If you spend more screen time gaming than watching Netflix or channel surfing, you've probably got slightly different priorities when buying a new TV, especially now that the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X have arrived.
You want image quality, of course, but you also don't want a TV that introduces input lag. There are other factors to consider, too, like whether or not a TV supports various gaming-centric features. If money is no object, the LG C9(available at Amazon) is the best gaming TV. In fact, it’s also our pick for the best TV you can buy, period. If that's too pricey, though, we've got plenty of other suggestions, including the affordable TCL 6-Series. Whatever your budget, there's a great 4K gaming TV for you.
These are the best gaming TVs we tested, ranked in order:
The LG C9 is our current pick for the best TV you can buy, so it stands to reason that it’s also our pick for the best gaming TV. There are three reasons why, if you’re a serious gamer and have the means, you ought to consider the LG C9: motion handling, HDMI 2.1, and input lag.
The C9 features a native refresh rate of 120 Hz and comes with an effective suite of motion enhancement tools. Additionally, the C9 is currently one of the very few consumer-facing TVs equipped with HDMI 2.1 ports, which will help gamers get the best performance out of Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles later this year. Lastly, input lag is not a problem with the LG C9, with testers consistently clocking its input performance below 20 milliseconds.
And then there’s the C9’s picture, which is hard to beat. If you haven't heard, OLED panels are kind of the bee's knees for the avid TV watcher. Each pixel turns "on" and "off" automatically, meaning when OLED TVs display black, they display actual black. Likewise, when they display a color, it emits from the pixel directly, giving it a more pure and unfiltered appearance than traditional LED/LCD TVs. LG's been the leader in OLED TV production for several years, and the 2019 C9 is the latest "C" OLED—it's almost the most affordable one in the lineup, but still has all the same awesome OLED picture quality.
The C9 series (which is available in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch sizes) delivers a justifiable price tag alongside all the same excellent OLED picture quality, 4K resolution, High Dynamic Range and Dolby Vision specifications, LG's friendly "webOS" smart platform, and more. It's stuffed full of great features and a geeky array of calibration options for the AV nerds out there—especially serious gamers. Check out our full review of the LG C9 series for more information.
The 2020 TCL 6-Series (available in 55-, 65-, and 75-inch variants) is one of the most value-packed TVs of the year. Thanks to a robust offering of next-gen gaming-centric features, it's one of the best gaming TVs of the year, too. All told, the 6-Series performs better than just about every TV in its price range, making it a great pick for folks looking to maximize their dollar.
The TCL 6-Series produces a bright, colorful 4K picture during both SDR and HDR content, thanks in part to the TV’s quantum dots. In our lab, we consistently clocked the 6-Series at around 800-900 nits of brightness while receiving an HDR signal. This makes the 6-Series a fantastic option for folks whose living rooms receive a fair amount of ambient light. The inclusion of quantum dots also makes for rich, well-saturated colors, particularly during HDR content.
Gamers will be thrilled with the 6-Series’ native 120 Hz refresh rate (up to 1440p at 120 Hz) as well as the addition of something called THX Certified Game Mode, a suite of enhancements that includes VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) support and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) to adjust to the different frame rate of gaming content.
Being a Roku TV, the TCL 6-Series comes equipped with our favorite streaming platform right out of the box. Its software is sleek, easy to use, and offers access to a vast library of apps.
The TCL 6-Series isn’t quite as impressive as the top TVs on our list, but its performance and features are highly commendable given its price tag. In short, it’s one of the best deals in the industry at the moment.
Reviewed has been testing TVs since some of its current employees were in middle school. While many proud TV testers have come and gone through Reviewed's labs, the current Home Theater team consists of Michael Desjardin and Lee Neikirk. Michael is a senior staff writer and a six-year veteran of the Reviewed tech team. A film enthusiast and TV expert, he takes picture quality seriously but also understands that not every TV is a good fit for everyone.
As Reviewed's Home Theater Editor, Lee doesn't do as much testing these days. However, he designed the company's current TV testing methodology after receiving calibration certification from the Imaging Science Foundation.
It'd be an understatement to say that we're serious about TV testing. The lab in our Cambridge location is outfitted with much of the same equipment you'd find at a factory that manufactures and calibrates television.
On the hardware side, we've got things like a Konica Minolta CS-200 tristimulus color meter, an LS-100 luminance meter, a Leo Bodnar input lag tester, a Quantum Data 780A signal generator, and more Blu-rays than we can keep track of. For software, we use CalMan Ultimate, the industry-standard in taking display measurements and calibrating screens to specifications.
Our testing process is equally complicated and has been honed over many years to gather data that is marginal enough to satisfy curious video engineers, but also relevant to the average person's viewing experience. We measure things like peak brightness, black level, hue and saturation for primary and secondary digital colors, the accuracy of the TV's electro-optical transfer function—you get the idea, it's complicated.
