It's never been a better time to buy a 4K HDR TV for gaming, as new graphics cards, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are all slowing becoming available at retail and truly next-generation games are starting to arrive. The debut of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X coincides with an exciting time in the TV space too, with 4K HDR becoming standard on even the cheapest sets and new technologies like 120Hz refresh rates, adaptive sync and auto low latency modes boosting responsiveness for games. What follows are our recommendations for the best gaming TVs in 2021.
When considering a 4K TV for HDR gaming, one of the most important metrics is input latency, which measures how long it takes for your buttons presses to translate into in-game actions. The best 4K HDR TVs offer input latency of around 12ms or less, average models around 20ms, and slower screens react in 30ms or more; generally a difference of about 15ms between two screens is noticeable. However, you'll only accomplish these speeds by engaging gaming modes, which go by different names on different televisions. Auto low latency mode, which we mentioned earlier, automatically activates this mode when it's needed.
As well as input latency, we'll also be looking at how these televisions handle motion, their peak brightness figures, which HDR formats they support and the strength of their built-in smart TV interface. Of course, price is a prime consideration as well. Right now, more expensive OLED sets start at around $1600/£1300 for a 55-inch display while LCD models at the same size can cost less than half of that amount. There are also even cheaper options that provide relatively poor HDR but still deliver a lot of screen for the money.
HDMI 2.1 is another important feature we're looking out for. This standard allows for both 8K 60Hz and 4K 120Hz content, bringing a massive boost to either resolution or responsiveness. HDMI 2.1 is an integral part of both the next-gen consoles and next-gen graphics cards, so it's worth looking for if you're buying a TV - especially a high-end option. We've recently rounded up all the 120fps games confirmed for PS5 and Xbox Series X, and there are sure to be many more to come before the new consoles arrive.
We also have our recommendations in video form, filmed in February 2020.
Apart from making our TV recommendations, we'll also let you know which features are in the pipeline and what you can expect from gaming TVs over the next year. We'll also give a quick rundown of the four major panel types used in 4K HDR TVs - OLED, QLED, VA and IPS - so you have a basic idea of what their typical strengths and weaknesses are, in case you're considering a TV that isn't on this list.
So these are our top recommendations for gaming-friendly 4K HDR televisions in 2021, including budget, mid-range and high-end options. Use the quick links below to skip ahead, or read on for the full selections. Remember to disable ad blockers to see prices and "where to buy" links.
- Best 4K TV for HDR gaming
- Best non-OLED 4K TV for HDR gaming
- Best mid-range 4K TV for HDR gaming
- Best budget 4K 120Hz TV for gaming
- Best 4K budget TV for HDR gaming (USA)
- Best 4K budget TV for HDR gaming (UK)
LG CX OLED: the best 4K TV for HDR gaming
- Specs: 48, 55, 65 or 77 inches. HDMI 2.1. HDMI VRR, FreeSync and G-Sync Compatible. DolbyVision.
The best 4K TV for HDR gaming is the LG CX OLED. This model replaces the excellent LG C9 from last year and includes several key upgrades - most notably a faster processor and a 120Hz Black Frame Insertion (BFI) feature that boosts the clarity of fast-moving objects. Variable refresh rate support on the TV now includes AMD's FreeSync in addition to Nvidia's G-Sync Compatible and HDMI VRR, so you can expect smooth motion from 40Hz to 120Hz without tearing, judder or excessive input lag on both PC and consoles.
Elsewhere, the CX possesses all the qualities we loved on the LG C9, including extremely low input lag, measured at ~13ms at 60Hz and ~6ms at 120Hz. The TV also boasts four HDMI 2.1 ports, allowing for 4K 120fps gaming using a single cable on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and next-gen PC graphics cards.
Image quality, colour reproduction, viewing angles, motion clarity and contrast are top-notch thanks to the OLED panel used, which is an ideal choice for HDR content. While we recommend OLED if you're considering a high-end TV, Samsung's QLED sets have their own strengths, including the ability to hit higher peak brightness figures and immunity to burn-in.
4K HDR content is where the CX sings, but the television also handles lower-resolution content with aplomb thanks to excellent upscaling and full OSSC and Framemeister compatibility for retro gaming. LG's webOS software is also arguably the best available, thanks to an intuitive and responsive interface that includes easy Wiimote-style selection and rapid multitasking.
