How do You get Rid of Input Lag?

by James D.T.J. May 30, 2019

Tips for Achieving Smoother Gameplay

Input Lag is easily one of the single greatest frustrations any PC Gamer has to deal with. Whether you're playing competitively or casually, you need things to happen when you expect them to.

When you press "M" in Fortnite, you need the map to pop up.

When you press "Left Shift" in Overwatch, you need to use your ability.

It can get irritating really quick when there's a delay between you telling your game to do something, and it actually doing it. Competitive gamers could lose a match because of it. And casual gamers could stop playing an otherwise great game because of it.

Even a single second can cause problems—to the point where you feel something is off but you can’t quite figure out what it is. So you may spend time trying to fix a problem that isn’t there when the answer is staring you in the face.

The point is, it's important that we learn exactly what Input Lag is, what causes it, and (most importantly) how to get rid of it.


What Is Input Lag?

In general, the term "Input Lag" refers to the delay between input and action. This occurs not only in computers but in all electronic devices.

For example:

  • If you press "Volume Up" on your remote control, but it takes a second or two before the volume is actually raised.
  • If you press “Dial” on your phone, but it doesn’t place the call right away.

That's Input Lag.

But what is Input Lag where PC gaming is concerned? Here's how it works:

Your monitor is constantly displaying new and changing images. Heck, every time you type, the image on the monitor is changing slightly as each new letter appears on-screen. There are especially a lot of new and changing images coming at you all the time when you’re playing a video game on your PC.

When you initiate an action (such as pressing “M” on your keyboard to bring up the map in Fortnite) you’re essentially telling your computer to tell your monitor to display the action. Ideally, this process is so fast that it appears to be instantaneous—the map is displayed as soon as you press “M”. But when there’s a delay between you initiating an action and it actually being displayed on-screen, then what you have is Input Lag.

Each step in the process of you pressing “M” and the map being displayed can potentially increase the amount of Input Lag, causing it to build up by the time the command reaches your monitor. Your command needs to go from the initial input (in this case, pressing the “M” key on your keyboard) to the PC, then from the PC to the game itself. On top of that, you also have to factor in the render from your GPU to your monitor, which will additionally be affected by your monitor’s refresh rate and of the frame rate of the game itself.

What this means is that there are multiple points at which Input Lag can build up to result in a delay between you telling your computer to do something, and that action actually showing up on your monitor.

When you find yourself experiencing Input Lag, you can experience an action occurring too long after you initiate it.

When you experience Input Lag, you’re mostly seeing something happen well after you want it to (e.g. you press “M” and your map displays three seconds later). Images can even teleport or shift dramatically as your monitor tries to keep up with the new information it's receiving (this can, understandably, be incredibly jarring when you’re in-game).

A delay of a second or two may not seem like a lot, but consider this: try typing a short comment, but wait even one second between hitting each key on the keyboard- and pay attention to the screen as you type. Now, imagine that you were typing at your normal rate, but the letters were being displayed as slowly as you just typed. That would get old really fast, wouldn’t it? It’s even more infuriating in competitive gaming—where every second counts.

Where Does Input Lag Come From?

Representation of when I experience Input Lag.

There are three primary causes for the Input Lag you may experience when playing games on your PC:

  • your mouse, keyboard, and/or controller
  • your game
  • your monitor

Each has its own set of causes and potential solutions, so it's important to go over each one.

Input Lag As Caused by Your Mouse, Keyboard, or Controller

It's important to know that lag tends to occur more frequently in wireless peripherals (the generally preferred option for most gamers). Odds are, you're using at least one wireless peripheral right now (mouse, keyboard, controller, etc.).

The most common cause of Input lag in wireless peripherals is the connection between the peripheral and your computer. This could manifest as anything from signal interference to merely a physically loose connection.

Though here's something to keep in mind where wireless devices are concerned:

If you're experiencing Input lag with a wireless peripheral, the first thing you should do is to check the batteries—you'd be surprised how often that's the culprit. Because you don't want to start making changes to your hardware when all it needs is a fresh AA.

Input Lag as Caused by Games’ Online Components

Just as wireless peripherals are more prone to lag than their wired counterparts, so too are online games more prone to the same fate than offline ones.

So games like Fortnite or PUBGthat are exclusively online are going to be particularly susceptible to Input Lag.

A common cause for lag in online games is your internet connection. The easiest thing to do here is to simply make sure you have access to a fast, secure connection (and remember, a wired connection is always preferable to a wireless one).

Another cause for in-game Input Lag is the display settings of your game. Sometimes the solution can be as easy as tweaking the settings until you find a set-up that runs better while still being acceptable to you visually.

Many modern gaming titles utilize something called netcode to hide input lag. While this, in theory, should be a good thing, it sadly isn't always.

You see, when the lag gets too bad, the game's desire to smooth things over can actually lead to negative effects—such as moving objects suddenly seeming to teleport, or your movements being jerky.

“Dude, this input lag is an absolute nightmare!”

This, too, may be improved by tooling around with your game's settings (though this will vary from game to game).

