Oh My Aching Thumbs!

Annonymous gamerToday, I noticed a post on the forums which asked about gaming televisions. Like any good geek-enabler, I responded with my best advice so that this individual could get his game on by using an HDTV instead of squinting at an inadequate screen.


I've posted before about connecting your gaming PC to your HDTV, but I've never written about the technical details you'll probably want to look for in a TV you'll be using for video games. Here's my best shot at condensing my HDTV advice for gamers and their enablers.



I'd recommend a screen between 32 and 55 inches for gaming. A TV screen above 55 inches will stretch even your game's 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution to a point where you'll start to notice pixels instead of details. Below 32 inches, you won't see much difference between the TV and an actual computer monitor, which can often have a higher native resolution than an HDTV.


Connection types

Gone are the days when your TV's only connection options were coax-cable or red-white-yellow composite video connectors. Most LCD and plasma TVs now feature multiple connection options:

  1. HDMI: HDMI is nearly universal on HDTVs because it carries digital video and audio over a single cable and it gives you full 1080p video resolution. HDMI is the connector of choice for video game consoles and Blu-ray players. If you want to connect your PC using HDMI, you'll probably need a video card with HDMI and HDCP support. Some laptops have HDMI built in. HDMI is the way to go for most gaming.
  2. DVI: Digital video interface (DVI) cables will transfer digital video in 1080p, but not audio. DVI is a common connection for many desktop gaming computers. There are multiple DVI cable and port types, each with a different number of pins; make sure you know which type your TV and PC use.
  3. VGA/RGB: VGA cables are often used to connect your computer and monitor, and they can support multiple resolutions at different refresh rates. The quality of video you get largely depends on your computer's video capabilities.
  4. S-video: S-video cables won't match component video or digital video cables for image quality, so you'll only get a standard-definition video resolution out of them. Only some video cards use S-video.


Component video

Component cables feature the red, green and blue connectors. They're used by video game consoles and Blu-ray players to transfer video only. These cables will give you 1080p resolution, but they can suffer image-quality problems when run over longer distances. 


Motion blur

One problem with using your HDTV for games is that the images in the games move pretty fast. This can cause blurring effects in the games you play. Sometimes, you can fix blur by turning off the automatic image-processing settings on your TV or by switching to a "game" picture mode in your television's picture settings (which cleared it up on my 42-inch Vizio). Plasma TVs and LED TVs suffer less from motion blur because of their superior pixel-response times (the time it takes for a pixel to change colors). All that said, the best way to beat motion-blur is with high-quality video sources, like the latest generation game consoles and high-end video cards.


That ought to get you pretty close to selecting the best television for your gaming rig. If you've survived combing through the technical jargon, you should feel a small measure of pride at your apparently high tolerance-level for digesting dry electronics specs without losing consciousness. If you, by chance, happen to notice an error in my gaming TV logic, please be kind in your scathing rebuttal below.



Posted by Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders



Jan. 10, 2011 at 3:02 PM

I'm nowhere near needing that much information -- I'm still trying to figure out how to make my VCR record from my HDTV. (No seriously. Is there a cable for that?).

Jan. 10, 2011 at 3:07 PM

I know this is going to be the lamest gaming comment ever, but all I have to say is that this weekend I purchased Just Dance 2 for my Wii and it changed my whole life. I am a dancing MANIAC. My weekend was like a scene from Dirty Dancing. However, the experience of competitively dancing to a Ke$ha song could definately be enhanced with an HDTV...

Jan. 10, 2011 at 4:28 PM

I've been platforming for a Wii and have mentioned several times that we could just stream Netflix with one. But my family tells me we can just hook up a laptop to our TV and stream it...if we had the right kind of cables. And I argue back that we wouldn't have to worry about unhooking and hooking cables back up with a Wii, but they're not buying it.

Jan. 10, 2011 at 4:57 PM

My roommate has a 56" LCD widescreen....if there's such thing as a perfect gaming tv, that's it. (Or, rather, the bigger, higher-refresh rate version of it would be -- it's just a 60 Hz screen, although I don't know that any of the current consoles can output a video stream at 120/240Hz.) When four people can actually stand comfortably around a tv and play Rock Band without having any trouble seeing the notes, you're doing ok. And here's something worth considering....unless you can make your gaming room really dark (even in mid-day), stray away from plasma screens for the time being....a little errant sun from between the shades can make them super-hard to see. LCD has the same problem (as did CRTs, to be fair), but not as severerly as plasma screens.

Jan. 11, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Plasmas definitely have a glare problem, due to their glass screens. But if you're investing in a TV where the size of the people on the screen is the size of the people in real life, why not spring for some black-out curtains, too?

Jan. 12, 2011 at 11:20 AM

That settles it. I need a bigger TV.

Jan. 12, 2011 at 11:22 AM

I too have been seduced by Just Dance 2. Coming from someone who's first video game experience was the Wii, I am solidly convinced that the Just Dance collection is the greatest collection of video games ever to grace this world.

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