In 2019, with some of the best graphics cards like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti becoming increasingly (relatively) affordable, 4K gaming is more possible than ever before. And, while you could just pick up a monitor and call it a day, there’s nothing quite like playing the best PC games on one of the best 4K TVs for gaming.
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Samsung QN55Q8FN 55" QLED TV | $1597 at Walmart (save $1000)
This is an incredible 4KTV and right now, there's a huge saving on the sticker price at Walmart. QLED delivers superb colors. And, yes, this TV has Steamlink too.
Now, before you head out to your local big box store to pick up the shiniest TV on the shelf, you should keep a couple things in mind. First, and especially if you’re playing games online, you should consider the response time of the TV you’re looking at. You’re not going to find many TVs as fast as a TN gaming monitor, but if you can find a 4K TV with less than 6ms of latency, you should be golden in most situations. Though, esports players need not apply here.
Of course, since we’re talking about 4K TVs for gaming, HDR is going to be key. While HDR support on Windows 10 isn’t quite as robust as it is on consoles, more PC games are supporting it by the minute. The best 4K TVs for gaming won’t just support HDR, but they’ll have the display technology to back it up–there are a lot of weak HDR implementations out there.
There are a lot of 4K TVs out there these days, and not all of them are of the same level of quality–making it hard to find the best one for your needs. Luckily, we here at PC Gamer have gathered up three of the best 4K TVs for gaming you can buy right now.
1. LG OLED65E8 65"
The best 4K TV for gaming you can buy
Screen size: 65-inch | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Panel technology: OLED | Smart TV: LG AI ThinQ | Dimensions: 36 x 57.1 x 8.7 in | Weight: 60.8 lbs
OLED technology has been transformed as a gaming display option over the past two years. The OLED class of 2017 finally started to tackle the technology’s previous brightness, noise and response time issues. And the 2018 series continued that journey in outstanding style, combining a whole new level of game friendliness with OLED’s traditional contrast prowess. While 2019's models will likely raise the bar again (we haven't had chance to test them yet), last year's TVs have already started to drop in price.
Being able to produce unbeatably deep, rich black colours like the OLED65E8 does also pays off handsomely with horror games or shooters set in dark locations—though you may have to nudge the brightness up a couple of notches to avoid losing some subtle shading detail in the darkest areas.
More good news with this year’s OLEDE8 series finds its Game Mode delivering much more brightness than last year’s seven generation models. Tests also show the OLEDE8 taking less than 20ms to render its images when you use its Game mode, which is an excellent result for a TV.
LG’s OLEDE8 models this year also support 120fps gaming (though only in HD, not 4K), and full 4:4:4 colour handling for total colour precision with PC game feeds.
One final handy trick of the OLEDE8 series is its ability to decode both the premium quality Dolby Vision HDR picture format (as used on a handful of PC games) and Dolby Atmos audio streams. Clearly this speaker system doesn’t have the power or full surround sound/height channel support you’d get with an external Atmos system, but there’s at least a more effective ‘wall of sound’ impression than typical TV sound systems provide.
Another thing to note is if you can live with a less glamorous design and reduced audio performance, LG’s cheaper C8 series give you pretty much the same picture quality.
2. Samsung Q8FN 55"
A superb 4K TV for gaming, at a mid-range price
Screen size: 55-inch | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Panel technology: QLED | Smart TV: Samsung QSmart | Dimensions: 48.5 x 30.7 x 9.8 in | Weight: 44.1 lbs
Samsung’s grudge match with LG’s OLED technology has stepped up a gear with the launch of Samsung’s new QLED technology.
After a slightly underwhelming QLED debut in 2017, Samsung has come back swinging for 2019. Particularly important to the Q8FN is Samsung’s switch from all edge-based LED lighting last year to a direct lighting system (where the LEDs sit directly behind the screen). This immediately helps the Q8FN deliver a much better contrast performance—especially as the direct lighting has been allied with local dimming technology, where hundreds of clusters of LEDs can be made to output their own light levels, independent of neighbouring clusters.
