Excited for the launch of the PS5, or Xbox Series X? You should be: with a state-of-the-art quad-core processor powering next-gen games, upped frame rates, and even 8K resolution thrown in for good measure, there’ll be plenty to recommend the console over the older PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One S, or Xbox One X. Games should look better, play better, and offer larger and more expansive worlds for you to enjoy.
But if you’re hoping to play the PS5 or Xbox Series X on your home television – and really make the most of the next-gen console’s capabilities – there are a few things you may want to keep in mind.
While even a basic 720p resolution display will be able to output video from the new consoles – as long as the TV has an HDMI 2.0 port – Sony and Microsoft have much bigger plans for how well their games run and display on the small screen.
For hardcore gaming enthusiasts, you may want to consider a dedicated gaming monitor. But if you’re after a home entertainment hub for all sorts of streaming, broadcast, and gaming activities in one handy screen, this is the guide for you.
If you’re eyeing up a new television in the next six or so months, or wondering whether your current set is up to task before the PS5 and Xbox Series X land, here’s everything you may want to consider.
1. HDMI, old and new
The only thing you technically need in your TV is an HDMI 2.0 input. That’s the port, usually at the back or side of the television, that carries video and audio from a source device (like a 4K Blu-ray player or games console) to the television’s screen and speakers.
The HDMI 2.0 standard is the most common in televisions these days, and will serve the majority of gamers fine. But if you’re after a real jump in performance, there’s also HDMI 2.1.
HDMI 2.1 goes above and beyond, being compatible with 4K resolution video up to a frame rate of 120Hz (compared to 60Hz on the older standard), or even 8K resolution at 60Hz. The higher the frame rate, the smoother the action (as the image onscreen is refreshed faster).
New 8K TVs all carry the HDMI 2.1 standard out of necessity, given the 2.0 standard can’t support the higher video resolution.
HDMI 2.1 also supports VRR (variable refresh rate), which reduces image stutter and smooths motion by more fluidly changing the frame rate depending on what’s being displayed. It also helps to reduce power usage – a great thing for such energy-hungry machines.
- Best 8K TVs: the new displays changing the game for resolution
2. 4K vs 8K gaming
Do you need to play in 8K? Probably not – and very few games will be able to run in 8K in the first year of the console’s lifespan. To start, 8K TVs will be able to do some basic upscaling to match the picture to their high-resolution screens, and we'll see half-measures in the coming years like the PS4 Pro's Boost Mode did for 4K play. But we're likely years off from seeing 8K gaming proper.
8K resolution is a relatively recent video resolution, with four times as many pixels as 4K (to a total of 33 million pixels). That’s a lot more visual detail, and potential for contrast and definition far beyond current-gen gaming.
But many people are still playing happily on HD screens, even as others make the shift to 4K. 8K gaming is a niche proposition at this point, and we wouldn’t recommend you bankrupt yourself with a shiny 8K set unless your wallet can really take a dent.
We’re likely to see a similar evolution to the inclusion of 4K gaming on current-gen consoles: certain games being optimized for play with the higher resolution, largely through post-launch software updates. Not many people will own 8K TVs by the end of 2020, and few developers are going to commit to crunch to get an 8K mode ready this soon – even if this could change in the coming years as 8K TV sales get even stronger.
3. HDR and color contrast
Just as important as video resolution, though, is the dynamic range. HDR (high dynamic range) offers a wider color gamut and is included in most 4K Ultra HD TVs, even if the quality of the HDR varies quite a lot.
Richer colors and increased contrast is doubly beneficial for the engine-generated worlds of video games, where being able to tell the difference in tone or shading between an enemy and their surroundings can be the difference between life and death (virtually, anyway). And don’t you want the glorious landscapes and ambient sunsets of Red Dead Redemption 2 to look their best?
And if you were wondering, the premium Dolby Vision and HDR10+ HDR standards aren’t used for game formats – so you can remove that from your decision process if you’re buying a new set.
4. Input lag
Perhaps the most important thing to consider with gaming TVs is the input lag. That’s the delay between you inputting commands through a controller and corresponding actions happening onscreen – basically, how fast the television can act on what you want to do in-game.
Slow input lag is terrible in video games, and likely to be an immediate death sentence for online multiplayer in games like Fortnite or Apex Legends.
As a ballpark figure, anything below 20ms should be considered above-par, with 20-50ms offering a middling (but acceptable) experience.
What TV should I buy for the PS5 or Xbox Series X?
The bottom line is this: if you’re happy gaming on your current television, whatever the resolution, there may not be much need for you to upgrade the set to a state-of-the-art display. After all, you’re likely to be spending $500 / £500 / AU$750 on the console anyway.
That said, there’s never been a better time to get a 4K TV – PS5 games and Xbox Series X games will be designed with the expectation that more players are hooking the consoles up to an Ultra HD screen. 8K TVs, too, are an option, and may be a good way to futureproofing high-resolution gaming down the line, even if the benefits won’t be that substantial until later in the consoles’ lifespan.
Just make sure the input lag is a low, though, or there won’t be enough pixels in the world to calm your rage.
For the PS5, you won’t need a Sony TV per se, though we know the company is increasingly pushing a ‘One Sony’ mentality, where its various services and products work closely in tandem with each other. We’ve heard nothing about dedicated PS5 / Sony TV collaboration so far, but we’ll be sure to let you know if it happens.
We know Microsoft and Samsung are building up something of a partnership, and there may be small incentives down the line to invest in a Samsung TV too.
You can also get a taste for what’s new in TVs this year in the product guides below: