is also measured in milliseconds, and it's not uncommon for high-end monitors to have a pixel response of 1 ms or better. OLED displays, in particular, have an almost instantaneous response time.

Many premium gaming and flagship TVs have good latency and response times. Budget TVs can be hit or miss, so do some research before you buy. At RTINGS, they test latency and list all revision models by input lag if you want to see how that gaming TV you're considering stacks up.

Samsung's Smart TV 4K QLED 50 has one of the best response times on the market, in addition to guaranteeing 60Hz in 4k. Make sure yours right away, it's a great value for money.

Smart TV 4K QLED 50” Samsung QN50Q60TAGXZD
  • Video: Quantum Processor Lite, Screen Frequency 60hz, Dual LED, Quantum HDR, Auto Motion Plus, 100% color volume with quantum dots
  • Audio: Dolby Digital Plus, Multiroom Link, 2 channel, Power (RMS) 20W
  • Connectivity: Wi-fi, Bluetooth (BT4.2), HDMI 3, USB 2, Composite Input (AV) 1, Ethernet (LAN), Digital Audio Output (Optical) 1, RF Input (terrestrial/cable input) ) 1 / 1 (Normal Use for Terrestrial) / 0, eARC, Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC)
  • Smart Device: Tizen Operating System with voice interaction (Alexa and Bixby)
  • bivolt

FreeSync and G-Sync

Variable refresh rates eliminate screen tear by matching the monitor's refresh rate with the source frame rate. On a PC, it's a graphics card or GPU. Both Nvidia and AMD have proprietary technologies that address this issue.

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G-Sync is Nvidia's variable refresh rate technology and requires an on-screen hardware chip. However, it only works with Nvidia video cards. If you have an Nvidia GTX or RTX card that you want to use with your new gaming TV, make sure it supports G-Sync.

Currently, there are the following three tiers of G-Sync:

  • G-Sync: Offers tear-free games in standard definition.
  • G Sync Ultimate: Designed for use with HDR up to 1.000 nits of brightness.
  • Compatible with G-Sync: These are monitors that don't have the prerequisite chip, but still work with normal G-Sync.
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FreeSync is AMD's equivalent technology and works with the company's line of Radeon GPUs. There are three tiers of FreeSync:

  • FreeSync: removes the tear from the screen.
  • FreeSync Premium: incorporates low frame rate compensation to increase low frame rates. Requires a 120Hz screen at 1080p or better.
  • FreeSync Premium Pro: Adds support for HDR content up to 400 nits.

Many TVs that support G-Sync also work with FreeSync (and vice versa). Currently, there are very few TVs that explicitly support G-Sync, notably LG's flagship OLED line. FreeSync is cheaper to implement because it doesn't require any additional hardware, so it's widely found on more affordable monitors.

As AMD is making the GPUs inside the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, FreeSync support could be more important for console gamers of this generation. Microsoft has confirmed FreeSync Premium Pro support for the upcoming X-Series (in addition to the HDMI VRR), but it's not clear what Sony is using.

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A great model compatible with FreeSync is the TV 55″ NanoCell 4K 55NANO85SPA, from LG, with frequency of 120Hz and HDMI 2.1. In other words, the perfect option for you who want a TV for games.

2021 Smart TV LG 55" 4K NanoCell 55NANO85 120Hz FreeSync 2 HDMI 2.1 Artificial Intelligence ThinQAI Google Alexa
  • 120Hz FreeSync2 HDMI 2.1 Artificial Intelligence ThinQGoogle Alexa
  • Google Wizard (Built in)
  • Amazon Alexa (Built in & Works With)
  • Airplay2 & Homekit (Works with)
  • Control panel

Consider where you will be playing

There are currently two main panel types on the market: LED backlit LCDs (including QLEDs) and auto-illuminated OLEDs. LCD panels can be much brighter than OLEDs because OLED is an organic self-emitting technology that is more susceptible to permanent image retention at high brightness.

If you're playing in a brightly lit room, you might find that an OLED just isn't bright enough. Most OLED panels are subject to automatic brightness limiting (ABL), which reduces the overall screen brightness in well-lit scenes. LCD panels are not susceptible to this and can be made much brighter.

TV for games

If you play mostly during the day in a room full of windows with lots of ambient lighting, an LCD might be the best choice. However, in a light-controlled room at night with subtle lighting, an OLED will provide the best image quality.

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Generally, OLEDs provide excellent image quality due to their (theoretically) infinite contrast ratio. QLED models (LED-illuminated LCDs with quantum dot film) have higher color volume, meaning they can display more colors and stay brighter. It's up to you to decide what best suits your budget and gaming environment.

OLED panel

OLED panels are susceptible to permanent image retention or “burning”. This is caused by static content, such as TV channel leaderboards or logos, that remain on the screen for an extended period of time. For players, this also applies to HUD elements such as health bars and minimaps.

For most people, this won't be a problem. If you vary content consumption and wear out the panel, you probably won't find the ''burn-in''. Also, if you play a variety of games, this won't be a big problem.

This can be a problem for people who have been playing the same game for months, especially if it has a lot of HUD elements. One way to reduce the risk of burn-in is to enable HUD transparency or disable the HUD completely. Of course, this is not always possible or desirable.

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Many OLED TVs now include burn-in reduction measures, such as LG's Logo Luminance feature, which dims the screen when static content is displayed for two minutes or more. This should help prevent burn-in. A gaming TV with this technology is LG's Smart TV 55″ 4K OLED AI ThinQ, which will meet all your gaming requirements, in addition to being able to control your Smart Home without leaving the couch or bed.

Smart TV LG 55" 4K OLED WiFi Bluetooth HDR Artificial Intelligence ThinQAI Smart Magic Google Assistant Alexa
  • Smart TV LG 55" 4K OLED WiFi Bluetooth HDR Artificial Intelligence ThinQAI Smart Magic Google Assistant Alexa
  • Self-illuminating pixels
  • Pure Black (Infinite Contrast)
  • Perfect Colors
  • Eye Comfort Display

For PC gamers who use a TV as a monitor (with taskbars and on-screen desktop icons), an OLED is probably not the best choice. Any amount of static image poses a risk of burn-in. Unless you're just using a monitor to play games or watch movies, you might consider a state-of-the-art LCD panel.

Not all burn-in is noticeable during real-world use. Many people only find out when they run test patterns, including color slides. Unfortunately, most warranties, especially from manufacturers, do not cover burn-in. If you're concerned and still want an OLED, consider getting an extended warranty from stores that explicitly cover this issue.

HDR and Dolby Vision

HDR games became popular with the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. With both platforms supporting HDR in some way, you'll want to make sure your next gaming TV is at least HDR10 compatible, so you get richer, brighter and more detailed images.

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The HDR Gaming Interest Group (HGIG) was formed in an attempt to standardize HDR games through the HGIG format. Games must be certified for HGIG support. The format is set to take off with the arrival of next-gen games, so it's probably worth looking for an HDR TV with HGIG support.

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Both Xbox Series X and S will also support Dolby Vision HDR, which is yet another format. Unlike HDR10, which uses static metadata, Dolby Vision uses dynamic scene-by-scene metadata. Currently, content mastered in Dolby Vision can reach the maximum brightness of 4.000 nits, although no consumer monitor can yet reach these levels.

To use the Dolby Vision on your new Xbox, you will need to have a compatible TV. Manufacturers such as LG, Vizio, HiSense and TCL produce TVs that support Dolby Vision. Samsung, however, avoided the format in favor of the HDR10+. However, if you are purchasing a high-end Xbox, remember that games must explicitly support the feature.

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The next generation of games

This has been a turbulent year for most people, so the arrival of next-gen consoles and graphics cards is even more exciting than usual. It's also not a bad time to upgrade your TV for gaming, especially if you've put off buying a 4K set until now.

The price of LG's gaming TV OLEDs has dropped significantly in recent years. Quantum Dot Films are now found in $2000,00 LCD sets, which means you can get a bright, colorful image without blowing your savings.

There will soon be even more price cuts on gaming TVs, 120 Hz panels, LED mini-TVs and widespread adoption of HDMI 2.1.

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Avatar of Denner Perazzo

Journalist, 26 years old. Passionate about what I do and what I write about.