It’s been a tumultuous year for the video game world. For the first time ever we’ve seen Microsoft and Sony introduce mid-generation hardware refreshes of their Xbox and PlayStation consoles that introduce substantial new features. Headlining these new features is support for both 4K (also known as Ultra HD) resolution and high dynamic range.
If you’re not familiar with these, 4K quadruples the number of pixels in an HD picture to deliver much more detail and clarity, while high dynamic range greatly expands the picture’s contrast range, delivering brighter light peaks and deeper blacks. HDR is also almost always accompanied by a wider colour spectrum.
Both 4K and HDR can have a transformational effect on the gaming experience - but there’s a problem. Namely that neither feature will work on the old full HD, standard dynamic range TVs most people currently own. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of the best 4K gaming TVs you can currently buy that covers a mix of the absolute best performing sets and the best value sets, so that hopefully there’s something for everyone.
1. Sony XBR-65Z9D (Sony KD-65ZD9 in UK)
No other TV delivers unlocks the full delirious beauty of HDR better than this ground-breaking Sony.
Screen size: 65 inches | Tuner: Freeview HD | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Panel technology: LCD with direct LED lighting and local dimming | Smart TV: Yes, Android TV | Curved: No | Dimensions: 1462(w) x 847(h) x 78(d)mm
This incredible TV uses new LCD backlight technology to deliver the brightest HDR pictures ever seen from a consumer television.This backlight technology finds every one of more than 600 LEDs behind the screen outputting its own light, independently of its neighbours. It can even combine the light from clusters of LEDs to enhance the brightest picture elements without causing excessive light pollution in dark areas. The result of all this is a ground-breaking contrast range tailor made to cope HDR’s extreme demands.Sony’s Triluminos colour technology, meanwhile, works in tandem with the huge brightness potential to pump out colours that look both more vivid but also more natural than those of any rival screen. Detail levels are out of this world too, ramming home the benefits of 4K resolution, and the 65Z9D is the only 2016 Sony TV so far to include a dedicated HDR Game picture mode. This lets you play games through a reasonably low input lag figure of around 40ms (input lag being the time a TV takes to produce images after receiving image data).The 65Z9D isn’t perfect. Its sound is only average, its Android TV smart system is sluggish and buggy, and even its cutting-edge backlight can’t remove every trace of light ‘haloing’ in the most extreme areas of HFR contrast. For sheer unadulterated 4K HDR spectacle, though, there’s nothing else that can touch it.
Best for: The sort of gamer who just wants the best, no matter how much it costs.
UK link: £3,999.00
2. Samsung UN65KS9800 (UE65KS9500 in UK)
Quantum dot colours, an immersive curved screen and exceptionally low input lag make this flagship Samsung TV a gamer’s dream.
Screen size: 65 inches | Tuner: Freeview HD | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Panel technology: LCD with direct LED lighting and local dimming | Smart TV: Yes, Samsung Tizen | Curved: Yes | Dimensions: 1441.6(w) x 833(h) x 115.9(d)mm
Samsung kicked off the whole HDR TV scene last year with its debut ‘SUHD’ TV range. This year has been all about the brand consolidating its HDR association by taking the format’s picture quality to a level beyond the reach of its rivals.The flagship UE65KS9800 is the epitome of this HDR ambition. It employs a direct LED lighting system (where the LEDs sit behind the screen rather than around its edges) and advanced local dimming to deliver on HDR’s extreme contrast capabilities. Quantum Dot colour technology, meanwhile, serves up an incredibly wide colour spectrum.The UE65KS9800 also scores big with gamers by including the ability to activate a game picture mode when playing in HDR that keeps input lag down to well below 30ms.Add to the mix arguably the sharpest presentation of 4K sources the TV world currently has to offer and you end up with what was for many months the most spectacular HDR images of the year until Sony’s Z9D belatedly rolled into town.There are some occasional backlight glitches with very extreme content, and it seems to be a matter of taste whether you find its curved screen more immersive or a bit of a distraction. These issues aside, however, the UE65KS9800 is a shining example of just how far TVs have come in the past 12 months.
Best for: Demanding gamers who want to combine low input lag with HDR excellence. Plus it’s a little easier on the wallet for people who can’t quite afford the Sony Z9D.
UK link: £3,159.00
3. LG OLED55E6
OLED’s unique contrast skills and strong motion handling make this incredibly designed TV a thing of gaming beauty.
Screen size: 55 inches | Tuner: Freeview HD/Freesat HD | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Panel technology: OLED | Smart TV: Yes, webOS 3.0 | Curved: No | Dimensions: 1360(w) x 767(h) x 56(d)mm
If ever a TV had you at ‘hello’ it’s the LG OLED55E6. The way its incredibly thin OLED panel is mounted onto an sheer sheet of glass results in quite possibly the most glorious TV design ever. The OLED55E6 isn’t on this list just for its looks, however. The way every single pixel in its OLED panel delivers its own light and colour means it can produce stunningly deep black colours without a hint of the light pollution problems associated with LCD TVs. The OLED55E6’s colours look phenomenally rich and intense against the class-leading black tones too, and since OLED screens can be watched from a wider angle than LCD ones it supports group gaming sessions unusually well. LG has boosted the OLED55E6’s brightness by almost 50% from its 2015 models to enhance the HDR experience, and the set sports a powerful built-in sound bar. The OLED55E6 is far less bright than the Samsung UE65KS9800 and Sony 65Z9D, though, and since it doesn’t carry an HDR Game mode you have to contend with input lag of nearly 70ms when playing an HDR game. If you can live with these compromises, though, the OLED55E6 often delivers visuals so good they’ve been known to make grown gamers weep. Probably.
