I know a lot of people are excited about the prospect of 4K gaming and want to pick up an Xbox One X or even the PS4 Pro, However, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you already have a 4K TV or are looking to get one, you need to do your research to make sure your gaming experience is what you’d hoped. Basically, if you bought a 4K TV at Target or Walmart because it was only $499 and you’re wondering why your experience sucks, it’s because the TV you bought is dog shit. Sorry, folks, that’s the truth.
I’m sure most of you have heard the phrase, “you get what you pay for.” With TVs, that couldn’t be truer. Fact is, not all TVs are made the same, like cars, TVs are utilizing computers and processors inside, they’ve basically become like computers, in how they operate and decode signals. How fast a TV can process a signal is highly important, if it’s slow, then you get what’s called “lag” or specifically, “input lag.”
What is input lag and why is it important to gamers?
In video games, input lag is either the delay between the television or monitor receiving a signal and it being displayed on the screen or the delay between pressing a button and seeing the game react. You may (or may not) have heard how hardcore gamers like to play their consoles on computer monitors that have less than 1ms response time. If you haven’t, that fine, but 1ms or .001 of second is the amount of time the monitor can react to changes from the console, be it button pushes like crucial timed jumps in platformers or the pull of a trigger in shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Anything less than 20-25ms and you should be fine, though if you play something as fast as Call of Duty, you may be at a slight disadvantage if you’re playing people who are playing on a 1ms monitor, sorry kid, thems the breaks.
So, how can you avoid the pitfalls of high input lag on a 4K TV?
Well, the first and simplest thing to do is to avoid shitty, low-cost 4K TVs. I apologize if that is what you have or can afford, I don’t mean to be a prick about it, but it’s just the truth. 4K TVs by companies like TCL, Vizio (S) models, Insignia, and HiSense are cheaper made 4K TVs. If you’re not a gamer and are using them for just movies, you’ll be fine, aside from washed out images and the possibility of motion blur. Even to some degree, Samsung, Sony and LG have lower cost TVs, but they typically fall into the $700+ range, but they too are great for movies, it’s video gaming that the issue.
The second thing you can do is find a TV that you like and see if it has a game mode setting. Game Mode is a setting in which the TV will turn off all other functions not needed to play games. It’s like Star Trek (I’m not a Trekkie, so forgive me if I butchered this) when the ship is taking damage and the Captain says divert all power to the forward thrusters, or something to that effect. This allows the TV to put all the available computing resources to work on getting that signal to the pixels with as little lag as possible. This is why some TVs cost more, the processor and functions, like a computer, the faster and more powerful the processor, the more expensive it costs. This is also why a Samsung KS8500 or KS9000 costs between $1500-$2500, but has an input lag of around 10-15ms. I have the KS8500 hooked to a PS4 Pro and I can tell you, it makes ALL the difference when playing fast-paced shooters or games where timing is highly important. I also had to do research for almost three months, before finding the right TV for the rights cost. I wanted a big TV, but I wanted one with low input lag, which is another problem.
When you go bigger, you pay more for the power to power those pixels. For example, the best TV for 4K gaming is an OLED (or Organic Light Emitting Diode). If you’ve ever seen a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S8, it used something called an AMOLED or OLED display. Apple is using one in their new iPhone 8. It’s a great tech, that has the best color gamut and deepest colors, the blacks are so black because the screen shuts off the pixels that are displaying in black. Sorry, I rambled there sorry, but if you look up an OLED, you’ll see how great they are, but, that greatness comes at a cost. They are really expensive, like starting at $2,000 for a 50″.
How do I find out if the model I like has the right input lag?
There are great resources all over the web, the one I like is rtings.com, which allows you see all the current TVs and their input lag, with links to prices and more. They even do comparisons and tell you what TVs are good for movies and gaming. I spent a lot of time there, comparing and tweaking my choices. In the end, I knew I couldn’t afford a 60″ OLED, so I chose the 60″ Samsung KS8500 for my PS4 PRO and it’s been phenomenal with games like Horizon Zero Dawn, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Call of Duty.
If you’re really into gaming and need a 4K TV for the next generation of consoles, then be cautious of buying a cheap 4K TV, simply because it says 4K. If you’re not a big fan of shooters and play more action, puzzle and, adventure games, you may be okay with a 4K TV with an input lag somewhere in the range of 30-50ms. But anything more than that and even those games will begin to show some lag.
4K gaming is here, but like any new tech, it’s going to be expensive to jump in at first. If you’re on the fence about a TV, it may be best to wait it out and get a better, bigger TV than to have to replace the one you just bought.
If you have questions about buying a new TV, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via Twitter @mikewewerka and I’ll do my best to help steer you in the right direction.