- HDMI 2.1 ports allow 4K 120fps gaming on Series X, PS5 and next-gen GPUs
- Extremely low input latency when using gaming modes
- 120Hz black frame insertion enables better motion processing
- Unbeatable contrast, pixel response times, colour accuracy and viewing angles
- Excellent scaling for lower-resolution sources
- DolbyVision and HDR10 are supported, but HDR10+ is missing
- Burn-in possible, albeit extremely unlikely if you watch varied content
- No option for filter-free 720p or 1080p upscaling
Samsung Q80T QLED: best 4K non-OLED TV for HDR gaming
- Specs: 49, 55, 65, 75 or 85 inches. HDMI 2.1. HDMI VRR and FreeSync. HDR10+.
While OLED TVs are impressive, they are expensive and may be prone to burn-in in extreme cases. They also can't match the brightness of high-end LCD displays. If you've decided against OLED for whatever reason, Samsung's QLED TVs are a good alternative. The Q80T we're recommending sports over 700 nits peak brightness and also boasts excellent colour accuracy, while its full array local dimming allows for contrast ratios of 4,000:1. Note that contrast here is lower than last year's equivalent Q70R, but improvements in response times, colour accuracy and viewing angles make up for this in our eyes.
Input lag is also a strong point for this television with HDR content at 4K responding in an impressive 10ms while game mode is enabled at 5ms when playing at 120Hz. FreeSync support is included too, which is handy when playing games on the Xbox Series X, Xbox One or PC. Of course, this TV does have some minor flaws as well, with no G-Sync Compatible support for use with Nvidia graphics cards and only one HDMI 2.1 port. Still, given its strengths, the Q80T makes a compelling argument against OLED.
Note: The 49-inch Q80T has a 60Hz panel instead of the 120Hz panel used in the larger sizes. It also lacks support for variable refresh rates and suffers from worse viewing angles, so we recommend the 55-inch size or larger for most people.
- Support for 4K 120Hz (albeit only on one HDMI port)
- Extremely low input lag in game mode
- Good motion handling with black frame insertion
- Variable refresh rate (FreeSync) support on Xbox One and PC
- No risk of burn-in
- Black levels and viewing angles don't compare to OLED
- No DolbyVision support, but HDR10 and HDR10+ are supported
Sony X900H/ XH9005: Best mid-range 4K TV for HDR gaming
- Specs: 55, 65, 75 or 85 inches. HDMI 2.1. HDMI VRR. DolbyVision.
The Sony X900H (known as the XH9005 in the UK) is an excellent choice for next-gen gaming, with two HDMI 2.1 ports suitable for gaming at 4K 120Hz on the PS5, Xbox Series X and next-gen PC graphics cards. It's also Sony's official 'Ready for PlayStation 5' TV; you'll even be able to control the PS5 using the TV's remote (and vice versa) which is a neat trick.
The X900H distinguishes itself with low input lag (~15ms at 60Hz and ~7ms at 120Hz), excellent contrast (4800:1 with full array local dimming) and impressive colour accuracy. As with other VA panels, viewing angles are relatively narrow but peak brightness is respectable (500 nits in SDR, around 550 nits in HDR) and as this isn't an OLED there's no chance of burn-in. The X900H runs Android TV, which is responsive to navigate and boasts a deep app library.
- Incredibly low input lag and full HDMI 2.1 support
- Great motion handling with fast response times
- Good contrast ratio (4800:1) and great colour accuracy
- HDMI 2.1 features coming in later firmware update
- Narrow viewing angles due to the VA panel used
- No FreeSync or G-Sync Compatible support for PC gaming.
LG Nano85 / Nano86: Best budget 4K 120Hz TV
- Specs: 49, 55, 65 and 75 inches. DolbyVision, HDMI 2.1, HDMI VRR.
The LG Nano85 (known as the Nano86 in the UK) is one of the most affordable TVs to support the full HDMI 2.1 specification, with a 4K 120Hz screen, HDMI VRR (variable refresh rate) to smooth out uneven frame-rates and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). Combined with its low input lag, black frame insertion (BFI) feature and fast pixel response times, the Nano85 is an awesome choice for gaming on consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
The nano IPS panel here provides wide viewing angles and great colour accuracy, but the downside is worse contrast than more common VA, QLED or OLED screens. That means this TV performs best in bright rooms and in brightly-lit scenes, as dark rooms and dim scenes will appear more grey than black. Its brightness, which is limited to around 400 nits, also means that HDR highlights don't pop as much as they do on brighter displays. Still, the Nano85 is still a great performer at its price point, especially if your focus is gaming.
If your budget allows it, the Nano90 offers a few small advantages over the Nano85/Nano86. It has full array local dimming, which means there's less blooming around bright objects in dark scenes. The screen also gets brighter, has better speakers and offers a faster pixel response time.
