What is a gaming TV?

Two people playing a driving video game on a large flatscreen TV mounted to a white wall.
Credit: LG

Two people playing a driving video game on a large flatscreen TV mounted to a white wall.
Credit: LG

Modern televisions are built to be Swiss Army displays that are capable of handling pretty much anything you throw at it, but not all screens are built equally. As the PS5 and Xbox Series X creep ever closer to the power of a gaming PC, gaming TVs have emerged as a class of their own, containing features that are specifically designed to minimise motion blur and make the most of the latest consoles.

Of course, forking out for the best gaming TV is going to set you back a bit more than a regular smart TV. There’s a lot more going on under the hood, from faster refresh rates to the latest panels, ports, and platforms. They share a lot more in common with the best gaming monitors, which are your other option for multiplatform gaming.

What’s the difference between a gaming TV and a regular TV?

Modern TVs are designed with quality visual output in mind, such as 4K resolution, offering the best viewing experiences for shows, sports, movies, and streaming. By comparison, gaming TVs offer all of that, plus a few extra things for console lovers, making them some of the best TVs on the market in general.

One thing you can bank on is that they’re almost guaranteed to use a high-end panel with an OLED, Mini-LED, or QLED backlight and support HDR, which is where most of the cost goes. This ensures images are bright and crisp, and show as much detail as possible in both light and dark scenarios.

The most important feature of a gaming TV is its variable refresh rate, which is where things get a little technical. Refresh rate is the speed at which a screen updates the image you see, and is measured in hertz per second. This is directly tied to the frame rate of a movie, TV series, or game, which is measured in frames per second (fps).

Image of someone playing Project Cars 2 with a racing wheel on a large flatscreen TV with blue and red lighting behind it.
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Credit: LG

Most regular TVs are stuck with a 60Hz refresh rate, which means they update 60 times in a second and can display no more than 60 frames in that time. Since the PS5, Xbox Series X, and newer PCs can all go up to 120fps, gaming TVs feature twice the refresh rate, which is variable so it looks smooth even when the frame rate in a game fluctuates - and it will go up and down regularly.

Some gaming TVs come with NVIDIA G-Sync, AMD FreeSync, or other adaptive sync capabilities. These are features that usually appear in gaming monitors, and make sure the graphics processor in your device can keep up with the refresh rate. If these two things trip over each other, it results in screen tearing, where segments of your picture move slower than others, making adaptive sync a must.

Another built-in feature is a dedicated Game Mode, or a similar equivalent, which can improve the overall quality of the experience by lowering input lag. Less input lag means less time between you pressing a button on your controller and the appropriate response appearing on-screen. More input lag is the visual equivalent of using Bluetooth headphones and lips being out of sync from the audio, so you always want as low as you can get.

A gaming TV may also come with pre-installed apps, such as Xbox Game Pass or NVIDIA GeForce Now, enabling you to cloud game without hooking up a console or PC. This is dependent on the operating system that the television runs on, and how new the model is.

To summarise, the difference between a gaming TV and a regular one is the former still functions like a normal television set, but the additional features, sharp image, pre-installed gaming apps, and more means they offer benefits to those who are going to be hooking up their console.

What is the difference between a gaming TV and a monitor?

The line between gaming TVs and gaming monitors is blurring all the time, as they both use speedy technology and features designed to make gaming smooth. The general rule of thumb is that gaming TVs are better for all-around entertainment because they come with smart software and a range of streaming apps baked into the service, while gaming monitors are better for games with higher refresh rates and substantially lower input lag.

Image of a black gaming monitor surrounded by red and blue lighting and smoke.
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Credit: AORUS

Here are a few notable differences:

  • All gaming TVs come with speakers, while only some monitors do - although we recommend using the best soundbar for better audio anyway.
  • All gaming TVs come with a remote control, while only some monitors do.
  • All gaming TVs have a fully-loaded operating system that comes with streaming services, which very few monitors do.
  • Most gaming monitors feature better input lag in the 0.5ms-3ms range, rather than the average 6ms of a gaming TV.
  • Gaming TVs tend to be larger, with a 40 - 80-inch selection, while gaming monitors start at 24 inches and don’t go too much higher than 40 inches.

Getting a gaming TV is the clear winner if you’re looking to fill a bigger room or a display that’s versatile, while a gaming monitor is better at home on a desk with a smaller viewing distance.

What types of TV are best for gaming?

While there isn’t really a wrong choice when it comes to deciding on a brand, some of your decision-making will likely come down to what type of games you play. If you’re the kind of person that likes something with a lot of fast movement, such as a racing game or a high-octane first-person shooter, something with a lot of visual clarity and better HDR may be what you’re after.

Perhaps visuals are not a major concern for you. Maybe you prefer to play horror games, so you want something that’s going to deliver top-notch audio. Again, it’s personal preference, but a gaming TV that has Dolby’s immersive Atmos technology, which is adaptive for immense spatial sound quality, could be more in-line with your needs when it comes to gaming on a television.

As an example, the LG OLED G2 65” is not only sizable, which is ideal if your TV is quite far away, but its 4K resolution gives it a great picture. That’s a start for many of you, but with FreeSync and G-Sync compatibility, not to mention Game Mode for reduced latency, it should provide you with all your needs. However, there are other brands out there, many of which will have features that are right for you.

Are gaming TVs worth it?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer for this. It really comes down to whether you want to get the best experience when using your TV for video games, what your budget is, and how often you plan on upgrading your display.

Image of someone holding a black controller playing a racing game on a flatscreen TV.
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Credit: Samung

Think about how often you find yourself gaming. In this modern era of technology, it’s common for people to want to get the most out of their devices, especially given the cost of some of the higher-end brands. The impressive visual acuity that a gaming TV affords is often a vital component when it comes to gaming. Having a 4K OLED output on 120Hz, with a reduction in latency, is of great benefit to console fanatics.

They are, of course, quite expensive, with some of the larger screens - up to 83 inches - setting you back several thousand. However, something much smaller, perhaps from a less well-known name or with some features stripped back - can easily be under $1,000 USD / £1,000 GBP depending on where you shop. The question really comes down to how much you feel a gaming TV would benefit you in the long run.

As mentioned above, televisions designed specifically for gaming come bundled with features and apps for an enhanced experience. If the thought of a better quality picture, built-in Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus, the most up-to-date HDMI technology for a better connection, and better controller response sound intriguing, then yes, a gaming TV is worth it.

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