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In the lead up to the release of PS5 and new Xbox consoles in late 2020, a big topic of discussion was what gamers needed to do to prepare for the new advantages of the upcoming hardware. Primary among those was the ability to hit 120 frames per second, previously only possible on PC. The promise of 4K and 120Hz got people very excited for PS5 and Xbox Series X.
By extension, many gamers realized they would need a new display to get the most of the coming soon consoles. Then arrived the time to consider whether a new display meant a TV or a monitor for a bigger screen format. Either way, the priority for dedicated gamers was to make sure their display of choice could do justice to the improved capabilities of the latest console generation.
Video games play better at faster frame rates, or refresh rates. Up until the current generation, consoles maxed out at 60Hz typically, with the exception of Xbox One X, which launched in late 2017. That console had the ability to do 120Hz but no titles took advantage of that to our knowledge. In any case, the higher the refresh rate or frame rate, the smoother and more responsive games feel. High refresh rates contribute to lower total input lag, or faster input response. More frames per second also reduce the likelihood of visual issues like blur, ghosting, and stutter. This is of utmost importance in reflex-based genres like first person shooters, racers, and sports titles.
For consoles, the arrival of solid 120Hz was a very big deal, because as mentioned before, even 60Hz (or 60 frames per second) proved challenging in the 2005-2020 era. Consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 and then Xbox One and PS4 usually ran big budget, AAA games with detailed graphics and higher resolutions in low and slow 30Hz, with 60Hz reserved for shooters like Call of Duty, which had to compromise resolution and visual effects.
The effective doubling of the maximum refresh rate was a major milestone for PS5 and Xbox Series X. And while not many games as of mid-2023 run in native 120 frames per second, there’s an increasingly larger library of titles that do. Also, the current generation has the power to run visually gorgeous games with big open worlds at 4K 60Hz without compromising on fidelity, and while providing really good HDR performance. That’s ideal for gamers that prefer rich story-based, world-building experiences over competitive multiplayer.
It’s important to note that while initially it was understood PS5 and Xbox Series X would be able to readily do 4K 120Hz, this hasn’t been the case so far. The games that run at 120Hz do so mostly at 1080p or 1440p, and not 4K (2160p), at least not natively, but they certainly provide the smooth response and feel of twice the frame rate compared to 60Hz. For example, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 on PS5 and Xbox Series X has a 120Hz mode that renders the game at 1080p to 1440p and then upscales it to 4K. The results look great, but not as good as native 4K, obviously.
If you think you want a TV, then you have to make sure the panel offers native 120Hz. Not “motion enhance” or MEMC or anything like that, but real 120 frames per second. The same with projectors, make sure the hardware delivers 120Hz without any “tricks” like frame doubling. That means the device outputs 60Hz and then doubles it to look like 120Hz. It’s close, but not the same.
Since PS5 and Xbox Series X are unlikely to do 4K 120Hz natively, you’re fine with HDMI 2.0, which easily handles 120Hz in 1080p and 1440p upscaled to 4K. Get a good quality, Premium High Speed HDMI cable from a reputable brand. Learn more about connecting via HDMI cables in this article.
You may hear a lot about the need for HDMI 2.1, but the new version has so far proven rather overrated if we’re being honest. HDMI 2.1 supports native 4K 120Hz and 8K 60Hz, but neither look like they will happen on the current console generation. Auto low latency mode (ALLM) and variable refresh rate (VRR) offer better controller response and screen refresh, respectively. However, modern gaming TVs and projectors already offer excellent response, making ALLM somewhat redundant. BenQ gaming projectors now have a similar feature called Auto Scenario Mapping, which puts the projector in game mode once a connection is detected, so you don’t need to mess with settings at all.
As for VRR, it’s great to have, and works via HDMI 2.0 on Xbox Series X (not on PS5, though, where VRR generally requires HDMI 2.1). But it’s rarely essential, as the consoles have no problem maintaining stable frame rate targets in 90% of games. There’s also quick frame transport, or QFT, which is related to ALLM and supposed to ensure steady frame pacing (how long each frame stays on the screen) and faster response overall. QFT is hardly an essential feature, and most HDMI 2.1 users haven’t even heard of it. It isn’t implemented in any current games because none of the current consoles support it. They do support ALLM.
HDMI 2.1 also has eARC, an improvement over ARC (audio return channel) for connections with hi-fi sound systems. By all measures, eARC and ARC are nearly identical, and provide high quality connectivity for users who want to set up sound systems with great support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Dynamic HDR is another advantage of HDMI 2.1, though implementation in content has been minimal so far. None of this is to downplay HDMI 2.1 or future versions of HDMI, but the truth is none of the new features have proven to be must-haves thus far. So, if you find a TV or projector that you like for your 120Hz console needs, don’t worry if they don’t have HDMI 2.1, as you don’t need it.
Modern gaming projectors match the best TVs in terms of color, brightness, 4K, HDR, and response. While older projectors were famous for lag, new models deliver 4K 60Hz at 16ms and 1080 120Hz at 8ms real world response with no problem. That’s equal to or faster than even premium flat panel TVs.
What projectors have that no TV possesses is sheer screen size. You get the same image quality and gaming performance on a screen twice the size of a typical 65” TV. That kind of experience cannot be beat by a TV, and if you like to sit back and feel the “wow” factor, projectors are for you.
When hosting friends, doing local multiplayer, or gaming competitively, the massive screen sizes offered by projectors give you more room to experience gaming. Everything is clearer and bigger, and that gives you an edge in multiplayer if you think about it. While your opponents need to squint or lean into their TVs, you get a wall-sized view of the action, where every nuance is highlighted in glorious detail.
Well, as always that’s up to you. If you have the room and want a mind-boggling, sensational experience, then we recommend a good gaming projector. You will get the 120Hz experience whenever available in PS5 and Xbox Series X games, except on a gigantic screen no TV can match. For gaming, the bigger the display, the better. But naturally, practical limitations need to be considered. If you’re more space conscious, then a TV will serve you very well, just make sure the panel supports 120Hz. And if you’re gaming on a desk, clearly a projector isn’t your best choice, a monitor or small TV will do.
By the way and on a final technical note, projectors are much more likely to do 120Hz natively, as they’re not bound by the limitations of a fixed panel, and are more like CRTs in that regard. Another advantage of indirect or external illumination like that of projectors is having no issues with burn-in or pixel sticking. Also, new LED-based projectors have service lifespans in the years, you no longer need to change lamps or anything. They won’t last as long as an LCD TV, but close, and by the time a light source change is needed, you’ll likely upgrade to a better projector anyway.
So, both TVs and projectors support 120Hz on PS5 and Xbox Series X. Projectors and TVs also cost about the same, and thus the deciding factor is how much space you have, and how big of a screen you crave. If it’s a big one, the answer is very simple: a projector it is.
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