If you’re after the best TV for a PS5 or Xbox Series X console, now is the time to get one. The 2021 TV ranges from most TV makers are out in the wild, and those brands have had the chance to respond to the launches of these next-gen consoles by packing in more gaming modes, enhanced refresh rates, and HDMI 2.1 inputs than we’ve ever seen before.
But if you only have one of these consoles – as we suspect most next-gen gamers do – it’s important to note that the TV requirements for both the PS5 and Xbox Series X (and, of course, the lower-spec Xbox Series S) aren’t quite the same.
If you have bought a high-spec gaming TV, you needn’t worry too much. A TV with a good picture, low input lag, and HDMI 2.1 specifications (such as 4K/120Hz passthrough and variable refresh rate / VRR) is going to work great with either console. Dedicated gaming modes are also pretty common these days, whether on TVs or projectors, meaning your screen’s processor will prioritize smooth motion and responsible inputs over incredibly cinematic detail.
The main difference is in format support, with Sony and Microsoft taking very different stances when it comes to integration with HDR and 3D audio standards. Here’s what you need to know.
As much as Xbox and PlayStation consoles are seen as bitter enemies – along with their fan bases – the fact is that the PS5 and Xbox Series X are both pretty similar pieces of hardware. They’re essentially gaming PCs, after all, both with custom AMD chipsets and equivalent (if slightly varying in places) performance.
One place where they really do vary, though, is with HDR. The Xbox Series X is a standout HDR console with its support for Dolby Vision, which will at some point enable high-end HDR gaming – likely for Halo Infinite, for one – and is already being trialled for a certain number of Xbox Insiders.
The PS5 doesn’t support Dolby Vision, of course – and while we’re told that there’s no exclusivity agreement between Microsoft and Dolby, it’s clear that the format doesn’t fit into Sony’s immediate plans for its console lineup.
This is complicated further by how varying HDR support is across today’s smart TVs. While any 4K TV (and even some HD TVs) will support the basic HDR10 format, the more premium Dolby Vision and HDR10+ formats are found a lot less consistently. These premium formats add metadata that helps to calibrate your TV’s picture scene by scene, though only for compatible titles that have been released in those formats.
New Samsung TVs only pack in support for HDR10+, while LG favors Dolby Vision, even as Philips, Panasonic, and Vizio screens are largely compatible with both.
The issue here is that you could buy an excellent gaming TV for your PS5, but if it doesn’t feature Dolby Vision, you wouldn’t be futureproofing yourself for maximum-performance gaming with an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S.
That’s not all, though. The Xbox Series consoles also support Dolby Atmos, which is a 3D surround sound format – best experienced with a multi-speaker setup for immersive gaming audio, but also with a great sense of depth over soundbars and over-ear headphones.
Sony has opted not to include Dolby Atmos, instead preferring to push its own Tempest 3D AudioTech solution.
You’ll find it supported on a number of PS5 games, such as Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, Astro’s Playroom, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Demon’s Souls, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – with support incoming for a number of new titles too. But it doesn’t have quite the same impact as Atmos in our tests – with our time with the official PS5 Pulse 3D Wireless Headset leaving us slightly disappointed.
“Unfortunately, none of the games we tried with the headphones so far sounded as immersive as, say, a Dolby Atmos film due to the limited nature of the 3D sound, but getting a taste of the 3D AudioTech was preferable to not hearing it at all,” we wrote.
While Atmos is also supported on a large number of high-end TVs, soundbars, and Dolby Atmos speakers, Sony’s 3D Audio isn’t. TechRadar’s senior gaming writer, Adam Vjestica, tells us that “you can use any wired or USB wireless gaming headset to experience the effects of 3D Audio” – if the headset is good enough to hear the difference, that is – but it won’t impact the sound coming out of your television just yet.
We previously spoke with Sony’s gaming division about how PS5 3D audio tech would continue to grow as Sony continues to gather feedback from developers and designers. Kenichi Imai, Deputy Head of the Software Engineering Group at SIE, told us that “As Mark Cerny previously mentioned, the audio experience is something that will continue to evolve. Going forward, we will continue to strive to provide the most immersive experiences possible on PS5 and explore ways to improve the 3D audio experience even further.”
Imai added that, “We’re always exploring ways to deliver a more immersive experience to our players, but we have nothing to share at this time” – suggesting that the format could come to more audio hardware in the future. It would certainly be something of a scoop if it landed solely on Sony TVs, but it might lock out a lot of angry gamers if it didn’t become more widespread or manufacturer-agnostic.
The key differences here are in a number of select 3D audio and dynamic HDR formats, which won’t affect the majority of games, players or TVs for the time being.
For those eager to make the most out of their gaming hardware, though, these specs are only going to become more important, especially as more games are able to properly utilise enhanced picture and sound.
The easiest answer here is to opt for a TV that matches all of these Xbox requirements, in case you have (or may one day want) an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S in your home. And the specific audio standard used with the PS5 is yet to make any specific demands on your TV choice, meaning that shouldn’t influence your buying decision for the time being.
If you’re happy with a PS5, though, or aren’t fussed about the promise of Dolby Vision gaming in the years to come, then you needn’t worry quite as much. By the time Dolby Vision games are truly widespread, of course, it may even be time to upgrade your gaming TV again.