Picking a TV for gaming just got a whole lot trickier. The launch of the Xbox One S and upcoming PlayStation Neo – not to mention Microsoft's Project Scorpio a year or so down the line – means console gaming is no longer just a full HD, standard dynamic range experience. Forward-thinking gamers also now need to be thinking about 4K/Ultra HD and high dynamic range for their next TVs.
These new considerations, of course, come on top of the more traditional gaming TV issues of low input lag (the time it takes for a TV to render its images), good motion clarity, strong contrast (so you can't be easily ambushed by aliens and psychos hiding in dark corners) and bold colour handling. In fact, picking a TV that's perfect for gaming is arguably more complicated than picking one for just watching movies and TV.
Don't worry, though: martyrs that we are, we've spent countless hours gaming on a huge range of 2016 TVs to come up with the following list of 10 that we reckon are particularly well suited to taking your favourite waste of time to a whole new level of fun.
1. Samsung KS7500 series
Incredibly low input lag, native UHD resolution, strong HDR support and a curved screen make the KS7500 sets gaming screens par excellence
Whether by accident or design, Samsung seems to have hit upon a near-perfect gaming-friendly formula with the KS7500 range. For starters, they're curved. This isn't always a great thing from a pure TV-viewing perspective, but with gamers often sitting closer to their screens, and alone, the curve can actually enhance the sense of immersion in what you're playing. (Note that if you really don't like the curve, you can get a flat version of this TV too: the KS7000 range – check out our review of the Samsung UE55KS7000.) Its input lag – so long as you select its Game mode – is one of the lowest we've ever tested at 22ms, meanwhile, making it hard to blame this TV for any in-game deaths. Sealing the deal is the fact that it can do a remarkably good job of delivering the twin joys of native Ultra HD resolution and HDR for what is, all things considered, an extremely attractive price.
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2. LG OLEDC6 series
The OLEDC6 series let you get your hands on LG's OLED technology for surprisingly little cash – and make your games look like a million dollars
The way every single pixel in OLED screens like the OLEDC6 series can produce its own light and colour (unlike LCD) has a stunning impact on the way games look. Dark games/sequences, in particular, take on a whole new dimension thanks to the way the screen can deliver black colours that look, well, black. Their ability to show incredible amounts of subtle shadow detail in dark areas also has a more practical benefit – there's less chance of you being ambushed by things luking in the darkness. The OLEDC6's amazing black level performance also means game colours pretty much explode off the screen, and its 30ms of input lag in its Game mode is also a strong result for a 4K TV. It does HDR and 4K too, and its curved screen aids immersion if you're sat close to it (though a flat alternative, the OLEDB6 range, also works well). The OLEDC6 series offers all this, moreover, for a surprisingly attractive price.
Although the full HD W805/W809 TVs were part of Sony's 2015 range, they proved so damn good that they're still being sold today – which is great news for gamers who aren't bothered about prepping for gaming's 4K future, as their picture quality thrills will transform your gaming experience. For starters, no other HD TV we've seen delivers better contrast, making them perfect partners for the often extreme use of light and dark you find in many video games. Sony has also equipped these TVs with its Triluminos technology, which helps to create colour saturations and subtleties that do full justice to today's game graphics – or else mercilessly exposes games whose graphics really aren't up to the job. Add sharpness that seems halfway to 4K at times, and barely 20ms of input lag – an exceptional result for a TV – and this is simply as good as HD gaming gets.
Many games – but especially FPS and racing games – take on a whole new dimension of immersion and excitement when played at near life-sized proportions. Projectors offer the cheapest route to such big-screen experiences, but are seldom convenient solutions for the home. Which is where Sony's immense 75-inch 75XD9405 comes in. This 4K-resolution, HDR-toting monster of a TV recreates your gaming worlds with so much sharpness, colour vibrancy, detail and contrast that you feel like you've actually stepped inside the game. It also measured only around 30ms of input lag during our tests, which means it never forces you to suffer that 'running through treacle' feeling you get with TVs that struggle to render their images quickly. Occasionally some very high-contrast scenes can exhibit light blooming around bright objects which can momentarily reduce the immersive sensation, but overall the 75XD9405 is the one TV here that takes your gaming to the movies.
If you're got a fairly small living room, or want a decent-sized gaming screen for a study or bedroom, the 40-inch Panasonic 40DX600 is an excellent – and affordable by 4K TV standards – option. It produces crisp, colourful pictures with more contrast and motion clarity than is common at this level of the market, and it renders its pictures in a very respectable 30ms in its Gaming mode. There's more colour detail than you'd get with a non-4K TV too, which helps give gaming worlds a more three-dimensional feel. From a normal TV viewing distance its relatively small screen doesn't really show off its 4K resolution perhaps, but from a more up-close gaming perspective those pixels do make a difference. A very limited effective viewing angle perhaps limits the 40DX600's potential as a shared screen for co-op gaming, but for one-man armies it does the job superbly for the money. Avoid the larger screen DX600 sizes, however, as they use different types of LCD panel that deliver poor contrast.