Samsung has also stolen a gaming march on its TV rivals by introducing a couple of really useful new game-specific features. First there’s Auto Game Switching, which can activate the TV’s Game picture mode when a game source is detected. This automatic switching system can even distinguish between when your PC or console is outputting video rather than game graphics.
The other key new gaming trick is Variable Refresh Rate support. This enables the TV to adjust its frame rate output continually to match the frame rate being delivered by a game at any given moment. This reduces input lag and removes screen tearing.
The Q8FN models do have a trio of picture limitations. First, unlike with the LG OLEDE8s, color and contrast drop off if you watch the screen from an angle of more than around 30 degrees. Second, there’s no support for the premium Dolby Vision HDR format used by a small number of PC games. Finally, while dark game environments look amazing for an LCD TV, they still look more intense and rich on the LG OLED. Though the OLED sets can’t hit the same bright whites and colors that the Samsung can.
3. Sony X900F 49"
A great mid-range 4K TV for gaming
Screen size: 49-inch | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Panel technology: LED | Smart TV: Android TV | Dimensions: 43.1 x 27 x 9.4 in | Weight: 30.4 lbs
Although Sony’s X900F LCD TV series came out in 2018, they’re very much still available. And handily, their relative age means they’re still available at massively reduced prices. In fact, if you snap one up now, you’re truly getting an upper mid-range big-brand TV for the price of an entry level one.
The key to their success is that despite their affordability, they use direct LED lighting with local dimming—like the Samsung Q8FN. There aren’t as many ‘dimming zones’ as you get with the Q8FN, but having this sort of backlight configuration at all is remarkable for such an affordable TV.
The result is a far better contrast performance than you can get from literally any other TV in its price class. And as we’ve highlighted throughout this article, a good contrast performance by a display is fundamentally important to an exciting HDR gaming picture.
Also great news for gamers is the X900F series’ Triluminos colour system. This uses proprietary Sony processing to produce a wider and more subtly nuanced colour performance than any other TV in its price class. This means 4K HDR game imagery looks more vibrant, rich and detailed.
Inevitably for its money, the X900F does not support the high frame rates of the LG OLEDE8 series, or the automatic game mode switching and variable refresh rate features of the Samsung Q8FNs. Also, because it uses far fewer dimming zones than the Samsung Q8FNs, you can sometimes see gentle halos of light around bright objects if they appear against dark backgrounds. This becomes exaggerated if you have to watch from an angle. The X900F series can only hit around half the brightness achieved by the Samsung LCD model, too.
The set does partner its still great pictures, though, with a respectably low 30ms of input lag if you use its game preset. And the bottom line is that no TVs as affordable as the X900Fs are going to be perfect. All that really matters here is that the X900F is comfortably the all-round best TV for gaming in its price range.
4. TCL 55R617 55" Roku TV
The best budget 4K TV you can buy
Screen size: 55-inch | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Panel technology: LED | Smart TV: Roku TV | Dimensions: 48.5 x 30.9 x 10.7 in | Weight: 38.2 lbs
If you're looking to buy a 55" TV on a budget, look no further than the TCL 6-series. This is 2018's model, but that means you can often find it on sale but, quite frankly, it's a bargain at full price. While the earlier TCL models suffered from poor build quality, and several screen flaws, the 6-series solved these issues to deliver an ace Roku-powered TV. What's more, it's great for gaming too. While it doesn't have the low, low response rate of $1000+ panels, it manages between 6ms-12ms, which is above average for TVs of this size and price. What's more, it has full-array local dimming, which means the contrast ratios are good (the blacks, especially, are nice and deep).
Where the TCL suffers is in the color range, which is merely average for 4K TVs of this budget. While it has decent HDR, that can't quite mask the lower vibrancy of images, although (to be honest) you're unlikely to notice much of a difference unless you're playing the most colorful of games. At 55", it's less noticeable too, although if you're looking to go 65" you need to work out if you're ok getting a TV that does blacks and dark tones better than colors and light tones. For the price, however, it's very tough to fault the TCL 617. It even comes with voice control if you're into that sort of thing.
You can even drop down to 43" if you're looking for a 4K TV as part of a PC set-up / second room gaming rig. The contrast remains as impressive, and it's obviously a little cheaper too.
5. Samsung NU7100 50"
The cheapest 4K TV we recommend
Screen size: 50-inch | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Panel technology: LED | Smart TV: Android TV | Dimensions: 44.3 x 28.7 x 10.3 in | Weight: 30.6 lbs
If money really is an issue, but you still want a large TV that can handle your PC games, the NU7100 series from Samsung is your savior. You can pick it up for less than $400 for the 50" model, and you can save even more money on smaller versions, but the performance you get is well above average. With game mode enabled, this TV manages a 120Hz refresh rate with a 15ms response time, which is very much the average for TVs that are double the price of this one. So, you're getting excellent performance for what you pay.
The HDR and 4K pictures are good too, although not as mind-blowing as you'd get from an OLED or QLED. Then again, you're paying roughly a quarter of the price. You get all Samsung's smart features built into this TV too, such as the mobile app, Bluetooth sharing, a universal TV guide, and all that kind of stuff. What's more, the NU7100 also has Steamlink, which is super handy for PC gaming, and the panel itself is fast enough to keep up with the majority of games.
While this TV won't wow guests, or have the best viewing angles for parties or whole-household use, it's a great one to replace a gaming monitor, or to host a smaller PC built into a living room set-up. You wouldn't pair it with a $2500+ gaming PC, but it's amazing value for anyone looking to have it as part of a second-TV set-up or a less powerful PC display.
How we test gaming TVs
In assessing all of the main TVs around for their gaming capabilities, we focused on four main performance elements.
First, input lag: how long a screen takes to render image data received at its inputs. This is critically important to gamers. Input lag was checked with HDR, SDR, 4K and HD game feeds to check there were no major anomalies between different sources (there weren’t with any of our selected TVs).
We checked input lag in two ways: using a Leo Bodnar input lag measuring device, and photographically, where we split a video feed of a running timer into the TV we’re testing and a reference BenQ gaming monitor, take a photo, and then see how far the time reading on the TV was behind the reading on the reference monitor.
The photographic method enables us to spot potential moment to moment variations in input lag that some TVs suffer with, and which the Bodnar device doesn’t provide.
Next, we considered contrast. How well a display is able to reproduce the darkest and brightest parts of a gaming image is essential to a truly satisfying game experience. Especially now many games are supporting the expanded brightness range associated with HDR. As part of the contrast assessment, we also looked for issues such as flickering brightness levels and backlight ‘blooming’ around bright objects.
As part of the contrast testing, we measured each TV’s peak light output using an X-Rite i1 Display Pro light meter. This lets us know how far a set can go towards achieving the sort of extreme brightness levels HDR gaming is capable of.
Colour performance was also carefully scrutinized, paying attention to the richness, balance, consistency, freedom from striping noise and authenticity of the tones being shown. Pretty much all HDR material also carries a wider colour range than the old standard dynamic range format we’ve been stuck with for so many years. This can have a transformative effect on game graphics, making them look both more lifelike and more dramatic/three dimensional.
Finally, we looked a motion and sharpness. We mention these together as to some extent they’re related. If a TV suffers badly with judder or blurring when you’re panning around in Fortnite or hurtling into the scenery in Forza Horizon 3, that’s going to affect the picture’s sense of sharpness significantly. We also studied ultra-detailed but relatively static 4K game graphics looking for signs of softness, shimmering noise, ever-enthusiastic edge-enhancements, grain or any lack of depth and three-dimensionality that might be caused by a TV being unable to deliver enough color finesse to ‘match’ the number of pixels in the screen.
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