If you spend more screen time gaming than you do 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 C1(available at Amazon for $1,596.99) 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 C1 (available in 48-, 55-, 65-, and 77-inch models) is a stunning OLED TV with an array of future-facing features that will help maintain its value for several years to come. It’s our pick for the best gaming TV you can buy right now.
OLED TVs are known for their incredible contrast, and the LG C1 is no exception. It pairs a perfect black level with stellar highlights, offering a sustained peak brightness of around 700 to 800 nits in HDR, making it one of the brightest OLED TVs we’ve ever seen. When it comes to color, the C1 is a top-level performer, too; it features 100% SDR color saturation (Rec.709) and 97% HDR color saturation (DCI-P3). That means no matter what you’re watching—from TV shows to Blu-rays—you can expect rich, true-to-life color.
The LG C1 is equipped with four HDMI 2.1 inputs that all support 4K resolution at 120fps, which makes it a great choice for gamers who own (or plan on owning) an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. In fact, the LG C1 is stuffed with gaming-centric features, like Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), and FreeSync/G-Sync support, and a suite of picture enhancements that can be found in the TV’s Game Optimizer menu.
The C1 also comes with the sixth iteration of LG’s webOS smart platform pre-installed, and while it’s not our favorite smart software going right now, most folks will find it suitable to their needs; it’s zippy, easy to navigate, and offers a broad selection of apps via LG’s Content Store.
Although the LG G1 and the Sony A90J are better-performing TVs by the thinnest of margins, we believe that, for most folks, the slight difference in picture quality isn’t worth the added cost.
Between its incredible performance, its wide array of features, and its elegant design, the LG C1 is not only the best TV for gaming you can buy right now, it’s the best TV you can buy, period. True A/V enthusiasts might be tempted by the LG G1 and the Sony A90J’s slightly superior picture quality, but if you want the best ride for your money, the C1 offers a nearly identical experience for a considerably friendlier price.
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 features and picture quality that punches well above its weight. All told, the 6-Series performs better than just about every TV in its price range, making it a great pick for gamers 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 120Hz refresh rate (up to 1440p at 120Hz) 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 Murideo Seven 8K signal generator, and more Blu-rays than we can keep track of. For software, we use Portrait Displays’ Calman Ultimate color calibration software, 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 Buying a TV for Gaming
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 120fps and 8K gaming at 60fps.
While there’s still plenty of time for HDMI 2.0 to shine, video game developers are 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 120fps.
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 carry names, like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync.
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” representing the amount of times per second. This means 60Hz TVs refresh 60 times per second, while 120Hz TVs refresh twice as often. Naturally, the higher the refresh rate, the better the TV tends to be at conveying realistic, smooth motion.
Currently, TVs only come in 60Hz or 120Hz, though you might see claims of higher refresh rates—like 240, 480, or even 960Hz. Make no mistake, however: Every TV on the market in 2020 is either 60Hz or 120Hz 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 120Hz are better equipped at delivering a smooth video game experience, but that doesn’t mean 60Hz TVs aren’t worth a look, especially if you’re looking to save some money.
Finally, it's also worth noting that refresh rate (Hz) is not the same as fps, or frames per second, but they are related. A TV with a 4K @ 60Hz function can often play 1080p (full-HD) content at 120 frames per second, even without a native 120Hz refresh rate.
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 these days 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 Reduce Input Lag?
Depending on your TV’s capabilities, you may be able to take steps at home to reduce 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. TVs that offer Auto Low Latency Mode will automatically enable Game Mode if they detect the presence of a gaming console.
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 TV Terms Do I Need To Know?
When it comes to knowing what you're paying for, almost no category is rifer 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. 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 and Wide Color Gamut, which can display many more shades than HD TVs.
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 many times the brightness and 30% more color production than non-HDR TVs. Current top HDR formats include HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision.
60Hz/120Hz: These numbers refer to what is called a "refresh rate," with Hz (hertz) representing "times per second." So if a TV's refresh rate is 60Hz, this means it re-scans and updates for picture information 60 times per second; with 120Hz, it's 120 times per second. Currently, TVs only come in 60 or 120Hz. A higher refresh rate is always better, but not always necessary.
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 Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, and 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 illuminated. 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.
What Is a TV Series?
You may notice the TVs listed in this roundup don't follow the traditional naming convention you might see in a store or online. That's because rather than nominating a single size of TV, we nominate the entire range of sizes within a "series."
Typically these TVs are identical in performance but differ in price and size. We do this in order to offer you more flexibility in your decision, but also because it's the most accurate representation available.