- Excellent input lag (~15ms at 60Hz, 6ms at 120Hz) in game mode
- Great viewing angles, colour accuracy and
- All HDMI 2.1 features: HDMI VRR, ALLM and eARC
- Low peak brightness and mediocre contrast
TCL R635 Mini LED: Best budget 4K TV for HDR gaming (USA)
- Specs: 55, 65 or 75 inches. HDMI VRR. DolbyVision.
The new TCL R635 is an excellent choice for 4K HDR gaming, thanks to its Mini-LED backlight, 120Hz QLED panel and support for some HDMI 2.1 features, including variable refresh rate support from 48 to 120Hz and auto low latency mode (ALLM). These features make it a surprisingly future-proof choice given its low price, and it should support 1080p or 1440p 120fps gameplay in HDR on PS5 and Xbox Series X. Input lag is low in the THX-certified game mode too. Finally, contrast is excellent, as you'd hope from a VA-based panel.
This TV's lower price point is only really evident in its viewing angles, which result in colour shifts if you're sitting even slightly off-centre. Motion handling is solid though, with the option for black frame insertion, while colour accuracy is also strong for its price point. Overall, this is a super strong choice for the US audience - we only wish it was available in Europe!
Note: In an early iteration of this article we mistakenly identified this TV as supporting HDMI 2.1, but it appears to only support some HDMI 2.1 features and not 4K at 120fps. We regret the error.
- Mini-LED backlight provides high contrast with excellent local dimming
- 120Hz panel, allowing 1080p or 1440p 120fps HDR gaming
- Variable refresh rate support via HDMI VRR
- Incredibly good value
- No HDMI 2.1 ports for 4K 120fps gameplay
- Relatively narrow viewing angles
- No FreeSync or G-Sync support
- Not available in the UK or Europe
Samsung TU8000: Best budget 4K TV for HDR gaming (UK)
- Specs: 43, 50, 55, 65, 75 and 82 inches. HDR10+.
The Samsung TU8000 can't compare to the budget options available to the American market, but it's about as good as it gets for the UK. Input lag is extremely low in game mode (~10ms), and there's an ALLM mode feature that ensures this is enabled automatically when you're in-game, which is convenient. There's also a Black Frame Insertion feature to improve motion clarity, although it's not the best one we've seen. Unfortunately, 120fps gaming and variable refresh rates aren't supported here, so if you want these features then we suggest looking at our mid-range pick instead.
Contrast is a strong point of the TU8000, with deep blacks that allow for an impressive contrast ratio of 6500:1. Unfortunately maximum brightness is relatively low at around 300 nits, making this a poorer choice for bright rooms. The HDR10+ and HLG standards are both supported, so you're only really missing out DolbyVision when it comes to popular HDR formats. Viewing angles aren't great, a common stumbling block for VA panel TVs like the TU8000, but things have improved slightly from last year's RU7100.
For the price, the TU8000 is a competitive choice. However, we do suggest keeping an eye for deals on TVs like 2019's Samsung Q60R or the 2020 Q70T and Q80T, which have more gaming features like 120Hz and FreeSync support.
- Excellent input lag (~10ms) in game mode
- Great contrast (6500:1) and good colour reproduction
- Auto low latency mode (ALLM) and eARC support
- No 120Hz or VRR support
- Low peak brightness, poor banding and narrow viewing angles
Is it a good time to buy?
As we mentioned in the intro, it's a great time to upgrade to a new TV, as major HDR standards have emerged and best-in-class OLED TVs have become more affordable than ever. 2020 model year televisions are now being discounted and with PS5 and Xbox Series X availability slowly improving, this is a good window to snag a bargain!
The current global human malware epidemic has made finding TVs at a good price tricky. While some regions have been harder hit than others, pricing and availability has become much more variable worldwide. Therefore, if our recommendations aren't in stock or seem unreasonably expensive, it may be best to wait a little to while until things calm down. That said, if a big TV is just what you need to get you through the crisis, then paying a small premium may still be worthwhile!
One of the most important techs you'll want to look out for is the inclusion of HDMI 2.1, a new standard that includes support for higher resolutions at higher frame-rates than ever before, including 8K 60Hz and 4K 120Hz support. As well as more raw data throughput, the new standard also includes features designed for gamers, like HDMI variable refresh rate (VRR) and automatic low latency mode (ALLM), which should make gaming more responsive, even at lower framerates. Some TVs support parts of these standard with HDMI 2.0b ports, eg TVs with 60Hz panels may support VRR, ALLM and eARC without needing to support a 4K 120Hz connection. In general though, if you're considering a four figure TV, HDMI 2.1 support should be a given.