Weighting for our performance tests is based on how the human eye prioritizes vision, which means we put "brightness" data (monochromatic eye based on light sensitivity) higher than colorimetry, which is also scaled by the eye's sensitivity, and so on.
Outside of the strictly technical tests, we also spend a lot of time just watching and using each TV, getting a feel for the at-home experience of doing things like dialing up streaming video service, connecting a Blu-ray player and watching movies, using the smart features, and checking out the TV's ports, remote, and on-set buttons—anything and everything that might be relevant.
What You Should Know About TVs
While everyone has different eyes, generally, our vision all functions the same way: we prioritize dynamic information and bright, compelling colors over subtler hues and resolution (sharpness). Generally, a TV can be considered a good TV when we forget that we're watching a TV. We don't see pixels creating mixes of red, green, and blue to simulate colors; we see the real world, lit and colored as it is, in fluid motion.
In simpler terms, this means a TV that can get very bright and dark without obscuring details; produces accurate colors (compared to various color standards designated by the International Telecommunication Union); possesses proper bit-mapping and the right codecs and decoders for video processing; and can properly play the various types of content thrown at it without judder, blurring, and so on.
Note that specs alone (pixel count, measured brightness) aren't automatic indicators of quality, much like intense speed is not automatically an indicator of a good car.
What Is HDMI 2.1 And Do I Need It?
HDMI 2.1 is the newest version of the HDMI interface, concerning both HDMI ports and the cables themselves. Although HDMI 2.1 is in the nascent stage of its lifespan, the format is a requirement for several next-generation gaming benchmarks like 4K gaming at 120 FPS and 8K gaming at 60 FPS.
Some TVs include HDMI 2.1-compliant ports, but as of 2020, the industry standard remains HDMI 2.0. In due time, the 2.0 standard will be phased out in favor of HDMI 2.1, but as of late 2020, HDMI 2.1 ports are mostly a high-end spec.
Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time for HDMI 2.0 to shine; video game developers are just now beginning to harness the power of HDMI 2.1. Additionally, some TVs—like the TCL 6-Series, our Best Value winner for this roundup—cover some of HDMI 2.1’s standard features while not offering HDMI 2.1-compliant ports. For instance, the TCL 6-Series supports Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), but not 4K gaming at 120 FPS.
What Is Variable Refresh Rate (VRR)?
Variable Refresh Rate, often abbreviated as “VRR,” is a gaming-related software enhancement that prevents screen tearing and artifacting as a result of changes in frame rate. Essentially, VRR ensures that what is being displayed is in sync with real-time changes in animation.
Some forms of VRR are proprietary, like Nvidia’s G-Sync technology and AMD’s FreeSync technology.
What is Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)?
Auto Low Latency Mode, otherwise known as “ALLM,” is a feature that allows a TV to automatically switch into its designated gaming mode when a qualifying input is chosen. In short, it removes the need for a user to manually activate their TV’s gaming mode so that they may enjoy the benefits of low input lag and low latency without fumbling for a remote control and visiting the TV’s settings menu.
ALLM does not require the HDMI 2.1 format, but it will be a standard feature of HDMI 2.1 going forward.
What Is Refresh Rate And Why Is It Important For Gaming?
A TV’s refresh rate represents the amount of times it re-scans the picture for new information, with “Hz” being the unit of frequency. The higher the refresh rate, the better the TV tends to be at conveying realistic, smooth motion.
Currently, TVs only come in 60 Hz or 120 Hz, though you might see claims of higher refresh rates—like 240, 480, or even 960 Hz. Make no mistake, however: Every TV on the market in 2020 is either 60 Hz or 120 Hz natively, even though they might use motion enhancement settings to extrapolate higher numbers.
What does that mean for gamers? Well, TVs that feature a native refresh rate of 120 Hz are better equipped at delivering a smooth video game experience, but that doesn’t mean 60 Hz TVs aren’t worth a look, especially if you’re looking to save some money.
What Is Input Lag?
Input lag is what happens when the TV is doing so much image processing that a physical input from the player (pressing a button on the video game controller) takes too long to register on screen. This is a big problem in games that require split-second reaction time (and by the last levels, most games require split-second reaction time), and it's even worse if you're playing online.
Thankfully, there are very few TVs in 2020 that outright fail to deliver respectable input lag figures. In fact, for most folks, the difference in input lag from one TV to the next is often imperceptible.
How Do I Limit Input Lag?
Depending on your TV’s capabilities, you may be able to take steps at home to limit its input lag. Here are some things to consider.
