The hottest new game consoles are finally here, but your new PS5 or Xbox Series X might not look its best on an older TV. If you want a new TV now that will handle the 4K and 8K resolution and high-frame rate gaming the consoles offer, you might want to buy a TV that has a few key features. From higher frame rates and resolutions to new connectivity standards, there are several specific details for any serious gamer to consider when buying a new TV.
Even if you're browsing our list of the best TVs, you won't necessarily find your best bet, as not everything on the market will be a good match for the capabilities of the new gaming systems. From new connectivity standards to extremely high resolutions, even the best 4K TVs for gaming might come up short when you're getting ready for what comes next.
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New developments are bringing new TVs into the console mix, as well. Recent news is bring greater focus on TVs for gaming, with Sony announcing two "Ready-for-PS5" TVs, TCL launching the first TV with THX certified game mode and Microsoft declaring LG OLED the best Xbox Series X TV.
Bottom line: If you want to get the best from your new game console, you'll need a TV that can handle everything that the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 bring to the table.
Key PS5 and Xbox Series X features
The newest consoles are heavy hitters when it comes to graphics capability. Both consoles offer capabilities like ray tracing, 10-15 teraflops of graphics-processing power and speedy loading times thanks to lightning-fast SSD storage.
Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are also made to deliver fantastic gaming at 4K resolution. For the TVs selling now, that will mean 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (fps). That matches what the older Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro can do, though most current-generation games are still capped at 30 fps.
But the next-gen consoles go a step beyond that in two ways: frame rate and resolution. The new consoles offer 4K gaming at 120 Hz, doubling or even quadrupling the current frame rates you can get and producing smooth, judder-free gameplay as a result.
Then, there's resolution. In addition to ramping up the number of frames, the new consoles can handle much higher resolution, with the promise of games playable at 8K Ultra HD or 7680 × 4320 pixels. But jumping up to more than 33 million pixels does come with one trade-off: 8K gameplay will be limited to 60 fps.
If you're in the market for a TV to go with one of the next-gen consoles coming this fall, there are three key features you'll want to take into account: connectivity, frame rates and resolution.
Connecting next-gen consoles: HDMI 2.1
Both the new Xbox and the Sony PS5 use the HDMI 2.1 connection standard, which is the only connection available that supports the higher frame rates and 8K resolution offered on both consoles.
The HDMI 2.1 standard was finalized only in 2017, has just started showing up on new TVs in the last year and is a huge step forward from the HDMI 2.0b that came before. The HDMI 2.0b standard used on most TVs today, as well as both of the previous-generation Sony and Microsoft consoles, is limited to 18-Gbps bandwidth. That's enough for 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, but higher frame rates require dropping the resolution, and the connection won't support 8K content at all.
The newer, HDMI 2.1 standard, on the other hand, boasts nearly three times the bandwidth (48 Gbps), supporting uncompressed 8K video at up to 60 Hz, or 4K video at up to 120 Hz.
Now, just because the new consoles use the HDMI 2.1 connection, it doesn't mean you have to get a TV with that connectivity. The new standard is backward-compatible with the HDMI 2.0b connection used on TVs from the past couple of years, so you can still fire up a game on your older 4K TV (or even full-HD TV for 1080p goodness) without worrying about whether it will work. But if you want to get the best 4K capability from your Xbox Series X or PS5, you'll want a TV with HDMI 2.1, and that limits your options when buying TVs.
What TVs have HDMI 2.1?
Even among the top TV brands, HDMI 2.1 connectivity is still rare. LG leads the pack on this front, with HDMI 2.1 in all of the ports on the company's OLED TVs last year. Samsung offered HDMI 2.1 in only its most premium 4K model, the Q90 QLED, and Sony didn't offer HDMI 2.1 on any of its sets. However, as we head into 2021 we should see several more 4K TVs with HDMI 2.1 and the 120-Hz displays to support the higher frame rate offered by the new game consoles.
Right now, our absolute favorite TV is the LG CX OLED, which also leads our list of the best TVs on the market. It's also the only one with full HDMI 2.1 implementation, where other manufacturers have offered only one port in four with HDMI 2.1 or offer limited implementations that omit important features. If you're buying a TV today and want something that will give you the best 4K gaming experience you can get from the upcoming game consoles, this LG is it.
It's also the best TV overall, with superb picture quality and perfect per-pixel illumination for amazing HDR performance. It's one of the smartest TVs available, as well, complete with a motion remote that lets you point and wave the remote for on-screen cursor control and voice interaction that includes both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built in.
Read our full LG CX OLED review.
The TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) is one of the best values in 4K TVs, but it's especially good for gaming. The TV boasts an impressive 4K QLED display with mini-LED backlighting for some seriously great color and contrast, and it's no slouch in the gaming department. The overall lag time is decently fast, HDMI 2.1 specs like Auto-Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) are fully supported, and we were impressed with the picture and sound quality offered on the TV. The combination of performance and smart features offered by Roku TV make it a set that can compete with premium models, while selling for a more-attainable price.
The R635 is also the first to get THX Certified Game Mode, which not only strips out the extra video processing that would slow down the response time for the player, it also meets a bunch of other criteria for high-quality images. These stringent requirements look at everything from color quality and refresh rates to rise time, which looks at how quickly the TV can handle dark-to-light transitions, essential for fast-paced games. If you want the best value in gaming TVs, this is it.
Read our full TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) review.
Samsung's QLED lineup offers a great alternative to the expense of OLED displays, using quantum-dot enhancement to deliver boosted color and brightness and black levels that surpass those of any traditional LCD TV. In the Samsung Q90R QLED TV, you get the most premium version of Samsung's QLED display, as well as excellent picture and sound. It's also the only model to support all of the HDMI 2.1 features relevant to gamers, like high-frame rate gaming, auto low-latency mode and variable refresh rates.
