The best season of the year is ahead of us: Spider-Man PS4 launches his webs on September 7, Lara follows with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Then comes FIFA 19, Battlefield 5, Black Ops 4, Forza Horizon 4, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption 2 - it’s going to be a hot fall, so we've gone on a quest to find the best 4K TV for gaming possible for your budget.
Ask a seasoned gamer what TV you should buy and the answer pretty much always is: OLED. Buy an LG OLED if you have the budget. It’s going to transform the way you experience movies, Netflix and gaming. OLED technology produces the best black levels possible which means black really is black. Picture a scene where you are deep underwater and the surrounding area is completely dark. There is no natural light coming from the moon, you are so deep in the ocean, the only light source is your flashlight. If you play on an older LCD panel, the black surrounding you won’t be black. It will have a touch of grey in it, you won’t feel a hundred percent encapsulated in this world. In fact, that’s the biggest reasons gamers love OLED.
If you switch off the lights in your living room and there is a very dark scene in let’s say Resident Evil 7 - you will feel the horror, because nothing distracts you. On most, especially inexpensive LCD sets the dark will not be dark enough - it will have that touch of grey in it screaming ‘This is just a game.’ OLED creates a very strong contrast between parts of a scene that are in complete darkness versus those, that are colored. That’s not the technical, but emotional reason why colors seem to pop so much on most LG OLED sets. So, is OLED superior to the competition?
The pros and cons of OLED technology
Perfect black levels. OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. Each individual pixel is made of an organic material that glows when you jab it with electricity. That’s the whole magic: You can switch off an organic pixel, by not sending through electricity. That’s the reason for these perfect black levels. LCDs don’t work that way: If you encounter a dark scene, The liquid crystal of an LCD only blocks the light created by its backlight. It’s a bit like putting strong sunglasses in front, a bit of light will always cast through. Technology has caught up though: Samsung’s QLED models and some Sonys create the same black levels like LG's best OLED screens.
OLEDs don’t get very bright and are not the best possible option for HDR: even the most expensive LG OLED sets just output a maximum of 1000 nits. A nit measures the brightness of 1 candela per square meter, it’s the amount of light, spread over a square meter. To put things into perspective: Samsung’s QLED technology reaches their peak brightness level at 2000 nits which massively benefits HDR, High-Dynamic Range. The biggest technical revolution TV and gaming have seen for a very long time.
Why HDR is revolutionizing games
Very important: if you buy a 4K set, go with on that has HDR10. All the best gaming TVs have it. HDR is the most important technical advancement we’ve seen in the TV industry for a century. Picture this: the developer wants to create a sad atmosphere within a scene. A character feels lost, someone important in the cast died. So very subtly the game dials down its color and brightness scheme - one of the prime examples is The Last of Us 2. The atmosphere is oppressive, you feel the sadness of the character. This is not possible with a non-HDR TV, because there you just have one option: raise or lower color intensity and brightness.
But HDR allows creatives to automatically adjust the brightness level scene by scene: In The Last of Us 2 you have this scene where Ellie is all happy, Naughty Dog makes her blue eyes pop to give you this emotion of everything is all right. The scene is very vibrant. The next one is in combat - much darker, they leverage an entirely different set of colors and the atmosphere changes within seconds. That’s the reason why Naughty Dog's E3 demo left us speechless, because in gaming we are not yet used to this new art form of technology. Netflix used HDR in House of Cards 5 to create an atmosphere of fear. There are certain scenes where the face of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright change to an unnaturally white, almost grey skin color to highlight their brutal and ruthless personality while highlighting their eyes with intense colors. HDR will fundamentally change the way we enjoy entertainment.
The best LG OLED 4K TVs you can buy
LG OLED 65C8 series
The best 2018 LG OLED... unless you go for the W8
If you want the very best in class 2018 LG OLED in 65 inch, it would be the LG OLED 65E8. The Alpha 9 processor dramatically improves HDR quality because of dynamic tone mapping that transfers’ scene by scene’ data from the HDR source to the chip where the best possible color scheme gets decided. It fully delivers on the HDR front, and the picture clarity and quality is stunning. But really, it doesn’t make too much sense to recommend a £4,500 / $5000 set to our readers that we wouldn’t buy ourselves. That’s the biggest problem OLED is facing: the pricing is too extreme, so you’ll either have to go 55 inch which is fine but delivers less of a cinema experience depending on the size of your living room or get a model from 2017. We'd definitely recommend the OLED 65C8 here, as it's a more reasonably priced alternative that offers near-identical performance.
If you are fine with 55 inch, our recommendation is the LG OLED 55C8. Stunning display quality, same HDR improvements like the much more expensive version and also the new Alpha 9 processor meet a much lower response time of 21milliseconds which perfectly works for pretty much all games. If you can afford a little more, go 65 inch - it’s a mind-blowing experience every single night. It’s like playing games in your private cinema like Vin Diesel.
LG OLED 65B7V
Great alternative for a great price
Given that LG has not changed their panels from 2017 to 2018, a 2017 model is an excellent alternative to the brand new sets. Our recommendation is the LG OLED 65B7V. Great price, supreme panel, and only a little bit less bright than the 2018 model at 700 nits. Also a bit less premium, check in the store whether the design fits your living room. The remote is great, although not sexy - looks more like your Grandma's remote than Samsung’s sexy, super small aluminum one. The motion sensing pointer works precise, good for you Netflix aficionados out there. And the panel is fast: 21ms, fast enough for Forza Motorsport 7, Gran Turismo Sport, FIFA or literally all shooters like Titanfall 2, Wolfenstein 2, Prey. If you play Call of Duty or Overwatch on a competitive level, you might need to invest in a separate gaming monitor, with lower input lag, because 21ms is market standard for 4K TVs right now. Aside from that, this TV is perfect for anyone with a regular passion for games.
LG 55SJ8500 / LG 55SJ850V (in the UK)
A great budget gamer TV with a super fast panel
While LG is famous for their OLEDs, they have a great line-up of LCD LED TVs as well: Our recommendation is the LG 55SJ8500 for less than $1000 / £1000. It uses a direct LED backlight system that is not capable of producing the pure black of an OLED, but delivers a very clear and detailed picture in one of our reference games - Rise of the Tomb Raider - that is undoubtedly one of the most demanding titles out there for any panel. It lacks some depth and punch in colors, it’s a more subtle picture than you’ll find on an OLED. The reason, however, why we’ve chosen this set as our lower-priced pick for gamers is the very fast panel that features new Nano Cell technology for a quicker display, delivering roughly 15ms is an excellent thing for gamers, especially if you are into shooters that require fast response times like Overwatch, Fortnite, or Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Should you buy an LG OLED in 2018?
Yes, if you love deep blacks on your tv set and vibrant colors in games. The reddest of reds, the bluest of blues, the blacks of blacks. OLED TVs deliver a very intense experience in literally every scenario. Perfect to scare yourself silly in Resident Evil 7 or the upcoming Resident Evil 2 Remake. The viewing angles are also amazing: OLED allows you to sit wherever you want, there is no sweet spot, no color drops from any angle.
Is it perfect then, ready to go and buy? If you love HDR and want to enjoy the whole brightness palette game studios can leverage to strike emotions, there are better alternatives. While testing a lot of sets we had a more emotional, cinema-like HDR experience on Samsung's QLEDs because all of these brightness levels allow creatives more freedom creating a certain atmosphere. That can be over the top like Marvel loves it or very sad and depressive like in The Last of Us or just to make Lara’s blue eyes pop when you are in a dungeon, and the only light source is a torch.
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