Technology

Best Gaming TV: Low Input Lag and High Picture Quality


$1,698 at Amazon

Samsung QN65QN90B

Best non-OLED gaming TV, super-low lag (10.50ms)

$1,000 at Best Buy

TCL 6-Series Roku TV

Best gaming TV for the money, super-low lag (10.90ms)

$898 at Amazon

Hisense U8H

Second-best gaming TV for the money, low lag (15.43ms)

If you are in the market looking for a gaming TV, our best TVs for 2023 list is more than enough because most modern TVs are already perfectly suited for video games and offer excellent color, contrast, brightness and resolution. However, HDMI 2.1 is important for advanced gaming features that can improve your experience, such as 120Hz and variable refresh rates. These gaming TVs are especially nice if you’ve managed to get your hands on a next-gen console like the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. There are also some TVs that come with a preset gaming mode, which reduces input lag and keeps your image crisp.

How quickly you react while gaming depends on a feedback loop between your brain, your fingers, the game controller and the action you see on the TV screen. Delay at any point will diminish your performance and the thrilling immediacy of the playing experience. It takes mere milliseconds for a video signal to travel from your console through the HDMI input on your TV to display on the screen, but too many milliseconds can be noticeable to your brain — and they can be downright deadly to your in-game character. Those milliseconds of delay are known as input lag. 

Two TVs displaying the same video game side by side.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Select TVs’ input lag with game mode on and off (milliseconds)

TV Model On (4K HDR) Off (4K HDR) On (1080p) Off (1080p)
LG OLED65C2 9.87 81.10 9.93 72.80
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series 10.03 119.23 34.80 102.20
Samsung QN55Q60B 10.10 68.63 10.00 87.80
TCL 50S455 10.13 49.90 10.23 33.27
Samsung QN65QN90B 10.50 74.30 10.73 95.00
Vizio V550M 10.43 67.70 10.63 51.57
Hisense 50A6H 10.53 119.27 10.80 43.23
TCL 65R655 10.90 11.40 11.27 11.37
Sony KD55X80K 11.67 132.63 11.93 132.77
Vizio M65QXM-K03 15.10 127.37 15.33 60.10
Hisense 65U8H 15.43 108.73 15.33 108.73
Sony KD-65X95K 18.13 144.53 18.03 161.20

The top 5 gaming TVs

The following TVs, featured at the top of the page, deliver either the lowest lag I’ve measured among the TVs I’ve reviewed, the best picture quality for the money or a combination of both. Unless otherwise noted, prices shown below are for the 65-inch sizes.

David Katzmaier/CNET

The C2 has the lowest lag of any TV we’ve measured, beating its predecessor the LG C1 by a couple hundredths of a millisecond. It also has the best picture quality of any TV we’ve ever tested and is our top pick for best high-end TV for the money. With those qualifications it’s easy to see why we consider the C2 the best gaming TV, period.

Bobby Oliver/CNET

Sizes 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inchTV Technology QLED with Mini-LEDSmart TV Yes (Tizen)Resolution 4KHDMI Ports 4

Although a few cheaper TVs deliver lower lag than the QN90B, the difference boils down to tenths of a millisecond, as you can see from the chart above. The picture quality of this higher-end TV runs circles around those competitors, however, thanks to mini-LED technology. Like LG, Samsung has a tricked-out gaming menu with indicators for refresh rate, HDR and more, as well as gaming-specific picture modes. It also offers a built-in extra that LG doesn’t: Xbox cloud gaming.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Our favorite TV overall for the money happens to be an excellent gaming TV as well. This TCL supports all the high-end gaming extras you expect, including 4K, 120Hz input and variable refresh rate. Our tests of its gaming picture revealed excellent overall quality, in particular shadow detail.

David Katzmaier

In our review of the Hisense we rated its overall image quality nearly as good as the TCL, and we actually liked its gaming picture a bit better thanks to punchier highlights. It comes in second to the TCL with worse lag, but most people won’t notice the extra 5 milliseconds. Gamers can’t go wrong with either one.

David Katzmaier

Sizes 43-, 50-, 55-, 58- 65-, 70-, 75-inchTV Technology LEDSmart TV Yes (Tizen)Resolution 4KHDMI Ports 4

The Vizio V-Series costs hundreds less than any of the TVs above, its image quality can’t compete and it lacks 4K, 120Hz input, but for a budget model its gaming chops are top-notch. It’s the only budget TV we’ve seen that supports variable refresh rate and its overall image quality was a cut above similarly priced models from TCL, Hisense and others.

What else you need to know about input lag

How to turn on game mode. In most cases, viewing in game mode isn’t automatic so you’ll have to turn it on manually, and sometimes the gaming monitor setting can be difficult to find. Many use a picture mode called “Game” while some, like Samsung and Vizio, let you apply game mode to any setting. 

Samsung Q9 TV

Sarah Tew/CNET

Game mode makes a difference, except when it doesn’t. As you can see in the table above, many TVs cut lag substantially when you turn on game mode, but plenty don’t. In general, expensive TVs with elaborate video processing get more of a benefit when you engage game mode.

Most TVs’ game modes are good enough for most gamers. No matter how twitchy you are, it’s going to be tough to tell the difference between 13 and 30 milliseconds of input lag. Many gamers won’t even be able to discern between having game mode on and off — it all depends on the game and your sensitivity to lag.

Turning game mode on can hurt image quality (a little). TV makers’ menus often refer to reduced picture quality. Reduced picture quality is generally the result of turning off that video processing. In my experience, however, the differences in image quality are really subtle with console gaming, and worth the trade-off if you want to minimize lag for a great gaming experience.

4K HDR gaming lag is different from 1080p. The display resolution you play at has an impact, and since new consoles prominently feature 4K HDR output for games, I started testing for 4K HDR lag in 2018. In general, the numbers are similar to the lag with standard 1080p resolution, but as you can see from the chart above, there are exceptions.

Testing is an inexact science. I use a Leo Bodnar lag tester. Here’s how it works, and how I use it. You might see different lag test results from different review outlets, which may use Bodnar or another method.

best-gaming-tvs

Watch this: Here’s what to look for when buying a TV for gaming

What’s the best TV for gaming, period?

As I mentioned at the top, the best TV for gaming is one that has the best picture quality for viewing everything else, too. Games benefit from deep black levels, bright highlights and uniform screens just as much as movies and TV shows do. 

Yes, there are other factors, but they don’t apply to most gamers. If you play the same game constantly on your smart LED TV and never put anything else on the screen, and that game as a bright static element that stays in the same place on the screen (like a HUD or other status display), you might be at risk for OLED burn-in. But most gamers don’t have to worry about OLED burn-in.

If the TV input where your console is connected is shared with other devices and you don’t want to remember to re-engage game mode all the time, an auto game-mode feature might be useful. And some cutting-edge PS5, Xbox Series X and PC gamers might appreciate 4K/120Hz input and variable refresh rate.

Most gamers, however, will find that the best TV for gaming is the best TV, period.