For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction, right? Everyone knows that. So what’s the equal and opposite reaction to the action of your ordering a shiny new next-gen games console? It’s the nagging worry you won’t get the best out of it unless you upgrade your TV too.
After all, a lot of the headline features of both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles rely on some pretty full-on TV technology. And the most exciting features require the TV’s HDMI input(s) to be compliant with at least some of the fabled ‘HDMI 2.1’ specification.
But, of course, nothing in all of technology-land is ever straightforward - and the appearance of HDMI 2.1 on a particular TV doesn’t automatically mean the TV is capable of supporting console-specific features. So here’s where we quickly recap the most significant TV-related next-gen console features - and then suggest some of the best TVs around, at a variety of prices, for making your console experience the best it can be.
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) is one of the more straightforward features - so straightforward, in fact, it features on 2017’s Xbox One X. Now, though, this feature - which instructs a TV to automatically switch to its ‘Game’ mode in order to keep the time between controller presses and the action occurring on-screen to a minimum - is supported by many more TVs than it was back in 2017.
VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) has also been a console feature for a few years, but it’s only now becoming something televisions can implement. VRR varies the screen’s refresh rate to suit a game’s frame rate so they’re always synchronised - so games look smoother. Dynamic HDR and eARC are slightly more mainstream propositions, on the basis that they already have applications beyond gaming.
Dynamic HDR (which in TV-land is often described as either HDR10+ or Dolby Vision) optimises the high dynamic range potential of images on a frame-by-frame basis - so they’re as bright and colourful as possible at all times. Enhanced Audio Return Channel, meanwhile, is an upgrade on the ARC method of transferring audio from a TV to a soundbar, multichannel amplifier or what-have-you using an HDMI cable. eARC has greater bandwidth than ARC, and is capable of carrying up to 32 channels of audio - so should be able to handle object-based audio formats like Dolby Atmos without problems.
The most spectacular aspect of HDI 2.1, though, is its theoretical ability to handle 4K video resolution at a 120Hz. The advantages of putting 120 frames per second on the screen are obvious: smoother action and greater detail. But even consoles as powerful as the PS5 and Xbox Series X may have to drop resolution from 4K down to 1080p (or even lower) if they’re going to put 120 frames per second up there - and the TVs that can handle this torrent of information are still few and far between.
Nevertheless, there are quite a few TVs out there that are ready to do their utmost to maximise your gaming experience - and these are among the very best. Just don’t forget your HDMI 2.1 connecting cable, will you?
LG OLED CX
Microsoft recently announced LG’s range of OLED TVs as the official television of the Xbox Series X - and the CX series is the undoubted sweet-spot of the entire LG OLED line-up. Screen sizes running from 48in (£1499) to a whopping 77in (£3499), but the economies of scale mean you can pick up a 55in version for an enticing £1399.
No matter the size you go for, though, you’ll find support for ALLM, VRR, 4K @ 120Hz and eARC - as well as absolutely lustrous picture quality. A response time of just 13ms in ‘Game’ mode only makes a water-tight case even, um, water-tighter.
LG’s OLEDs get most of the glory, but its NANO906 LCD range is also a great partner for your new console (particularly the Xbox Series X, what with LG being an official partner and all).
Available from 55in (£899) to an intimidating 75in (£2499), it’s a more affordable option - but with a couple of full-bandwidth HDMI 2.1 inputs and input lag of comfortably less than 20ms, it’s still ready to take your gaming experience to the next level.
Spoiler alert: Sony’s not concerning itself with the Xbox Series X as much as LG is. No, Sony’s all about the Playstation 5 - and with the KD-XH90 series it has a TV that can do its housemate some real justice.
Yours in sizes from 49in (£1199) to a frankly frightening 85in (£3299), the XH90 only got its upgrade to HDMI 2.1 a couple of months ago - but that makes it a serious next-gen console proposition. Picture quality is dynamic and convincing, input lag is roughly 15ms, and even without external assistance the Sony sounds quite muscular too.
What to do when you’re not convinced by OLED but want a few more technological fireworks than plain LCD can offer? Get yourself a Samsung QLED TV, that’s what.
The Q80T range (which starts with the £799 49in and tops out with a humongous 85in version at £3499) can handle all next-gen console headline features through one or another of its four HDMI 2.1 sockets, and with Game Motion Plus Samsung has managed to produce admirably low input lag (sub-20ms) without sacrificing all of its clever picture processing. Turn it all off, though, and the Q80T responds in a lightning-quick 9ms.
If you’re looking for some exciting gaming action on a budget, though, the TU7100 series might be just what you’re after. Not only is it available in some real-world sizes (it starts at 43in before topping out at a more predictable 75in), with prices starting at around £319 it’s properly affordable too.
There’s no variable refresh rate here, although given the Samsung can operate at 4K @ 60Hz you won’t find too many games that can outstrip it, and its eARC facility means cutting-edge sound quality is available too. This is the perfect range of TVs to up your gaming experience without emptying your bank account.