Gaming on a stutter display? We know how virtually impossible this can be. If you like to plug your laptop into a larger screen like a monitor or a television for that total immersion experience, you’ve likely wondered how to fix the input lag you’re experiencing. Gaming requires accurate timing. And if you’re a pro-gamer, you know you need all the extra advantage you can get. Much of the advice out there tends toward the eye candy quality side of a display. But a low input lag monitor or television will have more impact on actual gameplay.
What is Input Lag?
When it comes to gaming, it’s the amount of time it takes an input from a press of a button on the controls to be processed by the visual output, like a laptop display. Or the peripheral the laptop is connected to, like a larger monitor or television – Put another way, it’s the delay between a video signal coming into display and the desired action appearing on the screen.
LOW input lag is GOOD.
HIGH input lag is BAD.
Depending on how severe the latency, input lag can be extremely detrimental to your gaming performance – In a fast-moving game like Counter Strike: Go or Fortnite, high input lag will result in your enemies killing you before you even notice them.
Causes of Input Lag
Input lag is caused by the task of:
- Processing signals,
- Adjusting contrast and saturation of graphics,
- And scaling the image to the proper size for the display panel.
Televisions are especially notorious for input lag. This is primarily because they’re designed to provide stunning visuals, which requires rather complex signal processing.
To combat this, some have functions like “game mode” or “fast mode” to reduce visual processing, thereby reducing input lag. But this is not without cost, as you might imagine, namely in the form of image quality.
That’s why we often recommend plugging your laptop into a larger computer monitor rather than a television for big screen experience.
Monitors are made for different stunning visual uses like graphic design, video editing, image editing and gaming with less image processing and input lag.
But to be frank, regardless of what visual output device you choose, experiencing some level of input lag is inevitable. But it can be reduced.
How to Reduce Input Lag
Change the Latency of the Game
Thanks to the open architecture of PC games, you can tweak the latency of any game using a cornucopia of options in the graphics card’s panel (as well as third-party programs). Try these tweaks from DisplayLag.com on any current PC game when you cap the FPS to 60 with an NVIDIA or AMD GPU.
Turn Off In-Game V-Sync
Most times, this is the only option you need for a smoother gaming experience. Pc games come with their own vertical sync options. Enabling V-Sync synchronizes the game with your display’s refresh rate to remove screen tearing. But it also contributes to a lot of input lag. So, you might consider toggling it off. Additionally, make sure Frame Pacing – which is within the Catalyst Control Center – is set to ON. Disabling it also results in extremely high input lag.
Completely Disable Vertical Sync
V-Sync allows a game to synchronize its frame rate with the refresh rate of the display. But, be warned that doing so will remove the frame rate cap causing massive amounts of screen tearing, which we found distracting. But if your primary goal is to reduce input lag, it won’t hurt to try this method.
Maximum Pre-Rendered Frames and Flip Queue
“Maximum Pre-Rendered Frames” is a setting in the NVIDIA control panel buried under the Manage 3D Settings that governs the number of frames the CPU processes before handing it over to the GPU.
The pre-set value is “3,” which delivers the best balance between a smooth image and input lag. If you have a powerful GPU, you can try changing the value to “1” to reduce input lag without noticeable downsides.
“Flip Queue” does the same thing for AMD graphics cards. But you’ll need to download the Radeon Pro application to configure this option – It will allow for a deeper tweaking of your Radeon graphics card.
For a Multi-NVIDIA Graphics Setup…
“Smooth V-Sync” allows for a dramatic reduction in input lag.
If your laptop comes with an NVIDIA SLI, switching Smooth V-Sync to active results in the lowest amount of input lag compared to any NVIDIA V-Sync solution. Smooth V-Sync keeps the frame rate at the most sustainable level: If say your game fluctuates between 30 and 60 FPS, Smooth V-Sync locks FPS to 30 FPS to provide the most consistent visual experience.
But it’s not un-common for Smooth V-Sync to treat some areas of game play to 30 FPS, then switch to higher frame rates when the GPUs aren’t being taxed.
Lower Input Time = Smoother Visuals
“Response time” is not the same as “lag time.”
As we said earlier, eliminating all instance of input lag isn’t possible. But if you want to plug your laptop into an external monitor or television screen, you likely want to know what a good amount of input lag is for gaming.
If you regularly play competitive online games, it’s worth taking input lag time seriously. Unfortunately, there is no standardization on this matter. So, opinions will vary on the appropriate amount of lag time – here’s ours in milliseconds (ms):
- Monitors -15ms+
- Televisions-30 to 35ms or less.
In addition, below are two great websites for checking the ratings of display lag:
Best Gaming Monitors for Reducing Input Lag
Now its time to take a look at some of the best display peripherals for reducing input lag. A monitor’s “refresh rate” is measured in hertz (HZ). The refresh rate tells you how often a display is able to refresh an image. But a high refresh rate doesn’t directly correlate with input lag.
For 60 FPS gaming, the monitor you choose must refresh at least 60 times-per-second in order to fully display the extra frames your game is pushing. Similarly, a 144HZ monitor will refresh the image on a screen 144 times-per-second – that’s why 144hz monitors are so expensive.
Why is this important?
Because the elements a high refresh rate monitor improves gives you sharper controller feedback, which improves your gaming reaction time.
These are our favorite monitors for reducing input lag:
Asus VG248QE 144Hz Monitor, if you’re on a budget
Acer XFA240 FreeSync Monitor, for an AMD GPU
Asus PG279QZ G-Sync Monitor, for an NVIDIA GPU
Best 4K Gaming Televisions for Reducing Input Lag
Televisions have seen a lot of advancements for reducing input lag, especially for gamers.
But they still have a much higher input lag than monitors. Since they’re designed primarily for watching movies and shows, it makes sense that this technology prioritizes picture quality over input lag.
As previously mentioned, many TVs are equipped with a setting called, Game Mode. This allows some televisions to cut input lag time in half. On other TVs, this mode is just a color setting that offers no improvements to input lag.
Fortunately, most TVs today allow you the same perks that have been available to PC gaming, like 120 FPS and variable refresh rates with the added bonus of playing on a big screen tv.
These are our favorite televisions for reducing input lag:
LG B8 4K HDR OLED TV, which has an input lag time of 21ms
VIZIO P-Series 4K HDR TV, with an input lag time of 15ms
TCL R617 4K HDR TV, with an input lag of 19ms
Television and monitor manufacturers have a lot to say about size, resolution and contrast ratio. But when it comes to input lag, the waterfall of information suddenly dries up. As they consider the purchasing power of gamers more and more, however, input lag will become part of the equation. Input lag is the amount of time it takes for an action on your laptop to be visible on the screen. Anything under 20ms usually isn’t a problem. Input lag should be your biggest concern when choosing a new HDTV monitor or television for gaming. Research your choices carefully. Happy gaming!