As you'd expect given their starting price of £3,800, Samsung's KS9500 series are fearsomely cutting-edge TVs. In particular, their maximum brightness output of 1400 nits is way higher than any other TV has managed before, enabling them to present HDR pictures with an accuracy and intensity that takes your breath away. They also use modified Quantum Dot colour technology to produce a huge range of colours which, when combined with all that brightness, look more intense than any we've seen before. The prospect of HDR gaming on these TVs is simply mouthwatering. They also deliver arguably the sharpest 4K pictures in the world, while their curved screens can enhance your immersion in a game if you're sitting reasonably close. Finally, their input lag is just 25ms, which is outstandingly low for such sophisticated TVs. Just bear in mind that it's arguably only worth investing in these TVs if you intend to go all-out to feed them with the 'next-gen' gaming sources they deserve.
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7. Samsung K5600 series
Strong HD pictures and smart features meet aggressive pricing in this pleasingly no-nonsense range of TV and gaming all-rounders
Attractive design across a wide range of screen sizes
No HDR, 3D or 4K support
Pictures aren't as good as Sony's W805/W809 models
Samsung's top HD TVs for 2016 may lack the 4K and HDR skills of Samsung's other two entries on this list, but that doesn't stop them from being mighty fine partners for original Xbox Ones and PS4s. For starters, they benefit from Samsung's uncanny knack of delivering excellent contrast and colour right across its TV range, creating gaming worlds that feel solid and involving. Their pictures are also sharp and clean for HD TVs, while they hit the 30ms input lag target we generally look for when thinking about TVs from a gaming perspective. Motion looks unusually clean for such affordable TVs too, even on the 32-inch model, keeping the action crisp even as you spin frantically left and right in search of the next enemy. One last point about the K5600 series is that it covers an unusually wide range of sizes, meaning there's a model to suit pretty much every room and requirement.
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8. Philips 65PUS7601
The combination of Ambilight, good pricing for a 65-inch UHD/HDR screen and a dedicated HDR gaming mode get this TV on our list
65-inch: Philips 65PUS7601
Excellent backlight control
Great price for the picture quality on offer
Complicated picture set-up
Doesn't deliver 'full fat' HDR experience
The 65PUS7601 boasts arguably the single most aggressively game-friendly feature on this list, in the shape of its Ambilight system. Ambilight uses LED lights ranged along the TV's rear left, right and top edges to throw out coloured lights that can be continually matched in terms of shade, intensity and even location to the colours in the picture you're watching; the result is greatly enhanced connection with what you're watching, something that's especially useful where gaming is concerned. The Ambilight system even features a dedicated gaming mode, designed to react faster than normal to changes in your game graphics. The 65PUS7601 also provides generally strong (for its reasonably low price) 4K and HDR picture quality, and you can get input lag down to only around 30ms if you're careful how you set it up. The set even features a dedicated HDR game mode that adjusts the HDR processing to suit the relatively stark and precise look of game graphics versus 'natural' video.
9. LG OLEDE6 series
If you can afford the £700 step up from LG's OLEDB6 series, the E6s reward you with brighter pictures and awesome sound
The only reason the OLEDE6 series doesn't feature more highly on this list is its £3,500 starting price, which leaves the cheaper OLEDC6 range looking much more viable for most households (or the B6 series if you prefer a flat screen). The OLEDE6 series does, however, justify its extra cost if you can find enough cash. For starters, its design is something else, thanks to the way its OLED film is mounted directly onto a sheet of glass. It also backs up its predictably stunning, contrast-rich pictures with a much more potent, atmosphere-building sound performance than the C6 series, courtesy of a powerful, expressive and detailed soundbar that sits beneath its bottom edge. Finally its pictures – which deliver not just 4K and HDR but also, unusually, the premium Dolby Vision HDR format – are a touch brighter and more refined than those of the B6, making it a real temptation for the sort of gamer who can afford not to have to compromise.
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10. Panasonic DX802 series
The DX802s offer one of the best mid-range UHD/HDR picture performances around, game-friendly visuals and thumping audio
While most TV buyers will likely be attracted to the Panasonic DX802 series by their attractive prices and unique design (the screens hang between two easel-style legs), for gamers their appeal lies in their combination of strong picture quality, low input lag and, most strikingly of all, a huge audio performance courtesy of an external 12-speaker soundbar that lies between the TV's legs. This speaker is precise as well as powerful, enveloping you in the sound of the games you're playing. Input lag, meanwhile, measures just 34ms, while the bright, colourful, but also unusually subtle pictures unlock all the detail glories of the screen's UHD resolution, and many of the joys of HDR. Some more expensive TVs give you an even more dramatic HDR experience, and you need to remember to set the DX802s' Adaptive Backlight feature to its highest level to boost contrast, but overall you'll struggle to find such strong gaming – and movie – performance for the same money elsewhere.