Can I Play Videogames in THX Movie Mode?

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Q Can a videogame be played on a TV that’s set to the THX Movie mode rather than Game mode? What’s the difference? —Michael McGehee / Macon, Georgia

A The THX Movie mode on THX Certified displays is, in the company’s own words, a preset with “specific settings for gamma, color point, luminance, overscan, and other settings...intended to provide the optimum settings for playback of movie titles, but can be used for viewing other content as well.” In case there’s any lingering question here, “other content” would include videogames. But before you grab your controller, let’s review the pros and cons of using a TV’s Game mode.

A Game mode is designed to optimize a TVs performance for, you got it, playing videogames. The key issue here is input lag, or the amount of delay— cited in milliseconds—between the moment when you press a button on the controller and a corresponding action occurs onscreen. A Game mode can minimize input lag by eliminating much of the video processing that goes on in an HDTV, such as deinterlacing, noise reduction, and motion interpolation (on sets with a 120 Hz or higher frame rate). With Game mode enabled, you’ll see less lag, and that means you’ll stand a better chance of killing space zombies than you would with it switched off.

A problem with TV Game modes, however, is that much of the processing that gets switched off actually contributes to improving your TV’s picture. Recent videogames use advanced graphics to create ultra-realistic worlds, and you’ll want them to look as good as possible. But with Game mode on, color reproduction will be less accurate, you’ll see deinterlacing artifacts (jaggies), and, with motion interpolation turned off, pictures are more likely to display motion blur.

With the TV’s THX Movie Mode selected, none of the issues I mentioned will be present —the picture should look about as good as can be without having the set professionally calibrated. The tradeoff, of course, is that video processing will be enabled, which means more input lag. So, in the end you’ll have to decide which you prefer: more cinematic-looking games, or being able to dispatch zombies more efficiently.

One side note: Sound & Vision doesn’t currently test TVs for input lag, but you might be able to find info about your model on this list.

JustinGN's picture

I use THX mode on my Panasonic G20 plasma without incident, and I'm aware of other gamers who use it on LCD/LED panels without a problem. I even pipe in my PS3 signal through a DVDO EDGE Green processor before sending it to my TV, and the input lag isn't detectable in most games.

The exception to this are fighting and rhythm games, where input lag can seriously affect how the game plays. Regardless, I've yet to see a significant downside to using THX mode with regards to gaming, or any downside at all.

It's also worth noting that the Xbox 360 upscales its games as well before final display (most render at 720p, so 1080p output users have everything scaled), so one way or another, a video processor is going to add input lag to modern systems.

Ultimately? The best judge of it is yourself. Try it with, and try it without. Whichever you prefer, you can make it work to your situation. And if input lag is a serious concern for you, find an old CRT projector or TV on eBay or the AVS Forums.

mvision7m1's picture

I use ISF day/night modes for gaming on my Panasonic TC-P55VT30 and have no issues with lag.