Other TVs For Gaming We Tested
The LG G1 (available in 55, 65, and 77 inches) is the crown jewel of LG’s consumer-facing OLED TV lineup for 2021, offering slightly better performance than the LG C1, though at a significantly higher price point. It’s not an ideal fit for most people—even many folks shopping in a higher price bracket—but it’s an incredible TV stuffed with an incredible amount of features.
Being an OLED TV, the LG G1 sports perfect black levels and an incredible level of picture detail. It’s one of the few LG OLED TVs that uses the company’s “OLED “evo” panel technology, which allows the G1 to get slightly brighter than the LG C1. The OLED evo panel is also marginally better at saturating HDR color than the C1. That said, only the keenest of eyes will recognize the difference in picture quality between the G1 and the C1.
In terms of features, the G1 offers everything but the kitchen sink. With a 120Hz refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, G-Sync/FreeSync, Auto Low Latency Mode, and various game optimization settings, the G1 is one of the best TVs available for gamers. It also comes with the sixth iteration of LG’s webOS smart platform, which we find fast and flexible enough for most users.
The “G” in G1 stands for “Gallery,” and LG’s Gallery OLED series carries that name because it’s designed to hang on a wall like a piece of art. If you don’t want to wall-mount your next TV, you’ll need to shell out extra for the G1’s stand, which is sold separately.
There’s no denying that the LG G1 is one of the best TVs we’ve ever seen, and one that performs marginally better than the LG C1. The added cost, however, is anything but marginal—especially once you factor in the G1’s separately sold stand. For this reason, the G1 isn’t at the top of our ranking. If you decide to go all-in on the G1, however, you’ll be investing in one of the best TVs money can buy—and it’ll stay that way for years to come.
If quality is what you’re after and you don’t mind splashing out on a high-end TV, the Sony A90J is not only one of the best OLED TVs we’ve ever tested, but one of the best TVs we’ve ever tested, period.
The A90J blends the picture-perfect black levels of an OLED with some of the brightest highlights we’ve ever seen for this impressive display technology. In HDR, the A90J regularly climbs as high as 700 to 800 nits, with specular highlights getting much brighter than that in short bursts. The added brightness also elevates the TV’s colors, which are equal parts voluminous and accurate. In fact, the A90J’s HDR color palette covers about 98% of the expanded DCI-P3 color space when the TV is in its “Custom” picture mode.
The Sony A90J is also packed to the gills with features and enhancements, including the Google TV smart platform (which replaces Android TV), eARC compatibility, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support, a native refresh rate of 120Hz, and Center Speaker mode, which allows users to use the A90J’s internal speakers as the center channel of a surround sound setup.
Crucially, two of the A90J’s HDMI 2.1-specified ports offer Variable Refresh Rate, Auto Low Latency Mode, and support 4K content at 120fps. If you own (or plan on owning) a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, these features are essential if you’re hoping to get the most out of the newest generation of gaming consoles.
If there’s one major criticism you can level at this remarkable TV, it’s that its cost is much higher than most TVs. Even among other high-end TVs in its own category, the Sony A90J sticks out as one of the priciest. Still, if you have the means and you’re searching for a TV with incredible out-of-the-box performance, the A90J is one of the best you’ll find on shelves today.
Incredible contrast and color
HDMI 2.1-specified features
Zippy, flexible smart platform
Brighter than last year, but still dim compared to LCD/LED TVs
If you’re shopping for a top-shelf TV with a bright, colorful picture, the Samsung QN90A (available in 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch models) is one of the year’s best options. It combines the impressive performance we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s flagship TVs with an incredible toolbox of extra features and enhancements.
The QN90A is outfitted with Samsung’s Neo QLED display technology, which marries quantum dots with mini-LED backlights. Quantum dots make for a brighter, more color-rich picture, while the TV’s abundance of mini-LEDs allows for better-than-average black levels and tight contrast control. The end result is one of the best pictures we’ve seen all year, especially when it comes to HDR content.
But the QN90A’s dazzling display is only half of its appeal, as it’s packed to the brim with hardware and software enhancements. The TV’s 120Hz refresh rate—combined with its HDMI 2.1 support—make it a great choice for avid gamers. It supports both Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate, two features widely considered essential for next-generation gaming. The QN90A also puts all of its gaming-related settings in an easy-to-access menu called Game Bar—a feature introduced in a handful of Samsung TVs in 2021. It’s important to remember—especially if you plan on owning multiple gaming consoles—that only one of the QN90A’s ports supports 4K gaming at 120fps.
The QN90A offers a host of extras not related to gaming, too, from Multi View (which allows users to watch more than one source at a time) to the Samsung Health ecosystem. And while the QN90A’s Tizen-based smart platform isn’t our favorite, it’s easy to use and offers enough flexibility for most users.
