Once upon a time, all you really wanted in a gaming TV was a big, clear screen. There wasn’t much nit-picking about specific types of displays, and the transition towards modern consoles and widespread flatscreens was basically good enough in and of itself. In other words, progressing from box TV sets and now-ancient consoles toward more flatscreens and more advanced machines gave us such great gaming displays that we really didn’t think much about the details.
Now, however, visual quality is such a huge part of gaming that having the right TV — instead of just one that generally qualifies as “modern” — makes a real difference. Look back at some of our favourite Xbox games of 2020, such as No Man’s Sky and A Plague Tale: Innocence, and it’s not a stretch to say that visual appeal has a lot to do with what stands out these days. Look to Wired’s most anticipated games of 2021, like Halo Infinite and Resident Evil 8: Village (which we can’t wait for), and you’ll get the same idea.
The bottom line is that so many games are so big and impressive today that atmosphere is often what sets one apart from the other. That has a lot to do with visual appeal, and while game designers play the biggest role inn bringing that about, a great TV can take full advantage of it.
So, what should a gamer look for in a television in 2021? To some extent it’s a matter of personal preference. However, Groupon’s TV buying guide for the year makes a few interesting points that can help you narrow down your search. The guide points out essentially that there are two sensible priorities for a gaming TV: a picture that “keeps up with fast movements” (such as a 4K Ultra HD display), and a screen that isn’t overwhelmingly large (because gamers often sit pretty close to the screen). These are good guidelines to go by, and will help you to pick out some of the most appealing gaming TVs for 2021.
Samsung TU8300 55-Inch Curved Crystal 4K UHD
Samsung’s 4K UHD TVs are the ones specifically recommended by the aforementioned buying guide, and in keeping with that recommendation this is a hard pick to top. It satisfies the need for a sharp display that will keep up with gaming speed, and at 55 inches it’s relatively modest in size without seeming small. The curved screen is a nice touch, too. If you haven’t had a TV like this before, Which’s breakdown of curved versus flatscreen TVs does a nice job of conveying the benefits — essentially explaining that a curve can increase immersion and expand the field of view. Sometimes the effect is better than others, but particularly for today’s open-world games, a curve like this can be kind of great.
LG CX 55-Inch OLED 4K UHD
LG is probably the closest thing to a direct counterpart to Samsung in today’s TV market. The two brands tend to go head to head with what are ultimately fairly similar machines, and accordingly the LG CX option is a good counterpart to the Samsung TV discussed previously. This LG does not give you a curved screen, but it is known specifically for top-notch image clarity and rapid response time, both of which are crucial for maximising game performance. You won’t do a whole lot better than this TV, and even if you’d prefer a slightly larger screen, there are 65- and 77-inch versions of it as well.
Sony carves its own path a little bit by comparison to the Samsung-LG competition, with the result that its modern TVs are always just a little bit different (while not necessarily better or worse in an objective sense). Accordingly, the XF9005 is not an OLED display like so many offerings we see from Samsung and LG. However, it’s known for excellent backlighting that improves the image quality, and a display that matches OLEDs without costing quite as much. Ultimately, this is a sharp, quick TV, available with 55- and 65-inch displays and relatively affordable.
Panasonic HZ2000 55-inch OLED 4K UHD
This is the most expensive TV on our list, and by a fair margin. This is due primarily to the fact that Panasonic’s OLED displays have a few underlying features that help to produce what some consider to be the very best colour contrast and clarity on the market. It’s also a particularly durable display that should not distort over time (not to mention these TVs have five-year warranty agreements). The downside, other than the price, is that there can be slightly more lag on this TV than on some counterparts. But for those interested in pure visual beauty in gaming, this is an option to consider (No Man’s Sky on this screen would be particularly breathtaking!).
Today’s TVs are pretty mind-blowing, and the truth is that there are plenty more options similar to the ones reviewed here. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to enhance your gaming through a great new TV, these are the ones we’d recommend looking into.