Gaming and Input Lag: What is it and why you should care

By | August 6, 2015

Laaag …. probably the worst thing for us gamers! But what exactly does the term “lag” mean and what effect does it have has when playing a videogame? Why is it bad?

Lag basically means “delay”. There are many types of lag in gaming but today we will focus on the most important one of all. The so-called Input Lag from our TV setups.

Input lag as stated by Wikipedia “is either the delay between the television or monitor receiving a signal and it being displayed on the screen, or the delay between pressing a button and seeing the game reaction on our TV setup” So basically it’s the delay in time that occurs from the moment our LCD / TFT / Plasma TV receives a signal from our gaming console (or any other image source) until the time it displays it on screen .

Here is an example of how the user perceives or understands input lag: In a fighting game with combos that requires precise timing like Tekken 6 or Tekken Tag Tournament 2, the combo execution will seem to be harder to pull off because when the user sees his input displayed on screen, the time window to follow up with his next move will have passed even though the display on screen may not have shown it on time due to input lag. Other games besides fighting games which input lag plays a big role, are games such as Guitar Hero, Tetris (especially the ARIKA Tetris) and more.

In the not too distant past, old analogue television displays used a Cathode Ray Tube (hence why they were called CRT TVs) and there was no digital image processing, therefore the input lag was practically zero (about 0.1ms). So there was no problem when it came to gaming and fast on-screen reaction. In today’s digital age however, almost all televisions differ in how they process digital signals, and therefore each one has a different value when it come to input lag. TV manufacturers NEVER state what the input lag is on the characteristics of the screen; therefore the end user never knows the value of it. All measurements on input lag on digital TVs and digital monitors are made ​​by third parties. Trusted websites for measuring Input Lag on various TVs and PC Monitors are the following

1) Prad.de
2) TFT Central
3) HDTVtest

! Attention ! : The input lag has nothing to do with the pixel response time (referred to as: response time). The pixel response time is what you see advertised on all display manufacturers spec sheet (8ms, 5ms Gray To Gray (GtG), 2ms, etc) and indicates the time it takes for a pixel on the LCD screen to shift from one value to another and back again. It is measured in milliseconds (ms). Lower numbers mean faster response times and hence less ghosting (ghosting).

So to recap, if we are having issues with ghosting in fast moving scenes on our screen (movie or game) then we have high pixel response time. Delays that occur from the time we press a button on the controller until our time we see our action performed on screen is because of high input lag.

Question: How do I know how much input lag a monitor / TV has and what’s the best way to choose an LCD with minimal input lag?

Because manufacturers do not give out information regarding input lag for their TVs and monitors, you can’t really know the input lag on an LCD TV or a PC monitor if you don’t perform some tests. The best thing one can do is to search on google and use the above recommended websites to check if they have already reviewed a certain monitor/Tv they are after and it includes some input lag tests which usually require expensive equipment.

Usually (but not always), computer LCD screens (monitors) have less input lag in average (and therefore are better for gaming) compared to digital televisions . This does not mean that there are not great television sets with minimal input lag, suitable even for professional gaming.

I don’t care about input lag! I want a monitor now!

If you play games and strict timing is not an important factor when it comes to your gaming needs then don’t bother with researching on input lag before you buy a TV set or monitor. But if you play games a lot of games and many of them require strict timing in regards to controller input, I would personally pay special attention on what other users (gamers) are saying on the web for that TV/monitor when it comes to input lag and I would also research the input lag database of HDTV or tftcentral.co.uk

What monitors / TVs have low input lag and are suitable for gaming?

In the realm of gaming, 1 frame equals approximately 16ms (milliseconds). Any monitor / TV that has is less or equal to 16ms of input lag, is considered very good for gaming.

I hope I gave a high level overview around input lag and helped some in choosing a display that is as suitable for their gaming needs.

Useful links: TV Input Lag Test Database from HDTVTest website.

One of the best TVs for gaming in 2014-2015 is the Sony Bravia KDL42W705B. Here is a video i did in Greek with my PS4 hooked up to it 🙂

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