input lag

Input Lag: What Is It & How to Reduce it on PC, PS4, & Xbox?

Input lag is one of the most annoying issues for gamers. It is a time delay of milliseconds in displaying frames or actuating actions, gifting your competition the winning edge. Input lag can be a detrimental factor especially in multiplayer games high on action and on FPS requirements. Professional gamers and esports aficionados swear by devices with the lowest possible input lag and so should you!

Even an amateur gamer can easily diagnose input lag and use basic troubleshooting to reduce it. Although troubleshooting cannot make your display show higher frames per second, it can easily root out other possible causes.

What Is Input Lag?

What Is Input Lag

Input lag is the time delay when the action happens on screen and the moment it is visible you or you get to react to it.

With input lag playing its part, you may see your target much later than when the target was originally simulated. You may left click to shoot or press left to steer, but the input is registered too late.

The results may be something as simple as missing the kerb on FIA GT or getting killed on COD Warzone even after you taking the shot first!

Input lag is most common on low refresh rate displays, where the screen displays a low number of frames every second. With a 60Hz monitor, you get 60 frames per second at max. Note that this will also depend on the resolution. At max resolutions, frame rates may be further reduced.

Displays show you several static images in a second. Although the human eye is not capable of detecting these static images or frames, you will surely notice ‘smoother’ video quality with higher refresh rates.

The refresh rate is the number of times your monitor or TV refreshes with a new displayed frame every second. Frames per second or FPS is the number of frames rendered by your gaming console or PC. You can read more about the refresh rate here.

But displays are not the only reason you might be facing input lag although it is the most common cause. So, here is a complete explanation of every type of input lag you might be facing!

1. Display Lag

In display terminology, input lag is known as output lag. This is caused solely by your display or monitor. High-end displays come with inbuilt tech that enables them to perform functions such as upscaling, motion, or edge smoothing. Without these refinements, you are sure to face some form of lag.

Display Lag

Know that there is nothing like 0 input lag. It will obviously take some time for your console or PC to render the required graphics and some more for your monitor or TV to display it.

Now understand that at 60Hz, you get one new frame displayed every 16.67 milliseconds (1/60 = 16.67.) That is your inherent display lag. Add this to the hardware-end input lag, a few more milliseconds, you get around 20 milliseconds of input lag already.

It May not seem much, but 20ms is a huge margin in esports or competitive online gaming.

Read on and you will find a lot more input lag adding to the already obvious 20ms display lag.

2. Controller or Input Device Lag

Controller or Input Device Lag

The second possible cause of input lag can be the medium for providing input commands or instructions, i.e. your input devices.

Input lag is most common across mice and game controllers although you may face the same with your keyboard as well.

There are two reasons that might cause input lag from these devices –

Polling rate

The polling rate is the number of times an input device reports the inputs made on it to the computer. Where a mouse reports on its position, a keyboard reports on the key presses made just as a controller or joystick.

Now, you may think that higher polling rates will reduce input lag, but that is not generally the case. Increase to extreme polling rates such as 1000 Hz will only make the computer (PC or console) work harder in keeping tabs on the device and may increase input lag instead of reducing it. On the other hand, too low polling rates will reduce your input accuracy.

Generally, a polling rate of around 500 Hz is considered substantial for gaming across mice and keyboard.

Connectivity

Users often complain of a higher input lag while using wireless devices as compared to wired ones. Long story short, wired controllers relay your input data much more reliably than wireless units.

With wireless controllers, you can face lag due to connectivity issues or low battery charge. Also, data transfer speeds are much higher over USB wired devices than on Bluetooth, thus reducing the chances of input lag.

3. Frame Processing Time

Frame Processing Time

Input lags is generally observed while playing games through consoles or PC. There is a direct relationship between the refresh rates and frame rates, a not-so-fruitful end-result of which can be input lag.

Having a monitor with low refresh rate of around or under 60 Hz will limit the maximum frames that you can enjoy. In case your GPU renders more frames then what your display can handle, the GPU becomes overloaded. Such overload can cause a temporary halt in rendering more frames leading to input lag.

Frame processing capacity is a more common cause of input lags in consoles. Using regular monitors or even the smart television instead of a dedicated gaming monitor with high refresh rate displays will create an obvious mismatch in fps and display Hz. This is one of the common reasons behind input lag faced by console gamers.

As a PC gamer, you can face the same issues too unless you have the best G Sync monitor or a FreeSync monitor.

We have talked about it later so read on!

How to Fix Input Lag?

How to Fix Input Lag

While the solutions for input lags are simple, the hardest part is diagnosing the source. The question arises how someone with little or no experience diagnose input lag.

Perhaps the first thing should do is check the lag time of displays by using this video signal input tester.

Once done, just follow up on these proven tips and tricks!

Ways to Reduce Input Lag on PC

Ways to Reduce Input Lag on PC

Input lags on a desktop computer or laptop can also be caused by any of the important components such as RAM, Graphics card, External Devices (Keyboards, Mouse, and Controllers.)