1. Turn on Game Mode.
Designed specifically for use with video games, "Game Mode" (or some variation) is offered on most TVs. Sometimes it's an option under "Video Mode," a preset picture setting, and sometimes it's a standalone setting that you can toggle on or off. It usually turns off motion-smoothing modes (see #3 below), and pumps up the brightness and color saturation.
2. Turn off reduction features.
Most TVs on the market today come with at least a few reduction settings. They usually sit in their own sub-menu within a sub-menu, so it might be tricky to find them.
There are tons of names for these settings: Noise Reduction, Mosquito Reduction, NR Reduction, and MPEG Reduction are all likely candidates. Whatever they happen to be called, one thing is always consistent: They always increase input lag.
If you decide that you really need a certain feature, like flesh-tone enhancement, play the game without it at first, and then turn it on—you might notice that it affects response.
3. Turn off motion enhancements.
Nearly every TV that we've tested for input lag goes from excellent (sub-30ms input lag) to horrible (over 80ms input lag) just by turning motion smoothing on. It may make the picture look a little better, but your control over the game will suffer as a result.
What Other TV Terms Do I Need To Know?
When it comes to knowing what you're paying for, almost no category is more rife with subterfuge and tomfoolery than TVs. While knowing the specs of the TV you're shopping for is only half the battle, it's the bigger half. Here are the key bits of jargon you'll want to know while browsing:
LED/LCD: This refers to Light Emitting Diode and Liquid Crystal Display. LEDs are the backlights used in LCD TVs, also sometimes called a LED TV for this reason. The LED backlight shines through a layer of a semi-solid substance called "liquid crystal," so named for its ability to morph in reaction to tiny electrical volts and allow light to pass through.
OLED: This means Organic Light Emitting Diode. This is an altogether different panel technology than LED/LCD, albeit on the surface they work similarly. Rather than an LED backlight element shining through an LCD panel element, OLED TVs essentially combine the backlight and crystal array, using sub-pixel strata that produce light and color individually.
4K/UHD: Usually 4K refers to resolution—specifically, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. This is the current standard/mainstream resolution for most TVs. UHD means Ultra High Definition, and actually refers to a suite of picture improvements like 4K resolution, Wide Color Gamut, and High Dynamic Range.
High Dynamic Range: Like "UHD," High Dynamic Range (or HDR) refers to both a type of TV and a type of content that expands on the typical range of brightness (luminance) and color that a TV will produce. HDR TVs are newer and usually a bit more expensive, but can have four times the brightness and 30% more color production than non-HDR TVs, at least. Current HDR formats are HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
Smart TV: The term "smart TV" has evolved a lot over the years, but all it really means is that the TV connects to the internet. Most smart TVs these days are just a way to watch streaming services like Amazon Prime Video on your TV. Some smart TVs have browsers, calendars, or even Roku or Android functions. All smart TVs have ethernet or WiFi built-in.
Quantum Dots: Quantum dots are used in LED/LCD TVs only. These are microscopic nanocrystals that produce intensely colored light when struck with light. Quantum dots can be used to vastly improve the red and green saturation of a TV, and are one way that LED/LCD TVs can match the color spectrum of OLED.
Local Dimming: OLED panels look great because each pixel can operate independently. LED/LCD TVs can imitate this functioning via a process called local dimming, where localized clusters of LEDs dim or boost depending on whether the screen needs to be darker or brighter, sometimes vastly improving their performance and worth.
Other TVs We Tested
The LG CX (available in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch variants) is a fantastic OLED TV, and thanks to its HDMI 2.1 ports, it's also equipped to get the most out of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
In true OLED fashion, the LG CX features the signature near-perfect black levels that we’ve come to expect from this premium technology. Stellar contrast is the primary reason that TVs like this look so good, but you can also expect gorgeous, vivid color production and excellent motion handling. In fact, the CX’s native 120 Hz refresh rate makes it a great option for sports fans and gamers alike—you can expect clear, judder-free motion pretty much across the board. The TV's sleek, ultra-thin design is worthy of praise, too—the CX is sure to class up whatever room it occupies.
For anyone expecting top-notch brightness from their top-notch TV investment, a word of caution: Although the LG CX features some of the best contrast money can buy, its peak brightness levels don’t come close to those we’ve measured on high-end, non-OLED TVs, particularly those outfitted with quantum dots. If you need ultra brightness to match your bright room, check out one of the LED TVs on our list.
The LG BX (available in 55- and 65-inch variants) is one of the most affordable OLED TV series released in 2020, which makes it a great pickup for folks who don’t mind paying a premium for stunning, top-of-the-line TV technology, but nevertheless don’t want to spend the extra dough to land a better-performing TV, like the LG CX.
