Best low-lag HDTVs for serious gamers

If you're dead serious about first-person shooters and other games that demand millisecond-fine responses, the last thing you want to buy is a TV that introduces lots of input lag. Especially if you're buying one to go with an Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

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If you're a serious enough gamer to be thinking about buying a new TV along with a new Xbox One or PlayStation 4, or even if you're waiting, you should know about TV input lag.

That's the term for the delay, in milliseconds, between a TV receiving a signal and the results of that signal appearing on the screen. Those milliseconds are irrelevant for TV shows and movies, and they don't even matter for most games -- the majority of gamers probably wouldn't even notice if their TV was laggy. But if you're an attentive, skilled gamer, especially one who plays "twitch" games like Call of Duty, Halo, or fighting games, especially in online multiplayer environments, input lag can mean the difference between virtual life and death.

CNET started testing for input lag last year, and so far we've corralled a bunch of 2013 TVs (the 2014 TVs are still a few weeks away). Here are the best five TV so far, plus one projector, in ascending order of lag in Game mode -- or the least laggy picture mode, if Game isn't an option. For reference, we grade under 40ms of lag as Good, 40 to 70 as Average, and more than 70 as Poor.

Update, February 26, 2014: Since we updated this roundup last November, only the Sony R520 -- yes, another Sony TV -- has cracked the Top 5. I updated the a table at the end of the article with the lag scores of every TV and projector we've tested since we began in early 2013. See if you can spot the lone projector we reviewed in 2014 (hint: scroll waaaay down).

Sony KDL-55W802A: 16.9ms lag
Despite the full array of picture processing and Smarts, this LED LCD delivers the least lag we've tested, thanks to an ultra-aggressive Game mode. Read the full review.


Sony KDL-55W900A: 19.7ms lag
The second-best so far is also a Sony, and while it costs a lot more than the 802A, this one does have a better picture. Read the full review.


Sony KDL-60R520A: 31.9ms lag
So, this officially proves that Sony's Game mode sets the industry standard. We tested the 60-inch version of the R550/R530 series, the company's mainstream line for 2013 and a better value than the two above. Read the full review.


Vizio E500i-A1: 32.2ms lag
Speaking of value, this Vizio is one of the least expensive on this list at $650 for the 50-inch size. The best gamers might notice a tiny bit more lag than the Sonys in a side-by-side comparison, but it is still extremely fast. Read the full review.


Toshiba 50L2300U: 33.4ms lag
Although it didn't score very well in our picture quality testing, the Toshiba has the distinction of being the least expensive TV on this list, beating even the Vizio by a few bucks. The Vizio is a much better all-around TV, however. Read the full review.


Bonus: BenQ W1070: 33.7ms lag
Our favorite budget projector also happens to be the speediest we tested. If you can game on a 100-inch screen like this guy, why not? Read the full review.

Looking for more options? Check out our list of the best TVs on the market today.


Input lag measurements of all TVs

Below you'll find a list of the input lag measurements of every TV and projector CNET has tested for input lag as of February 26, 2014. The numbers reflect the lowest lag number the TV is capable of, typically achieved in Game mode. (One exception: The results for Samsung F8500 were achieved with the "trick" of renaming the input to "PC." See the video processing section of the review for details.)

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Television Type Input Lag (ms)
Sony KDL-55W802A LED LCD 16.9
Sony KDL-55W900A LED LCD 19.7
Sony KDL-60R550A LED LCD 31.9
Vizio E50i-A1 LED LCD 32.6
Toshiba 50L2300U LED LCD 33.4
BenQ W1070 DLP projector 33.7
Panasonic TC-P50S60 plasma 34.1
Panasonic TC-L55DT60 LED LCD 34.4
Panasonic TC-P65S64 plasma 35.3
Panasonic TC-P65WT600 LED LCD 37.3
Vizio M551d-A2R LED LCD 37.9
Samsung UN40F5000 LED LCD 38.3
Seiki SE50UY04 LED LCD 38.3
Samsung PN51F5500 plasma 38.8
Samsung UN55F7100 LED LCD 42.2
Toshiba 65L9300U LED LCD 42.3
Samsung UN55F6300 LED LCD 44.1
LG 47LA6200 LED LCD 44.2
Samsung UN55F6400 LED LCD 44.6
Panasonic TC-P60ZT60 plasma 46.2
Sony KDL-32R400A LED LCD 46.4
Vizio M601d-A3R LED LCD 46.7
Samsung UN55F8000 LED LCD 46.8
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 plasma 47.9
Panasonic TC-L50E60 LED LCD 48.3
Mitsubishi HC7900DW DLP projector 48.5
LG 55LA8600 LED LCD 51.3
Samsung PN60F8500 plasma 53.1
Samsung UN65F9000 LED LCD 56.5
Sharp LC-60LE650 LED LCD 58.0
Sharp LC-60LE757U LED LCD 58.1
LG 60PH6700 plasma 72.7
Panasonic TC-P55ST60 plasma 73.6
JVC DLA-X35 LCoS projector 87.1
Epson 3020 LCD projector 89.3
Epson 5020UB LCD projector 95.1
Epson 5030UB LCD projector 117
TCL LE58FHDE3010 LED LCD 129.8
About the author

Section Editor David Katzmaier has reviewed TVs at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

 

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