It’s time to step up your living room gaming experience.
With the PS4 Pro on the market, HDR gaming and 4K video on the Xbox One S and upcoming One X, this might be a good time to consider upgrading your gaming TV. Now that 4K TVs have finally become relatively affordable, that big quality leap over 1080p doesn’t have to decimate your bank account.
There are many qualities to consider in choosing a good TV. Color accuracy, contrast, color gamut, viewing angles, power utilization, screen reflectance, smart TV features, and more. Since we’re primarily concerned about gaming here, it is crucial that each TV we recommend have a “gaming” mode with low input latency (ideally, 35ms or less). As HDR is so important for games, all our TV picks have to provide this low input latency while in 4K 60Hz mode with HDR enabled. That’s something many older 4K TVs really struggled with. The site RTings has a good chart of available TVs showing measured input lag in various modes.
Outside of playing games on 4K capable consoles like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, where can you find 4K and HDR content? You won’t get it from your cable or satellite hookup. 4K and HDR content lives primarily on streaming services. Most new Netflix original series and movies, (outside of animation and kids stuff) are in 4K, some with HDR as well. Many Amazon Prime Originals are also in 4K, again with HDR in some cases. YouTube has a surprisingly large amount of 4K content, too. And Microsoft’s game streaming service Mixer can stream in 4K, though you won’t find many 4K streams yet. Streaming in 4K requires a pretty good internet connection, as Netflix recommends at least 25Mbps.
To watch it you need a streaming box or console capable of streaming in 4K, or you can use the integrated smart TV app. The Xbox One S and Xbox One X support 4K streaming apps, as does the PS4 Pro, but the last time we checked the YouTube app on the Xbox platform still needs an update to enable it. You can also use streaming boxes like the Roku (Roku Premiere only does 4K but not HDR, while Premiere+ and Ultra do both), a 4K-capable Android TV box (like the Nvidia Shield TV), or the Chromecast Ultra. At the time of this writing, there is no 4K capable Apple TV. Of course, if you don’t want to stream, you can buy 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. This is the costliest option, but provides the best picture and sound quality. The Xbox One S and Xbox One X support the format, while the PS4 Pro does not.
A quick note on HDMI: You’ll need HDMI 2.0 compatible ports (on your console, receiver/switch, and TV) to take advantage of 4K 60fps HDR goodness. You may see cables labeled as “4K certified” or something like that, but that’s nonsense. There are only two real types of HDMI cables: Standard Speed (with and without Ethernet) and High Speed (with and without Ethernet). As long as you have a High Speed cable, you should be good to go. That doesn’t mean all cables are the same, but you shouldn’t pay a lot more for a bunch of marketing.
Making sense of HDR
High Dynamic Range is a technology that greatly increase the range of brightness levels displayed by your TV, making a bigger difference between the brightest bright areas and darkest dark areas than non-HDR technology. It’s a huge upgrade in visual quality, and one of the best things about 4K TV sets. But it’s also a little complicated.
There are two major HDR standards supported by TVs today: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Most 4K TVs that support HDR have support for HDR10, with a select few of the higher-end sets supporting Dolby Vision. When it comes to gaming, HDR10 is all you need, as that is what is output by the PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One S, and upcoming Xbox One X. A TV that supports Dolby Vision would only be useful if you have a standalone 4K Blu-Ray player or a streaming media box with Dolby Vision support; it will not give you HDR gaming with your console.
With the exception of a couple of brand new (and hard to find) Sony TVs, all HDR-capable HDTVs are 4K TVs. For all practical purposes, there are no 1080p HDR TVs. So if you want to buy an HDR capable TV set to play PS4 or Xbox One S games at 1080p, you’ll be buying a 4K TV. Hey, it’s good to be future-proof anyway, right?
It’s also important that the peak brightness of an…