Decide to buy the biggest flatscreen possible on which to play Call of Duty and you might end-up with low-fuzzy foregrounds and blurry battlefields.
You'll get no cheat codes from us, but this handy guide to buying the best TV for gamers might help you skip forward a few levels in finding the ideal TV for you.
Best TV for gaming: plasma, LCD or LED?
Save for a sole OLED TV, the LG 15EL9500, bigger sizes of which are certainly the future for all gamers, there are two types of display - plasma and LCD/LED (the latter is simply a tweak to existing LCD tech by adding either Edge or Direct LED lights - all is explained in our article LED TV: what you need to know).
We'll take it as read that LED backlighting as a genre adds better contrast to LCD models, and also tend to include other high-end features useful for gaming - such as 100Hz modes (see below) - but what about the plasma alternative? Formerly swerved by gamers, there are now some compelling reasons to consider plasma if a 42-inch screen (the minimum size for a plasma) is on your shopping list.
"Plasma traditionally produced smoother motion, but now the many of the high end LCDs use 200Hz panels and direct local dimming LED backlighting to match this performance as well - while providing superior brightness, sharpness and more brilliant white output," says Tom Henderson, TV trade marketing manager at Philips. Plasma aficionados beg to differ.
Best TV for gaming: sharpness and motion blur
Two sides of the same coin: LCD/LED TVs are traditionally sharper with still images, but tend to display a blur when showing fast-moving sequences. Plasmas, meanwhile, aren't quite as sharp with still images, but the cells react much quicker to moving pictures and don't lose resolution.
"When it comes to using a TV for gaming it is important that the TV is capable of creating strong vibrant colours, bright images, sharp edges and smooth motion," says Henderson. "It's also crucial that there is absolutely minimal lag - the time it takes from the picture to come from the games console or computer to being displayed on the TV screen - which requires switchable processing and fast response panels."
The scanning rate on an LCD panel is now routinely doubled from the normal 50Hz by software that inserts repeats and estimations of frames of video, though any advance on 100Hz is technically down to 'creative arithmetic' and, usually, 'backlight scanning', which is basically some flashing lights.
Because the phosphor in a plasma reacts instantaneously, motion blur is far less of an issue - though so standard has become the 'hertz' marketing that plasma makers have started quoting figures like 600Hz to provide an answer to punters with 'must have 100Hz' already burned on their consciousness by LCD marketing.
We say ignore it all and buy any plasma if you hate motion blur, or a LCD TV with 100Hz (and no more) if ultimate sharpness is your goal. The rest is bluster.
Best TV for gaming: image retention
AKA 'screen burn', the possibility of images displayed onscreen for long periods becoming permanently visible has often put-off gamers from investing in a plasma. With few games now using static backgrounds, this is a virtual non-issue on plasmas built in the last few years.
"People do leave games on pause for long periods, which does mean a chance of screenburn," says Nick Webb, CTV product manager at Samsung UK. "It's less of an issue than it used to be, but it's still a possibility. Samsung's plasmas have a lot of tech in the panel to make it a non-issue, but it's difficult to remove completely."
Best TV for gaming: contrast and black levels
Plasma wins the day here, no question, though the gap is closing with LED backlighting becoming more and more effective. Edge LED sets - which tend to be slimmer, so more popular - don't achieve the kind of contrast possible with the (slightly) chubbier, more expensive Direct LED backlights, but we're fast approaching a plateau where the differences between the various technologies in this areas are slight enough for gamers (though perhaps not home cinema addicts) to ignore.
"Plasma handles motion really well and is best for black reproduction levels," says Web, who think s your choice of screen should depend on what you primarily play. "Contrast is important if you're playing you're playing a first person shooter, whereas if you're playing football the colour and motion are really important."
"LCDs can typically produce brighter, sharper images and now, with the majority of LCD sets using LED backlighting, they can also accurately recreate the dark scenes and very high contrast levels to match or even beat the best of plasma sets," says Henderson at Philips, which doesn't sell plasma TVs.
Best TV for gaming: preset 'game' modes
Often found as a preset on any TV's 'AV mode', game mode is essentially a combination of all the relevant features on a TV that makes gaming look great.
"When games mode is selected the TV creates vivid images, but de-selects processing meant for movies or normal TV viewing, thereby reducing time lag to the minimum" says Henderson.
Best TV for gaming: third dimension
"For me gaming in 3D going is to be one of the most popular forms of 3D through a TV," says Webb. "New games like KillZone 3 on the PS3 are geared towards 3D gaming - software houses are going to start getting behind it and the likes of EA Games are keen to get 3D into their suite of sports games."
Webb also points out that the gaming community are happy to purchase peripherals, so 3D glasses isn't the quantum leap it seems - another reason why it's going to be huge.
After 2010's positive reviews and sales figures (3D plasmas outsold 3D LCD/LED TVs in October-December 2010 according to GfK), 3D is perhaps the most compelling reason to consider plasma as a gaming platform.
Webb adds: "Plasma was recognised as the strongest technology in terms of reducing crosstalk, but that said, active shutter 3D through a LED TV is a much brighter experience." Henderson at Philips agrees: "With 3D, plasma has a small advantage in terms of crosstalk but at the expense of a reduction in light output and sharpness."
Four of the best TVs for gamers
Philips 58-inch Cinema 21:9 Platinum 58PFL9955H
Perhaps the ultimate show-off screen, this is a unique LED-backlit TV that is primarily designed to take the black bars away from Blu-ray movies filmed in 'letterbox' or CinemaScope proportions, but it makes a decent stab at blowing-up and stretching widescreen games without too much distortion; an hour spent playing ProEvolution 2010 edged us closer to nirvana, though FPS games could suffer - the frame top 'n' tailed to fit.
Samsung UE55D8000 55-inch Edge LED
Edge LED backlighting along the sides, rather than the top and bottom, of this flagship Samsung TV, helps to create a phenomenal contrast level. The black levels can't rival plasma, but it's as good as LED gets.
Read our Samsung UE55D8000 review.
Panasonic TX-L32X20B 32-inch LCD TV
A chunky 83mm deep, this HD ready X20 Series set is initially notable for what it doesn't include - there's no Freeview HD tuner, LED backlight or Panasonic's Viera Cast online hub - but is nevertheless a stunningly simplistic attempt at cut-price picture prowess. This is also the only TV is this roundup that doesn't support 3D. A great budget option.
Read our Panasonic TX-L32X20B review.
Sony Bravia KDL-40NX703 40-inch Edge LED
Although there's no special integration with a PlayStation 3, fans of that console's Xcross Media Bar (XMB) interface - or Sony-o-philes - could do worse than this Edge LED-lit 40-inch 3DTV.
Effective TruMotion 100Hz, and the most believable black performance seen to date from an Sony TV.
Read our Sony Bravia KDL-40NX703 review.
With the arrival of spring come all-new TV collections from the major brands, with most of the models in UK shops by the end of May. High-end sets to look out for to challenge Samsung's D8000 Series include Sony's HX9 Series of Edge LED TVs and the VT30 Series of 3D plasmas from Panasonic.
We'll bring you more on the 2011 TVs as they are released.
Liked this? Then check out Best TV 2011: choose the best TV to buy
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