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Buying a Next Gen Console? Here's Why to Budget for a New TV, Too

If you're buying one of the next-generation consoles, either an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5, you want to first upgrade your TV.


If you were thinking about buying one of the next-generation consoles, either an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5, you might want to think about upgrading your TV first. That's because the real benefit of these new consoles is their ability to deliver incredible graphics, and if you don't have a TV take full advantage of that, well, there's little point in buying one of the next-gen consoles. There aren't even that many exclusive games (yet).

As for the type of TV you should buy, the answer if pretty straightforward: you want to buy the best 4K TV that you can afford. The Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5 are the best and most powerful consoles available, so it only makes sense to pair them with a 4K TV that can make the games look the most beautiful.

A 4K TV has four times the resolution of a standard HD TV, which means it's able to deliver a picture with four times the detail — and that's exactly what these new consoles can take advantage of. So while the new consoles are able to play pretty the same games (right now) as the last-generation consoles, like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the real difference is the level of detail that combination of a 4K TV and these new consoles are able to deliver.

(If you have a 4K and a "Pro" version of the last-generation consoles, like the Xbox One X or the PS4 Pro, you'll see some improved graphics with next-generation consoles, but the biggest improvements will be in load times and storage capacity.)

Of course, not all 4K TVs are the same. The most common and more budget-friendly types are 4K "LCD" TVs, like TCL’s 5-Series and Vizio's M-Series, which are great — especially for their price — but they're not able to deliver the same brightness, color and contrast as 4K "OLED" TVs, which are the best TVs you can buy. The good news is that in the past few years, the prices of these 4K OLED have dropped a lot; you can buy a 55-inch OLED TV, like LG's BX Series or CX Series, for between $1,000 — $1,500.

While a 4K OLED TV and a 4K LCD TV are technically able to deliver a 4K picture (3840 x 2160) with the same resolution, the picture quality isn't going to be the same — and that's going to make a big difference when gaming on one of the next-generation consoles.

"It's not hard to grasp that a 4K set has four times the resolution of 2K, but it's not necessarily the most important spec to look for," said Tim Alessi, Senior Director of Product Marketing at LG. "Features that improve black level and contrast (like the perfect black levels only OLED can achieve) will have a much greater impact on picture quality than resolution alone."This will have a big impact on shadow detail in darker areas of the [TV] screen. Think about a first-person shooter type game where you may be looking for an adversary hiding in the shadows. A [TV] set with poor black reproduction may make it impossible to see them until it's too late."

The other thing you want to look for in a 4K TV is whether it has full 4K support at 120Hz. This high refresh rate at a 4K resolution means you'll get a really fast response times and the TV will deliver a really smooth gaming experience. An OLED TV is going to make this high refresh rate look even better because each individual pixel can be controlled. According to Alessi, LG's OLED TVs have the "the lowest input lag of any TV on the market today"; so when you press a button or pull a commands on the controller, the action will take place almost instantaneously on the screen. (By comparison, an LCD TV can only control clusters of pixels at a time, means its final picture can't be as detailed and won't look as realistic.)

One thing to watch out for, however, is that at lot of more affordable 4K TVs advertise that they have a max refresh rate of 120Hz — but they don't offer both things at the same time. Instead, they support 4K at 60Hz and will lower the resolution when increasing to a 120Hz refresh rate. If you don't see this on the on the box, a good thing to look out for is whether the TV supports HDMI 2.1, which is the latest HDMI technology and supports for 4K content at 120Hz.

Finally, there's the issue of size. A common thought is that the bigger the 4K TV, the worse the picture will look because no matter the size, each 4K TV has the same amount of pixels (3840 x 2160 = 8,294,400 pixels). So, you'd think that each individual pixel would be stretched out in the bigger TVs — but Alessi says that's not the case.

"Generally speaking, the bigger the better," Alessi says. "Gaming on an ultra-large TV, especially an OLED [TV] will provide an incredible sense of immersion. The only thing you'll want to consider is the distance you'll be viewing from. A good rule of thumb is to divide the diagonal measurement by 10 for a good guideline. For example, if you have a 75" TV, it's recommended to sit at least 7.5 feet away."

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