First things first, make sure your PC satisfies all the system requirements mentioned by the game you intend to play.

Next check your peripherals e.g. – cable health and heat dissipation, a commonly overlooked issue. Overheating severely impacts the performance of your GPU eventually adding to input lag. Overheating could cause because of GPU Overclocking, poor ventilation, or similar other issues.

Once completing these steps, troubleshoot issues as follows –

Controllers

The possibility of excessive input lag because of external devices such as a mouse, controller or keyboard cannot be ruled out. Wired external devices provide lower input lag as compared to the wireless devices.

If you prefer using a wireless controller, check for battery health and create a clear line of sight between your controller and display. Wireless devices are connected via Bluetooth, any obstruction between your wireless device and receiver may cause input lag.

Display

The technical configuration of your display monitor is more often the root cause of input delays. Ideally, your monitor should be able to keep up with the number of frames rendered by your graphics card. It is only possible if your display unit has a higher refresh rate.

A synchronization between refresh rate and frames rendered by GPU can resolve reduce additional input lag. These synchronization issues have been addressed by leading GPU manufacturers Nvidia (G-SYNC) and AMD (FreeSync.)

You can use free software such as V-SYNC to get rid of input lags though they will not work as good as G-SYNC, it would provide you lower lag and better gameplay. Those who can spend money should get a brand new Nvidia G-SYNC monitor or a G-Sync compatible monitor.

Pro tip – You can even enjoy the game with a lower display setting. Just change your display settings from ultra to medium or low.

But this is only when you have a below-par graphics card that is unable to render the necessary frames per second that your monitor can display.

Ways to Reduce Input Lag for Consoles

There are more than 650 million console gamers worldwide and the most common cause of input lag with console gaming is a low-end display.

If you have a 60Hz or less display with your console gaming setup, you should go for an upgrade now. Or you can reduce input lag by reducing the resolution and other in-game performance settings as well.

If you have a monitor with Game Mode, you can noticeably reduce input lag. Run games on this mode to prevent your display unit from using excessive image processing. Game modes can reduce 5-10 milliseconds of input lag.

You may also face input lag from the controller. The best way to diagnose your controller for input lag is to disconnect and reconnect. Preferably play a single-player game on offline mode. If you still see input lag, it may be from the controller.

Start with some basic troubleshooting methods. Get rid of all objects near your console be it PS4 or Xbox and keep it in the open.

There should be a clear line of sight between a wireless controller and a console. Any obstruction will delay the signal from reaching the receiver on the controller.

Fix Input Lags for PS4

Fix Input Lags for PS4

A wired USB connection is perhaps the most reliable way of reducing input lag in PS4. This feature is available with the DualShock 4 Wireless Controller and on later generations. The original controller provided with the PS4 console is connected via Bluetooth. Fix your DualShock 4 input lag easily, viz. –

Steps
  1. Power down your PS4 and restart
  2. Find the DualShock 4 reset button on the rear, placed beside the L2 button. Use a paper clip or a pin to reset.
  3. Pair your controller again via USB and resync.
  4. If input lag persists, make sure your controller is fully charged first.

Fix Input Lag on Xbox

Fix Input Lag on Xbox

Since both these are gaming consoles, the challenges to input lags are no different. Recent versions of Xbox come with Bluetooth connectivity as well.

The best way to reduce the chances of reducing input lag would be to not use Bluetooth. Instead use your controller with USB plugged in. If you are still facing input lag with the controller plugged in via USB, you may have display lag instead. Lower the in-game resolution and graphics settings to get better fps.

Conclusion

Display lag is the most common case of input lag even though it can be caused by low performance of nearly any vital hardware. A lower frequency monitor is decent enough for watching movies and office work, but it is not cut out for high FPS gaming. The same applies to your controllers or input devices as well.

A high Hz display unit can tackle challenging frame rates processed by your GPU or console. As for input lag caused by other hardware, try using lower polling rates and opt for the best gaming-customized hardware only. Also, check your network bandwidth if you are only facing input lag while playing online.

FAQs

How Much Input Lag Is Acceptable For Gaming?

Being a gamer, the choice between better performance and input lag is yours to decide. As per the expert gamers and esports participants, input lag for gaming can be rated as follows –
– 40ms or below – Good
– 40-70ms – Average
– Above 70ms – Poor
If you want to participate in competitive online gaming, you need to target input lags under 20ms.

Do a Bigger Size Displays Have Higher Input Lag?

Screen size has nothing to do with input lag; it is completely related to the refresh rate of your display. However, high resolutions can create input lag by overworking the GPU. If you are facing input lag at high resolutions and max refresh rates, compromise on graphics quality to enjoy better fps and reduced input lag.

Do 4K Monitors Have More Input Lag?

4K display resolutions do not necessarily mean more input lag but only if the graphics card can deliver the desired graphics performance. 4K resolutions are extremely demanding for both the graphics card and the display unit. Only a few gaming monitors can deliver 4K resolutions and 100Hz refresh rates simultaneously. But without a powerful graphics card, you will find substantial input lag when you max out graphics settings.

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