Best Gaming TV: Low Input Lag and High Picture Quality

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If you’re looking for the best gaming TV, you typically don’t need to look further than the best TVs, period. Gaming has become so widespread that many of the greatest features on today’s televisions are perfectly suited for video games. A great gaming TV will really excel at the essentials of picture quality, like contrast, color, contrast, brightness and resolution. That said, with the advent of HDMI 2.1, there are specific TVs that have advanced features like 120Hz and variable refresh rates. These can make a huge difference to your gaming experience, especially with next-gen consoles such as the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Another related feature that you’ll find on the best gaming TVs is game mode, which reduces input lag and keeps your image crisp.

How quickly you react while gaming depends on a feedback loop between your brain, your fingers, the game controller and the action you see on the TV screen. Delay at any point will diminish your performance and the thrilling immediacy of the playing experience. It takes mere milliseconds for a video signal to travel from your console through the HDMI input on your TV to display on the screen, but too many milliseconds can be noticeable to your brain, or downright deadly to your in-game character. Those milliseconds are known as input lag. 

xbox-one-x-comparisons-01

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Select TVs’ input lag with game mode on and off (milliseconds)

TV Model Year On (1080p) Off (1080p) On (4K HDR) Off (4K HDR)
LG OLED65C2 2022 9.93 72.80 9.87 81.10
LG OLED65C1 2021 9.93 81.13 9.97 89.43
LG OLED65G1 2021 9.93 81.17 9.97 89.47
Samsung QN65Q90A 2021 10.27 97.37 10.20 70.33
Vizio M65Q7-J01 2021 11.03 51.47 11.03 60.37
Hisense 65H8G 2021 15.30 126.67 15.37 126.57
Vizio P65Q9-J01 2021 16.07 112.97 13.73 112.40
Sony XR-65X90J 2021 17.60 159.50 17.30 144.00
TCL 65R635 2021 19.97 19.00 18.27 137.40

The top 3 gaming TVs

The following TVs, featured at the top of the page, deliver either the lowest lag I’ve measured among the TVs I’ve reviewed, the best picture quality for the money, or a combination of both.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Sizes

48-, 55-, 65-, 77-, 83-inch

TV Technology

OLED

Smart TV

Yes (webOS)

Resolution

4K

HDMI Ports

4

There are actually three LG OLED TVs tied for the lowest lag on the chart, but we’re choosing the C1 because it’s the best value. The other two, the C2 and the G1, are both more expensive, and all three deliver very similar picture quality — which happens to be the best we’ve ever tested. The C1 is a 2021 TV, but the gaming extras and other differences between it and the C2 from 2022 aren’t worth the price.

Note that its lag score here was measured with the special “Reduce input delay (input lag)” setting in the Boost position. Boost is only available for 60Hz sources, so you can’t use it with 120Hz games or VRR. With those sources you’ll need to use the Standard position, which is still an excellent 13ms.

While some sizes have sold out at certain retailers, others are still available.

Read our LG C1 series OLED TV review.

 

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David Katzmaier/CNET

Another high-end 2021 TV, this Samsung QLED model delivers the best picture quality of any TV we’ve reviewed that’s not based on OLED display tech. It can get brighter than any of the OLED TVs listed here, supports all the next-gen gaming features, and showed lower lag than any 2020 TV we’ve tested so far.

Read our Samsung QN90A series (2021) review.

 

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David Katzmaier/CNET

Sizes

50-, 55-, 58-, 65-, 70-, 75-inch

TV Technology

QLED

Smart TV

Yes (SmartCast)

Resolution

4K

HDMI Ports

4

The MQ7 is one of the least expensive TVs available that supports VRR, a feature found on the PS5 and Xbox Series X that smooths out images and reduces tearing. It also has excellent image quality for the money, if not quite as good as the TCL 6-Series.

Read our Vizio M-7 Series Quantum (2021) review.

 

What else you need to know about input lag

How to turn on game mode. In most cases, viewing in game mode isn’t automatic so you’ll have to turn it on manually, and sometimes the gaming monitor setting can be difficult to find. Many use a picture mode called “Game” while some, like Samsung and Vizio, let you apply game mode to any setting. 

Samsung Q9 TV

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Game mode makes a difference, except when it doesn’t. As you can see in the table above, many TVs cut lag substantially when you turn on game mode, but plenty don’t. In general, expensive TVs with elaborate video processing get more of a benefit when you engage game mode.

Most TVs’ game modes are good enough for most gamers. No matter how twitchy you are, it’s going to be tough to tell the difference between 13 and 30 milliseconds of input lag. Many gamers won’t even be able to discern between having game mode on and off — it all depends on the game and your sensitivity to lag.

Turning game mode on can hurt image quality (a little). TV makers’ menus often refer to reduced picture quality. Reduced picture quality is generally the result of turning off that video processing. In my experience, however, the differences in image quality are really subtle with console gaming, and worth the trade-off if you want to minimize lag for a great gaming experience.

4K HDR gaming lag is different from 1080p. The display resolution you play at has an impact, and since new consoles prominently feature 4K HDR output for games, I started testing for 4K HDR lag in 2018. In general, the numbers are similar to the lag with standard 1080p resolution, but as you can see from the chart above, there are exceptions.

Testing is an inexact science. I use a Leo Bodnar lag tester. Here’s how it works, and how I use it. You might see different lag test results from different review outlets, which may use Bodnar or another method.


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What’s the best TV for gaming, period?

As I mentioned at the top, the best TV for gaming is one that has the best picture quality for viewing everything else, too. Games benefit from deep black levels, bright highlights and uniform screens just as much as movies and TV shows do. 

Yes, there are other factors, but they don’t apply to most gamers. If you play the same game constantly on your smart LED TV and never put anything else on the screen, and that game as a bright static element that stays in the same place on the screen (like a HUD or other status display), you might be at risk for OLED burn-in. But most gamers don’t have to worry about OLED burn-in.

If the TV input where your console is connected is shared with other devices and you don’t want to remember to re-engage game mode all the time, an auto game-mode feature might be useful. And some cutting-edge PS5, Xbox Series X and PC gamers might appreciate 4K/120Hz input and variable refresh rate.

Most gamers, however, will find that the best TV for gaming is the best TV, period.