Best for: Gamers who like playing in dark rooms and mostly play games that don’t depend on lightning-fast reactions.
UK link: £1,999.00
4. Samsung UN55KS8000 (Samsung UE55KS7000 in the UK)
Thankfully it appears that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great HDR TV
Screen size: 55 inches | Tuner: Freeview HD | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Panel technology: LCD with edge LED lighting and local dimming | Smart TV: Yes, Samsung Tizen | Curved: No | Dimensions: 1225(w) x 710(h) x 44.3(d)mm
If your wallet has started to melt at the thought of securing any of our top three gaming TVs, this mid-range Samsung model could be the answer to your prayers. Despite its relative affordability, it still offers a native 4K resolution, still supports HDR playback with a best-in-class 1000 nits of brightness, still uses Quantum Dot technology to produce an extended colour palette, and still uses local dimming technology to boost its contrast performance. There really is no other LCD TV in the UN55KS8000’s section of the market that’s so well equipped to do HDR proud.As if all this wasn’t already tempting enough, the UN55KS8000 enjoys the same ultra-low (sub-30ms) HDR input lag that Samsung’s flagship TVs do.The UN55KS8000 uses an edge LED lighting system rather than a direct one, and this can cause some occasional vague vertical bars of light to appear around very bright HDR objects if they appear against dark backgrounds. You also can’t watch the UN55KS8000 from a very wide angle before contrast starts to drop off. For most people, though, these will feel like pretty puny problems versus all the good stuff it does for its money.
Best for: Anyone who wants to enjoy a genuinely decent HDR gaming experience without spending a fortune.
UK link: £999.99
5. Sony XBR-75X940D (Sony KD-75XD9405 in UK)
If you want to experience a truly immersive gaming experience, then you need to play on a 75-inch TV. Right?
Screen size: 75 inches | Tuner: Freeview HD | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Panel technology: LCD with direct LED lighting and local dimming | Smart TV: Yes, Android TV | Curved: No | Dimensions: 1672(w) x 960(h) x 52(d)mm
You haven’t really gamed until you’ve gamed on a 75-inch TV. There’s just something about those extra inches of screen that transforms the experience from just ‘playing a game’ to becoming truly lost in a whatever game world you’re exploring. Especially now these gaming worlds are starting to be rendered in glorious 4K and HDR.If that’s persuaded you to clear a bigger space in your living room for a TV than you’d originally anticipated, then there’s no better king-sized TV option this year than Sony’s XBR-75X940D. This model’s direct LED lighting engine, local dimming, superb 4K clarity, gorgeously vibrant Triluminos colours and impressive contrast join with the gaping 75 inches of screen to create an epic vision of our HDR future that genuinely makes gaming more fun.Obviously neither its size nor its price will make it a TV everyone can handle, and it suffers a little more with gentle haloing around bright objects than our top trio of 4K gaming TVs (especially if watched from an angle). Its HDR input lag is also a touch high at around 58ms. However, if ever a gaming screen deserved to be cut some slack for its relatively minor indiscretions, it’s this one.
Best for: Gamers who want to actually feel like they’re living in their games.
UK link: £5,120.23
6. Samsung UN49KS8500 (Samsung UE49KS7500 in the UK)
Proof that 4K isn’t just a big TV thing.
Screen size: 49 inches | Tuner: Freeview HD | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Panel technology: LCD with edge LED lighting and local dimming | Smart TV: Yes, Samsung Tizen TV | Curved: Yes
If you don’t have the space for a really big TV or you prefer to sit up close and personal with your screen when you’re gaming, Samsung’s 49-inch UN49KS8500 is the best small(ish!) 4K TV around.The way the curved screen wraps the image subtly round into your peripheral vision when you’re sitting close to it draws you deeper into your game worlds, and its specifications are truly fearsome for such an affordable set. In fact, its Quantum Dot colour technology, 1000 nits of brightness and edge LED with local dimming lighting system help it turn in an HDR performance that makes its rivals look dull and drab.Televisions smaller than 55 inches in size can struggle to deliver a strong sense of the benefits of a native 4K resolution. Not so the UN49KS8500. Its pictures are so sharp and detailed that you’re never in doubt that you’ve left the HD era behind.As with the UN55KS8000, predominantly dark HDR scenes on the UN49KS8500 sometimes reveal gentle vertical light banding around very bright objects, and there’s some extra (but subtle) clouding along the bottom edge. But with sub-30ms input lag in both HDR and standard dynamic range modes to seal the deal, the UN49KS8500 really is a brilliantly affordable way to enter the 4K age.
Best for: People who prefer their gaming to be a little more intimate - and affordable.
UK link: £1,059.00