Input Lag As Caused by Your Monitor

Input Lag caused by a monitor (also known in this case as "Display Lag") is generally caused by a monitor having to work overtime to do what's asked of it.

In other words:

As your monitor is processing an image, it may also be reducing blur, performing motion smoothing or edge smoothing, or any number of other tasks to display said image properly. When a lower-quality monitor is forced to do all of this at once, the result is a delay between your computer requesting an image, and your monitor being able to display it.

In effect, the best solution to monitor-based Input Lag is to simply get a better monitor—but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s discuss some other solutions before emptying our wallet.


V-Sync (short for Vertical Sync) is a display option found in most modern PC games.

When V-Sync is turned on in the game's settings, the frame rate of a game will become synchronized with the frame rate of the monitor it's being displayed on. This is done to prevent something called "screen tearing", where the image on-screen appears visually disjointed and mismatched—though this typically only happens when performance is low, or if your GPU can’t keep up with the images being rendered.

However, using V-Sync comes at a cost:

While it can prevent tearing, V-Sync also typically reduces the frame-rate of your game. How does it do this?

V-Sync reduces the frame-rate output of your game to match your monitors refresh rate. Since frame rate contributes to the amount of Input Lag you experience, that means if V-Sync is reducing your game’s frame-rate, then it can increase Input Lag.

When turned off, you won't run the risk of V-Sync increasing Input Lag, but if performance dips too low, you may experience screen tearing instead.

The choice really comes down to preference, though it’s worth mentioning that competitive gamers always elect to have V-Sync turned off because using high-performance equipment nullifies the risk of screen tearing.

There is another option, though, and that’s where AMD’s FreeSync and NVIDIA’s G-Sync come into play. Learn more about these technologies and how they can improve gameplay in this article.


Human Reaction Time

So here's the thing:

It's important to remember that technology isn't the only thing at play here. There's also the human element.

Just as athletes in physical sports must display quick reflexes, so too must Esports competitors.

You might have top-of-the-line equipment, but if your human reaction time is slow, then you're still in trouble.

You see, as soon as your eyes register something that requires a response, your brain must process the information it's been given, decide on an action to respond with, then send the instructions to your body to commence with said action.

All of that happens at a remarkably fast rate (for example, the average response time to visual stimuli in Young Adults is about 0.2 seconds).

However, as fast as that may seem, your game can respond much faster.

Therefore, we as humans are already at a natural disadvantage when it comes to response time.

Basically, we don't need Input Lag to slow us down when we play.

So the best course of action is this:

Decrease Input Lag as much as you can to make up for our slightly-too-slow human reaction times. If you lower the chance of encountering Input Lag, then dealing with your innate lower human reaction time will be less of an issue.



So now you might be thinking:

"If Input Lag is such a problem with PCs, then maybe I should just switch to playing my games on a console instead."

Well, you could.  

But there's still lots to consider before you make such a big change.

First of all, it's important to know that the primary causes of Input Lag that we've already discussed would still be a factor if you played on a console.

Meaning, you could still experience lag as caused by your peripherals, your monitor (or T.V. in this case), and, of course, your games.

Plus, gamers typically use wireless controllers when playing on consoles, which means you’re more likely to run the risk of Input Lag being caused by your controller.

So what's the bottom line?

Well, while Input Lag can be encountered on both PCs and consoles, the fact of the matter is that a PC-monitor setup is capable of displaying images at a faster rate than a console-T.V. setup.

So while we can’t entirely guarantee that you’ll never run into Input Lag on a PC, you will have better odds of avoiding it than if you were playing on a console.

Both options are affected by the same factors, so Input Lag for either one can be improved in more or less the same way (namely with better hardware or different in-game settings). The PC’s dominance in this arena comes from the fact that it sports inherently better hardware.

So the PC vs. Console debate rages ever on...


Now, when it comes down to reducing monitor Input Lag, there are a few tricks we’ve already mentioned (like turning off V-Sync). However, sometimes the best solution is to finally upgrade to a higher performance monitor.

The line of ViewSonic Elite gaming monitors includes a wide range of options, ensuring there’s a perfect fit for every kind of gamer. The monitors use the latest panel technology and feature refresh rates from 60Hz to 240Hz, low response times, and different game mode options, combined to create the best visual performance with the least amount of input lag possible.

Additionally, each monitor has undergone a series of tests, including strict quality control assessments conducted specifically to assure the reduction of input lag.

So let’s take a look at a couple:

If you want to experience the same performance level of Esports pros, I recommend the 24-inch XG240R. Released at the start of 2019, the XG240R boasts a 144Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and AMD FreeSync anti-tearing technology. In addition, it’s one of the first ViewSonic Elite monitors integrated with RGB accent lighting that’s compatible with partnered software, giving users the ability to synchronize their RGB components and customize their RGB lighting atmosphere.

XG240R (RGB accent lighting shown)

Another Esport monitor worth checking out is the 25-inch XG2530. This HD gaming monitor features a speedy 240Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and AMD FreeSync anti-tearing technology. Put all that together and you have the recipe for some pretty unreal visual performance.


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