All told, the Samsung QN90A is the best Samsung TV in 2021, and while it’s not exactly budget-friendly, its excellent performance and future-facing features make it a great option for shoppers seeking a luxury TV experience.
The Hisense U8G is one of the best TVs Hisense has ever released, offering a blend of top-shelf performance and future-facing features for a far friendlier price than most of its direct competitors. If you’re in the market for a premium gaming TV but blush at the price of something like the Samsung QN90A, the U8G might be the perfect compromise.
From a hardware standpoint, the U8G is a heavyweight. It’s equipped with full-array local dimming, quantum dots, and two HDMI 2.1 ports. It also supports 4K/120fps gaming, Auto Low Latency Mode, and Variable Refresh Rate, which means it’s a great pickup for folks who own (or plan on buying) an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5.
In our lab tests, the U8G dazzled us; it’s one of the brightest TVs we’ve ever tested, and its out-of-the-box color accuracy is incredible. SDR content (cable TV and most streaming content) looks terrific on the U8G, but HDR content (4K Blu-rays and movies mastered for Dolby Vision) is its bread and butter. Simply put, if you want your next TV to showcase all that HDR has to offer, the U8G is one of the best ways to go about doing that.
Unfortunately, the U8G’s Android-based smart platform, while flexible in its app selection, isn’t our favorite. The user interface is a bit hard to navigate and, overall, rather rough around the edges. Still, you can solve this problem by dedicating one of the U8G’s ports to an external streaming device. The U8G’s local dimming is also not as refined as some of the competition (such as the aforementioned Samsung QN90A), so it may not be the best choice for cinephiles and picture purists who would prefer a balanced picture over intense HDR performance.
But all told, the Hisense U8G still rivals some of the best LED TVs we’ve seen in recent years, and manages to do so at a significantly lower cost. If you’re looking for a future-facing TV for a terrific price, it’s hard to beat the U8G.
The Samsung QN85A (available in 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch models) is a second-tier flagship that packs many of the same hardware and software features you’ll find in the Samsung QN90A, but there are some crucial differences between the two.
Like the QN90A, the QN85A features Samsung’s Neo QLED display technology, which combines quantum dots with mini-LEDs. The quantum dots allow for incredibly bright highlights and rich color, while the mini-LED backlights give the QN85A tight control over its contrast zones. Unfortunately, while the QN85A boasts some serious brightness (well over 1,000 nits in HDR), its black levels are very shallow, creating a washed-out look during dark scenes and flattening detail overall. We suspect that the TV’s panel type is the culprit.
Still, there’s quite a bit to appreciate here, if you’re able to get past the QN85A’s disappointing black levels. While its panel may not be the best for movie night, it offers great off-axis viewing, meaning it looks similarly good from anywhere in the room, so it works well with a crowd. One (but not all) of the TV’s HDMI ports offers HDMI 2.1-specified features, including 4K/120fps support and FreeSync. Samsung’s new Game Bar feature is nice to have in tow, too, as it puts useful gaming-related information and settings into one easy-to-access menu.
Overall, we recommend the Samsung QN85A to anyone who’s looking for a bright, well-designed smart TV with a focus on gaming, but we don’t recommend it for A/V enthusiasts and cinephiles who value picture quality. It’s an impressive TV in many respects, but its worse-than-average black level is a significant strike against it.
The Samsung Q80A is a mid-range TV with the look and feel of a luxury set. It’s a great option for gamers (or for folks who are just looking for a bright TV), but the Q80A’s panel type produces very shallow black levels. This makes it a not-so-great choice for people who watch Blu-rays and stream content in a dim or dark setting.
The good news is that, setting aside the subpar contrast, the Samsung Q80A gets good marks in other performance areas. Its quantum dot display creates a colorful, well-saturated picture, and it’s capable of sustaining 500+ nits of brightness in HDR, so newer content (like 4K Blu-rays and certain streaming content) will really shine.
If features are what you’re after, the Q80A has those in spades: Tizen Smart TV, HDMI 2.1 support, FreeSync (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode, Samsung Game Bar, Multi View, Samsung Health, and support for Q-Symphony soundbars.
The best thing you can say about the Samsung Q80A’s panel type is that it delivers extra-wide horizontal viewing angles, making it a great option for group viewings. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the TV’s contrast. Additionally, a fair amount of light bloom is noticeable when bright picture elements clash with dark.
All told, it’s easy to recommend Samsung Q80A to gamers and bright TV enthusiasts, but there’s a harder case to be made for its use as a home theater centerpiece. With black levels this shallow, cinephiles are better off springing for the Samsung QN90A, whose panel type delivers a picture that’s better suited for movie night.
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.