Budget, 4K, OLED, Curved and Ultimate - we've got all the bases covered
There’s nothing quite like kicking back with some gaming on the big screen but not all TVs are created equal when it comes to this pursuit.
LAST UPDATED 20/05/2015
Even a few milliseconds can make the difference between virtual life or death and the fact is, all televisions create a delay between your game controller input and you seeing the game react –it’s known as input lag and some TVs have less of it than others, which is what you want!
Having a TV with low input lag is beneficial both in single player games as well as online multiplayer. In the case of SP pursuits, a TV with little latency will allow you to react quicker to the artificial intelligence of the game engine and pull off ‘special moves’ or combos more easily. Typically, video games run at either 30 frames or 60 frames per second (FPS) so in the case of 30FPS, each frame lasts for 33.33 milliseconds whilst a 60FPS title equates to 16.67 per frame. Let’s remember, if you’re anything more than a frame behind, you can be in strife!
Clearly, if your TV is quicker to react than your online opponent's, you’re at an immediate advantage. Obviously there are other factors relating to network speeds and latency when taking your game online but why not give yourself a 50 milliseconds – or so – head start if you can?
We at AVForums were the first TV review site to use a dedicated measurement tool to gather precise input lag figures and it’s been used in all our reviews for more than two years now. Previously, the accepted methodology involved using a camera, stopwatch and PC monitor to act as comparator but there are too many variables in that for our liking.
Dedicated measuring equipment means our results are accurate to within less than one millisecond
The Input Lag tester was created by Leo Bodnar who has a working interest in knowing which displays provide best readings as a result in his involvement in the development of a number of gaming peripherals. It works on a fairly simple principle by sending a video signal at 1080p over HDMI and it has a photosensor on the front to measure the delay from the signal being sent and it being displayed on the TV. It is accurate to within under 1 millisecond – light travels pretty fast, you know – and that’s good enough for us.
An LCD/LED – and OLED, for that matter - TV forms (refreshes) its pictures by ‘drawing’ from the top of the screen to the bottom in lines (fields) so a reading from the top of the screen is usually lower than those from the middle or bottom. So, not only are we measuring input latency but also pixel response time is accounted for; obviously you can’t react to something before you can see it!
It’s almost a moot point talking about Plasma TVs, these days, but since they resolve their picture in a different way where, effectively, the whole frame is ‘thrown’ almost at once to the screen (albeit in subfield ‘pulses’), measurements shouldn’t vary wherever they are taken on screen.
So that’s the test equipment and methodology out of the way, let’s take a look at the TVs we’ve seen in 2014 with the lowest input lag. This year, with the demise of plasma and emergence of both 4K and OLED TVs, has been a bit different in that release schedules have been somewhat sporadic but we’ve seen just about everything now so here are our top picks.
Cutting edge 2015 -give the curve a chance
Whilst the impact on general day-to-day to viewing may be negligible, the curved screen can sometimes add a little more impact in gaming, where depth of field effects are fairly commonplace. Fortunately, too, screen size has no bearing on input latency so you can go as big as you like – or at least can accommodate - and truly wow the senses. The JS9000 is Samsung's latest high-end curved Ultra HD 4K LED LCD TV model and, clearly, the engineers have been doing their best for gamers since the 2014 models as we measured input latency on the JS9500 at an incredibly low 22 milliseconds. Samsung makes accessing the Game mode a little bit more difficult than it should be but it's worth the effort as the standard modes measure over 120ms. We should note that the model reviewed was pre-production but there's no reason to think the retail models won't behave the same. And if you're really willing to splash the cash on the latest and greatest, then the flagship, direct lit JS9500 provides the same ultra-low-latency gaming performance
Keeping Up With The Resolution Revolutionaries - 4K Ultra HD
Whilst you’d need a serious PC gaming rig to actually game in a native 4K resolution, the scaling engines of many of the 2014 Ultra HD TVs are so good that you could believe you were. There is an obvious hurdle here, however, and it demonstrably takes a little extra time to upscale sub 3840 x 2160 resolution titles to fill the screen, so lag times are routinely higher than those of Full HD TVs. Still the Sony X8505 is no mean gaming performer, measuring a steady 40.1 milliseconds lag which is only just over a single frame at 30FPS. You access the Game mode by hitting the Options button on the remote control and from the Scene Select options, it is then obtainable. The X8505 produced some of the best images we’ve seen from an IPS panel too, so not only will your pictures be dripping in resolution and possess extraordinarily accurate colours, they’ll stay faithful at more extreme angles than your typical LCD too. There are three models in the X8505 family, with 49-, 55- and 65-inch versions available.
As of the time of latest update (May 2015) this TV is still available at retail.
LG is currently totally dominating the emerging OLED TV market. It seems the Koreans are the only ones to get close to cracking the conundrum of producing panels at a reasonable price but the promise they hold for gamers is immense. Superbly fast pixel response times could – and probably should – translate into silky smooth screen movement. However, the current state of play is that they are producing images in the same way a traditional LCD does so some might notice a bit of motion blur but, still, when the rest of the image is so darn gorgeous, we can tolerate just a spot of that. OLED gives you true blacks and almost infinite contrast levels which gives images more vibrancy and realism than the older display technologies. The LG EG960 was a true reference by which we’ll be judging all future TVs, for all those reasons, and with the Game mode selected, input latency could be reduced to 52 milliseconds. That is by no means an awful figure and one that we’re quite happy with but it’s maybe a touch high for the competitive gamers out there. Still, you won’t mind seeing yourself lose so much when the pictures look this good!
Mainstream Ultra HD?Samsung JU6400
Samsung has worked wonders when it comes to the input lag on their Ultra HD 4K TVs this year and this clearly extends to the entry level models as well. Although if you're serious about your gaming, you’ll definitely need to use the Game Mode on your JU6400. That’s because in Movie Mode we measure the input lag on the 55JU6400 at 124ms, which is very much on the high side. However once we engaged Game Mode this dropped down to an impressively low 28ms, which means the JU6400 was extremely responsive when gaming. The level of detailed provided by the higher resolution panel and the TV’s innate brightness made made gaming hugely enjoyable and the larger screen size added to the sense of immersion. The 40-inch model would certainly make for a very nice high-end gaming rig monitor, too, and the impressive smart features and lovely design only sweetens the deal.
Fastest of the fast!
Whether their involvement in the gaming hardware has any bearing on it or not, we’re unsure, but Sony is setting the standards for low input lag in 2014. In fact, the current crop of Sony Full HD TVs are record breakers, with latency at less than a single frame per second – even on 60FPS games. The 32-inch W706 measured between just 14 and 15 milliseconds, which is startling responsive and you’d have to be looking in to a dedicated gaming monitor to better that. Not only that but the pictures are super too with deep and convincing black levels, extremely accurate colour reproduction and top-notch processing. The W706 also comes in black under the product code W705 and is available in 32, 42 and 50-inch screen sizes and it's still available at the time of the latest update to this article (May 2015). New 2015 models from Sony should be reviewed soon and we're interested to see whether they've managed to improve on that.
Of course, time doesn't stand still and new TVs are being released all the time so we will keep this article updated, as and when great new gaming TVs pass through our testing rooms.
So there we have it - big and small, flat and curved, 4K, Full HD and OLED, hopefully we've catered for all requirements but we'd love to know what your gaming TV is, and how you feel about it, in the comments section below...
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.