September 4

What Is Input Lag

So, this is actually a pretty complicated question to answer because “Input Lag” is not really a technically defined term. Input lag can talk about two different things.

First, there’s peripheral input lag (the time it takes for your computer to process when you click or type something). And, more commonly, input lag can refer to Display Input Lag. The DIL is a set of two different measurements that tell you how long it takes for you to see an image that’s been put out by your GPU.

Those two measurements are Signal Processing Lag, which is what people usually refer to when they say ‘input lag,’ and Pixel Responsiveness Lag, which is typically referred to as response time. The reason I make these distinctions is because they’re both crucial aspects of input lag, and just focusing on one or the other means you won’t be an informed consumer.

As long as your PC meets minimum requirements, it’s safe to say that top-of-the-line monitors aren’t going to have any issues with input lag. However, if you’re on a budget, you can grab a great gaming monitor under $200 which performs well above its price range.


Input Lag vs. Response Time

Signal Processing Lag (Refer to as input lag), is the time it takes for your display to process an image after receiving it from the GPU. Pixel Responsiveness Lag (Referred to as Response Time), is how long it takes for a pixel on the screen to change from one color to another.

Interestingly enough, most manufacturers tend only to list response times rather than processing times, so it generally requires doing a bit of research to get there. As to the reasons why, it’s most likely because it’s a bit too technical for most people to understand, and it probably won’t affect the average consumer.

response time clock

On the other hand, if your processing lag is high and your response lag is low, then you’re not really showing a product with a balanced design. Input Lag and response times are both usually measured and presented in milliseconds, or ms, and the standard for gaming is traditionally considered 10ms. Generally speaking, you do want to have both of these numbers as low as you can afford to get them, and for a good reason.


How Does Input Lag Affect Gaming?

If you’ve ever sworn that you hit that person in that game, but for some reason, the game didn’t register it, it’s likely that input lag is to blame, if you’re playing single-player (Multiplayer lag is a whole other story).

The thing is, once the GPU has processed a frame, it’s already started on the next one by the time the first one gets to your display. If your screen then takes a considerable amount of time to show that frame, then your GPU is not only wasting frames, but your CPU is also not taking into account some of the input it gets from your mouse and keyboard.

high vs low input lag

There’s also desyncing of audio that could possibly happen.

Thankfully, most displays don’t even have that level of extreme lag, and lower times than 10ms is only really reserved for e-sports professionals who have the skills and reflexes to react in a 10th of a second or so.


How to Lower Input Lag?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton you can do other than switch off features that your display has so it can free up some processing power. For example, if you have HDR or some form of dynamic contrast, switch that off, it should help quite a bit. Also, turning up refresh rates can also help sometimes with this issue.

You can also try overclocking your monitor. Of course, these are only solutions to processing lag, not pixel response lag. Unfortunately, that’s set in stone from the manufacturer. Another thing you can do to help in general is to try and decrease peripheral delay as much as you can by getting higher quality gear and making sure they have smaller input lags. That’s only really going to help so much though.


Input Lag: TV or Monitor?

The sad truth is that the focus on decreasing input lag has been on monitors rather than TVs. It makes sense when you think about it though since most consoles run at 60Hz, so the majority of people who game on TVs don’t really need higher-end refresh rates and lower input lag.

tv game mode on

Those who play console games competitively tend to buy and use console gaming monitors rather than TVs, and the people who use a TV as a primary gaming display for their PC are a tiny minority. All that being said though, some TVs have lower input lag, so don’t get disheartened entirely, they’ll just be a bit more expensive (and harder to find).


Final Thoughts

With life and games becoming quicker and quicker, input lag has started becoming more of a problem. Funnily enough, old school CRT displays had almost no input lag and probably performed better than the average screen when it comes to that. Of course, you’d have to contend with a lower quality image, but I guess it’s an option if you really want to chase out that input lag.

Failing that, you can probably find some pretty good cheap gaming monitors that have less input lag.


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About the author

Albert Bassili

Albert’s been a gamer for about as long as he can remember. Ever since then, Albert has been hooked on games, even going as far as doing his bloody best to work on the game industry, whether it’s writing articles, or writing game stories. In between gaming, he also really loves to check up on the latest tech news and see what awesome stuff humanity has come up with.
Favorite Games: Dune II, MGS 1, FF X, Mass Effect 2