Published: Tuesday, 10 August 2021 15:31
Want to take full advantage of features like 4K 120Hz input and VRR? You'll probably need to upgrade your TV.
Nvidia's G-Sync works similar to VRR. Ideally 1. the video card creates an image in enough time for the TV to refresh 60 times each second. Sometimes it takes longer to render the scene, 2. so the TV is sent a duplicate of the previous frame. The image stutters and your mouse/controller movements become inaccurate. You could disable v-sync in your video settings so there's less or no judder, but the image tears, 3. VRR, like G-Sync and ATI's FreeSync, lets the display and video card work together to figure out the best frame rate, 4.Nvidia
VRR, or variable refresh rate, is a new feature that you'd probably be surprised wasn't already a thing. All modern TVs have a fixed refresh rate. A 60Hz TV is going to refresh, or create, a new image 60 times a second. The problem is a new console might not be ready to send a new image.
Let's say you're in the middle of a huge boss battle, with lots of enemies and explosions. The console struggles to render everything in the allotted time. The TV still needs something so the console might send a duplicate of the previous image, creating juddering on screen, or it might send a partially new image, resulting in the image looking like someone tore a page off the top and revealed the new page below.
VRR gives the TV some flexibility to wait for the new frame from the console. This will result in smoother action and less tearing.
All the TVs below have VRR. For more info, read how HDMI 2.1 makes big-screen 4K PC gaming even more awesome.
ALLM/Auto Game Mode
Game mode turns off most of the image-enhancing features of the TV, reducing input lag. We'll discuss input lag below, but the specific feature to look for is called either Auto Low Latency Mode or Auto Game Mode. Different manufacturers call it one or the other, but the basic idea is the same. Sensing a signal from the console, the TV switches on game mode automatically. This means you don't need to find your TV's remote to enable game mode. Not a huge deal, but convenient. All the TVs listed above have, or will have, one or the other.
- HDMI 2.1: What you need to know
- HDMI ARC and eARC: Audio Return Channel for beginners
- How HDMI 2.1 makes big-screen 4K PC gaming even more awesome
- To 120Hz and beyond: The pros and cons of how 4K TVs reduce motion blur
What about input lag?
One thing missing from the chart above is any listing for input lag, or how long it takes for the TV to create an image. If this is too high, there's a delay between when you press a button on the controller and when that action appears on screen. In many games, like shooters or platformers, timing is crucial and a TV with high input lag could hurt your performance.
As a longtime console gamer myself, I can easily notice the difference between high (greater than 100ms) and low (sub-30ms) lag. The good news is, most modern TVs have input lag that's low enough that most people won't notice it. Largely gone are the days of 100-plus-millisecond input lags … at least when you enable game mode.
So as long as the TV has a game mode, you're probably fine, though it's worth checking CNET's reviews for the exact numbers to see if it has low input lag. Lower, in this case, is always better.
While not a console feature, eARC is a next-gen TV feature to keep in mind. It's the evolution of ARC, or Audio Return Channel. This sends audio from a TV's internal apps (such as Netflix or Vudu), back down the HDMI cable to a receiver or soundbar. With eARC, newer formats like Dolby Atmos can be transmitted as well.
The issue is in many cases, eARC often precludes higher resolutions or frame rates on the same input. So if you've connected your PS5 to your receiver and the receiver to the TV, you can have eARC audio back from the TV or 4K120, but usually not both. This is only important if you plan on using the internal apps in a TV (as in, not a Roku or Amazon streaming stick) and you want to use the new audio formats via eARC.
For more info, check out HDMI ARC and eARC: Audio Return Channel for beginners and HDMI 2.1: What you need to know.
As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more.
You can follow his exploits on Instagram and YouTube, and on his travel blog, BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, along with a sequel.
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