For all Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Wii U fans, here are some suggestions that can help you buy the best TV for playing games.
Which TV technology should I consider?
For gaming, a plasma TV generally will outperform an LCD. Plasma sets tend to have deeper black levels (which make for better contrast), and they don't have the motion blur and limited viewing angle associated with LCD sets.
A potential downside, though, is that many plasma sets suffer from image retention: When images are displayed onscreen for extended periods, say a few hours, they can temporarily leave behind a faint imprint. For most TV content, this isn't much of a problem. But many games use static images—health bars, head-up displays, and onscreen radars, for example—so image retention can be an issue.
Newer plasma TVs do a decent job of minimizing this problem, but if it does occur, it may take some time to get rid of the persistent image. Plasmas are also becoming more difficult to find in the marketplace.
OLED is the newest TV technology, and in our TV labs, we’ve found that OLED combines the benefits of LCD and plasma. OLED sets are capable of delivering bright images, like an LCD does, while maintaining deep black levels, like a plasma set can. Because the technology is so new, though, it is still very expensive, and choices are still limited.
For these reasons, we recommend buying an LCD TV with an LED backlight. If the TV is mainly used for gaming, the viewing angle shouldn't be too much of a stopper, as most gamers will be close to the center of the screen. It'll matter only when you're playing with a group of friends around the TV.
What should I look for in an LCD, then?
Some features can minimize some of the issues discussed above and enhance your gaming experience.
Refresh rate: Different TV brands call this feature different names; it basically reduces the blurring effects associated with motion. But since it's adding processing to the image, it can also increase motion lag. If you play casually or watch movies and shows on the same TV, I'd recommend a TV with at least a 120Hz refresh rate.
Local dimming: This feature, which can also go by different names, dims the LED backlight on darker areas of the screen. When this feature is working well, you won't really notice that it's doing anything at all. You'll simply have an image with deeper black levels while maintaining the brighter parts of the image as well.
Game mode: Some TVs have a game mode that reduces input lag (which means there's less time between pressing a button and the action appearing on the screen ) by cutting out some form of processing. I haven't tried this feature on every TV, but when I have tried it, the overall quality of the picture was reduced—and for me, it isn't worth the trade-off. You could actually reduce the lag time without using Game mode by turning off some of the features that unnecessarily affect picture quality, such as digital noise reduction and edge enhancement.
If you purchase a TV that has Game mode, try it out and see if the reduced lag time is more beneficial to you than the change in picture quality.