The BX is a 4K TV whose HDR support meets the Dolby Vision standard. Since it’s an OLED TV, you can expect perfect black levels and dazzling, voluminous color. For some folks—gamers in particular—the main draw of the BX will be its special features; the TV is equipped with HDMI 2.1 ports, supports FreeSync/G-Sync, and features a native refresh rate of 120 Hz. Simply put, the BX is one of the most affordable ways to secure a TV that will get the most out of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, even if its price tag doesn’t seem very affordable at first glance.
Because OLED TVs don’t get as bright as quantum dot LED TVs—and because the LG BX isn’t as bright as higher-end OLED TVs like the LG CX—folks with relatively bright living rooms might want to give brighter TVs a closer look. The LG BX isn’t exactly a dim TV, but it’s not as bright as you might expect given its price tag.
Here’s the bottom line: The LG BX isn’t a budget-friendly TV, but it is one of the most affordable ways to secure incredible OLED performance and future-proof features.
Vizio’s first OLED TV successfully blends the high-end picture quality we’ve come to expect from OLED TVs with the value-forward philosophies that helped give way to Vizio’s recent rise in popularity. It’s one of the most affordable ways to secure an OLED TV.
Available in 55- and 65-inch models, the Vizio OLED is packed with features fit for next-generation gaming, including HDMI 2.1 support (with eARC passthrough), VRR, and ALLM. Like all of the OLED TVs we’ve tested in recent years, the Vizio OLED also features a native refresh rate of 120 Hz. This refresh rate, combined with the TV’s HDMI 2.1 support, means that the Vizio OLED will be capable of 4K gaming at 120 FPS.
And then, of course, there’s the Vizio OLED’s picture, which is unsurprisingly stunning. Due to the self-illuminating nature of organic LEDs, the Vizio OLED is capable of perfect black levels and rich, accurate colors. Although it doesn’t get nearly as bright as high-end quantum dot TVs, it’s about as bright as its direct competitor, the LG BX.
If you’re hoping to make your next TV an OLED, the Vizio OLED is the most affordable way to go about doing so without investing in an OLED TV from one or two years ago. Simply put, when you factor in its performance chops and its next-gen gaming features, the Vizio OLED is one of the most value-packed TVs on the market.
The Samsung Q90T (available in 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch variants) is one of the brightest TVs we’ve tested this year, making it a great pick for people with bright living rooms—or folks who see themselves gaming during the daytime. Picture quality is top-notch, too; the Q90T’s quantum dot-enhanced panel produces bright, vibrant colors and respectable black levels.
As far as gaming features go, the Q90T has you covered: four HDMI ports (including one HDMI 2.1 port and eARC passthrough support), VRR (FreeSync), and ALLM are all accounted for. The TV also features a native refresh rate of 120 Hz.
Because the Q90T is one of Samsung’s flagship TVs, the price is a bit steep compared to most TVs in its performance class. That said, if you don’t mind paying a premium, it’s a great fit for all uses—including next-generation console gaming.
The Sony A8H is available in 55- and 65-inch models and offers the industry-leading picture quality we expect from OLED TVs. Perfect black levels, rich, accurate color production, and super-smooth motion handling are the highlights here, with an Android-based smart platform whose robust app selection makes up for its lackluster user interface. The A8H also gets quite bright for a contemporary OLED TV, climbing as high as 700-750 nits while receiving an HDR signal.
Unfortunately, given the state of the industry, the Sony A8H falls short in the all-important category of hardware and features. It doesn't come equipped with HDMI 2.1 ports and gaming features like VRR and ALLM are absent.
If you’re not an avid gamer—or if you simply don’t care about your next TV being as future-proof as possible—the Sony A8H is a stunning, top-tier TV that will serve as an impressive home theater centerpiece for several years to come.
If you’re looking for a premium gaming TV that harnesses the power of quantum dots but haven’t found what you’re looking for from Samsung or Vizio, why not take a look at the TCL 8-Series? Its low input lag and 120 Hz refresh rate will check some critical boxes for serious gamers, but also, it’s just a really, really good TV.
This QLED TV is available in two sizes: 65” and 75”. It aced nearly all of our performance tests and wowed us in action, demonstrating quantum dots’ ability to produce bright pictures with extra-vivid color. One of the reasons the 8-Series is such a stellar performer is the inclusion of TCL’s “mini-LED” technology, which allows for tight contrast control second only to OLED TVs. The TV’s excellent motion handling and built-in Roku software also make it a versatile pick.
The only real hang-ups are the 8-Series’ chunky design and its limited viewing angles (the latter of which isn’t as big of an issue as it is on the TCL 6-Series, but still might deter some folks). In addition, while the price tag reflects the TV’s performance, bargain hunters might feel more comfortable either going with a more affordable, mid-range TV, and folks hunting for top-tier performance might be better off springing for something with a better design and picture.
Still, put Red Dead Redemption 2 on this thing and prepare to be wowed.
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.