Many gamers wonder whether a 4K Ultra HD TV with HDMI 2.1 controllers is absolutely necessary to get the most out of their video games. The answer is no. At least not until 4K/120 FPS games become the norm. Here are some explications:
How does the HDMI 2.1 standard benefit gaming?
As well as providing a maximum bandwidth of 48 Gbps compatible with video resolutions and refresh rates that are a lot higher than the HDMI 2.0 standard (up to 8K 50/60 FPS and 4K 100/120 FPS), the HDMI 2.1 standard also offers two new features for gamers: VRR and ALLM.
The VRR mode (Variable Refresh Rate) allows compatible televisions to adapt the display frequency of received images in real time according to the output rate of the graphics processor. Televisions without this feature refresh their images with a set frequency rate (50/60 frames per second, or 100/120 frames per second). If they receive the video stream at a different rate, the images may have defects such as tearing or alignment issues.
The VRR feature is an undeniable breakthrough for gaming as it precisely matches the TV’s display rate to that of the graphics processor to achieve a perfect image on the screen.
The ALLM feature (Auto Low Latency Mode) allows the source (a video game console or a PC graphics card) to send a signal to the television so that it automatically switches to an optimized mode with a low input lag, generally the game mode. This is essential for all games that require extremely quick timing and flawless responsiveness, such as FPS and racing games.
TV gaming with HDMI 2.1
In theory, an HDMI 2.1 television seems to be the obvious choice for gamers with the latest generation consoles (and PC gamers to a lesser extent). Fans of first-person shooters looking for a low input lag and those who want to enjoy a highly detailed, textured and smooth image without tearing can look at the LG OLED B9, C9 and E9 TVs, which are compatible with ALLM and VRR (G-Sync Nvidia in particular).
HDMI 2.0: VRR and ALLM compatible
In practice, some televisions featuring HDMI 2.0 ports incorporate the VRR and ALLM features from the HDMI 2.1 standard.
Samsung’s 2018 and 2019 QLED TVs that are 50” and bigger are compatible with the FreeSync VRR (AMD) technology used by the Xbox One X and Xbox One S, for example.
Samsung QLED 2018 TVs are only equipped with HDMI 2.0 controllers. Wanting to meet the demands of gamers, the Korean manufacturer still included ALLM and VRR in these models. Just like Microsoft with its Xbox One X, which is VRR compatible despite its HDMI 2.0 ports.
Additionally, the Panasonic GZ1000, GZ1500 and GZ2000 OLED TVs feature HDMI 2.0 ports and include the ALLM feature. They automatically switch to a game mode with a very low input lag when a game console is detected on an HDMI port.
Gaming setup: HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 2.1?
If you want to have every chance of enjoying the best image quality with your next-gen game console or your computer, you can opt for a model with HDMI 2.1 ports. Not only will you be able to take advantage of VRR and ALLM features, you’ll also benefit from a TV that is compatible with high-speed video streams. This means that you’ll already be prepared for the upcoming PS5 if it can run 4K/120 FPS games.
But you can still enjoy 4K/60 FPS video streams (with some video games) with a high quality HDR image on a TV that only has HDMI 2.0 ports. Some HDMI 2.0 televisions are even compatible with VRR and/or ALLM technologies. You simply need to read through their user manual to find out.
If there is no ALLM feature, you can always switch the TV to “Game mode”, which deactivates video processing and effectively reduces input lag.