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What is the best LG 4K TV for gaming? And should you buy OLED?

best LG 4K TV for gaming
(Image credit: Future)

Starting with one of the best LG TVs for gaming when searching for a new gaming-focused screen is a sound and solid approach. Plainly put, you should buy an LG OLED if you have the budget. It will transform the way you experience movies, Netflix and, most importantly, 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, utterly and totally dark, void of all natural light. That's the depth of black I'm getting at. If you play games on an older LCD panel, the black surrounding you won’t be black. It will have a touch of gray in it, and it'll be slightly - ever so slightly - light. In fact, that’s the biggest reasons gamers love OLED, and it ensures a bunch of our best gaming TVs are OLEDs.

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 quite dark enough - it will have that element of gray in it. OLED panels are able to give a very strong contrast between parts of a scene that are in complete darkness versus those that are colored. But, is OLED superior to the competition?

The pros and cons of OLED technology

Pros
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. 

Cons
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 superior 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

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LG OLED E8P series

The best LG OLED gaming TV going

Exquisite OLED screen 
Unbeatable depth of blacks
Excellently slick design
Prohibitively expensive

The top. The pinnacle. The best LG TV you can get for gaming. This is the one to aim for and it's the latest model - but you'll need deep pockets or be able to save pretty aggressively to be able to afford it. If you can consider it, the E8 series are some of the most elegant ‘traditional’ looking sets we’ve seen. The E8's slim and sleek build, particularly on its stand, gives it the effect of floating in mid-air, making it even easier to become immersed in gorgeous games like Forza 7 or God Of War

LG’s 8 series also benefits from the Alpha 9 processor, powering the panel to be able to make its HDR pictures brighter than previous OLEDs. In HDR10 mode, compatible games appear much more vibrant - as long as you have Dynamic Tone Mapping switched on. The E8 also no longer dims the picture when set to HDR game mode, helping the likes of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and its excellent HDR range settings look even more bursting at the seams and vibrant. It still has the exclelent depth in blacks that LG's OLEDs have, so if you throw that in the mix as well, this incredible OLED performs as well as it looks.

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LG OLED 65C8 series

The best of last year's LG OLED TVs

Incredible picture
Excellent response times
Great HDR 
Yes, it's quite expensive

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. 

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LG OLED 65B7V

Great alternative for a great price

Good price for an OLED
Excellent panel
Offers good response time for gaming
The remote isn't that sexy

Given that LG has not changed their panels from 2017 to 2018 (we're still waiting for 2019's models), 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.

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LG 55SJ8500 / LG 55SJ850V (in the UK)

A great budget gamer TV with a super fast panel

One of the best LED panels out there
Super fast display
Good value
Blacks not as good as OLED

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 2019?

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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