With the death of plasma displays, there are two major display types used in modern displays: LCD and OLED, with LCD representing the lower and mid-range of the market and OLED the high-end. LCD displays can be broken down further too, into IPS, VA and QLED displays. Here's what you need to know about each one, in order from cheapest to most expensive.
IPS: These monitors provide good viewing angles and improved colour accuracy compared to monitors using VA panels. However, some IPS panels, particularly older ones, can suffer from slower response times, making them worse for fast-paced games. Another potential issue is 'IPS glow', where the monitor's backlight is visible in dark scenes.
VA: A type of monitor panel which tends to occupy a middle-ground between IPS and cheap TN displays in many respects. These panels generally offer the best contrast, backed with good response times and colour reproduction. However, viewing angles and colour gamut may be limited compared to IPS and OLED.
QLED: This confusingly-named panel type from Samsung is essentially a VA panel that has been upgraded with quantum dots, allowing the monitors to produce slightly wider viewing angles than standard VA panels, plus higher brightness levels and wider colour gamuts. However, as is typical for a VA display, motion handling can be subpar.
OLED: This high-end display tech uses organic light-emitting diodes which produce what is arguably the best picture. Contrast is a strong suit, as individual pixels can be turned off completely to create a true black, rather than the very dark grey that other monitor types can produce. Viewing angles are also impressive, ensuring the picture from a 45-degree angle looks as good as the screen viewed dead-on. HDR is also well catered for, thanks to the ability to see extremely light and dark areas side-by-side. However, OLED can be expensive, its brightness can't compete with traditional LCDs and motion handling can be poor on some models. Image retention or burn-in is also a concern, although real-life OLED burn-in tests that have been running non-stop for several years show that image retention is unlikely to occur through normal use, even when gaming.
Resolution: How many pixels are on screen, given as horizontal x vertical. 1920x1080 (1080p) and 3840x2160 (4K) are the most common resolutions for both TVs and monitors. The higher the resolution, the crisper and more detailed a game tends to look.
Refresh rate: How many times the screen updates per second, given in Hz. Standard TVs refresh at 60Hz, while more modern TVs can achieve 120Hz at some resolutions. For 4K at 120Hz, a TV needs to support the HDMI 2.1 standard. The higher the refresh rate, the more fluid a game will feel.
Response time: This stat typically measures how fast a pixel can turn from grey to white and then back to grey again. The best displays sport pixel response time figures of less than 4ms, with TN and fast IPS panels offering a quoted 1ms GtG and VA and regular IPS screens likely to achieve higher figures. OLED displays can achieve near-instant response times. Low response times help to eliminate distracting smears in fast-paced scenes. Note that response time is distinct from input lag, which refers to the delay between an input (like pressing a button) and seeing the effect of the input on-screen.
Contrast ratio: Simply the ratio between the brightness of a display when it is displaying perfect black versus perfect white. Around 1000:1 is typical for an IPS display, a VA display can hit 3000:1 or higher and an OLED has technically infinite contrast, as its organic LEDs can switch off entirely to create a completely dark image. High contrast ratio screens look particularly good in dark rooms, as blacks will appear properly black rather than dark grey. When a high contrast display also has high peak brightness levels (eg 600 nits and up), HDR content will look punchier too.
HDMI VRR, G-Sync and FreeSync: These terms refer to adaptive sync technology, designed to eliminate ugly screen-tearing and judder while adding less input lag than traditional v-sync. G-Sync is Nvidia's implementation and FreeSync is the AMD alternative, while HDMI VRR is a slightly more neutral standard implemented by the HDMI Forum with HDMI 2.0b and HDMI 2.1. A TV can support one, some or all of these standards.
HDR: High Dynamic Range allows for greater contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of an image, as well as a wider colour gamut. There are various video formats that go beyond vanilla HDR10, including DolbyVision, DisplayHDR 400/600/1000/1400 and HLG. Some videos will only be offered in a certain format, while others may be available in multiple formats. Choosing a TV that supports at least one of these formats mean you're more likely to see HDR content as intended when streaming video or playing Blu-Rays.
Got a question we didn't cover?
Please ask us in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter @wsjudd.
Will you support the Digital Foundry team?
Digital Foundry specialises in technical analysis of gaming hardware and software, using state-of-the-art capture systems and bespoke software to show you how well games and hardware run, visualising precisely what they're capable of. In order to show you what 4K gaming actually looks like we needed to build our own platform to supply high quality 4K video for offline viewing. So we did.
Our videos are multi-gigabyte files and we've chosen a high quality provider to ensure fast downloads. However, that bandwidth isn't free and so we charge a small monthly subscription fee of $5. We think it's a small price to pay for unlimited access to top-tier quality encodes of our content. Thank you.Support Digital Foundry