Read our full Samsung Q90 QLED TV review.
But other TVs are coming soon that will have HDMI 2.1 ready to go. LG will again be offering the newer connection on all of the company's 4K OLED TVs, and both Samsung and Sony have announced HDMI 2.1 connectivity on several 4K models this year.
HDMI 2.1: Yes, you'll need new cables
I know what you're asking yourself right now, and the answer is "Yes." Yes, the new HDMI standard will require new cables. You can use your older HDMI 2.0 cables, but you'll be limiting the available signal bandwidth and locking yourself in to the lower resolution and frame rate of the older HDMI standard. For 120-Hz refresh rates or 8K gaming, you'll need to pick up an HDMI 2.1 cable.
Here are two HDMI 2.1 cables we recommend.
We personally like the Belkin HDMI 2.1 ultra-high-speed cable. The Belkin name has a well-earned reputation for quality and reliability, and this cable's 2-meter length should give you enough slack to plug in your game console on all but the largest of TVs. It's also one of the only name-brand cables with an official HDMI 2.1 certification.
For a less expensive and longer option, you can also try the SecurOMax 6-foot HDMI 2.1 cable. It doesn't have the official HDMI 2.1 certification, but with a rated bandwidth of 48 Gbps, this Amazon bestseller should still be exactly what you need to get your new Xbox or PS5 connected with all the bells and whistles. On top of that, the cable's braided construction should make it a bit more robust than other cheaply made cables.
Gamer-friendly features: ALLM and VRR
With HDMI 2.1, you'll get more than just support for higher frame rates and resolution, though. The 2.1 specification also provides for a number of other nifty features, many of them tailored to console gaming on your TV.
The first of these is auto low-latency mode (ALLM), though it will likely be called something different by individual TV brands. (There's a long tradition of branding standard features in the TV world; just look at motion smoothing or HDMI-CEC.)
ALLM detects when a connected game console is turned on, switching to game mode on the TV automatically when that happens. Since game modes are designed to provide the lowest latency, mostly by removing a lot of the image processing that's performed on other modes, you'll get shorter input lag between the console and the screen, resulting in faster response times. Having the TV sense this and make the switch automatically is a huge convenience for anyone who just wants to jump into a game quickly.
The other cool new feature for gamers comes in variable refresh rates (VRR), which let the TV adjust the refresh rate on the fly to match the output of the game console or graphics card it's connected to. This is the same sort of frame-rate-syncing technology offered by AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync for gaming monitors, and we're already seeing TV manufacturers jump on these technologies to take VRR a step further. Samsung TVs are now boasting AMD FreeSync capability, and LG's OLED TVs are the first in the market with G-Sync capability. But regardless of the branding involved, the result will be smoother, better-looking games, even from consoles.
The good news? If you've got a TV with HDMI 2.1, then VRR capability is already built in. However, if you want to get picky about it, the Xbox Series X and the PS5 both use AMD graphics hardware, so a FreeSync-capable TV may offer a slightly more optimized gaming experience.
Gaming in 8K
Finally, the Xbox Series X and the PS5 are the first game consoles capable of 8K gaming – eventually – and they'll be some of the first real sources of 8K content available to consumers. While we're still encouraging most shoppers to stick to 4K this year, there is a case to be made that 8K resolution will get you the most out of your new gaming console. And that means buying an 8K TV. (See our guide to 8K TVs for more information.)
All of the previous features we've mentioned will be readily available in any 8K TV on the market. HDMI 2.1 is a necessity for connecting any 8K media source, and the twin gamer-friendly features of ALLM and VRR are built in to the HDMI 2.1 specification.
The other major point of concern is the size of the TV. Bigger is generally better for any TV, but that's especially true for 8K TVs, where smaller screen sizes may make it harder to really enjoy the benefit of the higher resolution. The flip side of this, however, is that larger TVs are more expensive and harder to fit into any given room. See our guide to figuring out what size TV you should buy to get more help in selecting what size screen is best for you.
But once you know that you want 8K resolution, and you have an idea of what size will work for you, the only real question is: Which 8K TV do you want?
Great 8K TVs for PS5 and Xbox Series X
For the most affordable 8K TV available, there's no beating the 55-inch Samsung Q900R QLED 8K TV (QN55Q900RBFXZA), which was released last year. The 55-inch set is probably smaller than you want if you're looking to really enjoy the rich detail of 8K resolution, but it's got the resolution and is outfitted with four HDMI 2.1 ports.
On top of that, Samsung has outfitted the Q900R with all the best features of the company's premium smart TVs, from a rich selection of apps to upscaling that makes any content look good on the 8K display.
To fully appreciate the quality of 8K resolution, you'll want a bigger screen, and for that, we recommend the Samsung 82-inch Q800T QLED (QN82Q800TAFXZA), one of the first new 8K models to arrive this year. It's the latest 8K set from Samsung to feature quantum-dot enhancement for boosted color quality and deeper black levels, and it should look amazing for games and movies alike.
Samsung offers features and sound to match the impressive picture, with Object Tracking Sound technology, which makes sound effects and dialogue appear to come from the people and items on screen, and it has both Bixby and Amazon Alexa voice assistants built in.
In the end, as you shop for a new TV as you try to order a new PS5 or Xbox Series X, you'll want to keep in mind the three key categories of upgrades that these new consoles will be bringing: higher frame rates and resolution, faster HDMI 2.1 connectivity, and several gamer-friendly features.
While you may not be dead set on getting everything the new consoles will offer, like 8K gaming, it's still worth keeping these new capabilities in mind as you shop for your next TV.