What is monitor latency or input lag and how to get rid of it?

By ivan.diskin | November 6, 2019 |

greater than 13 minutes

If you play games a lot, then you might be familiar with terms like latency, lag, and related measurements. Most times, you are probably bothered by the lag or latency involving your internet connection and how it affects your gameplay online. However, in this guide, we intend to examine that same parameter for a different device and the issues revolving around it.

What is monitor latency?

Monitor latency (or display lag or input lag) is the time measured (or difference) between signal input and the time it takes for the sent input to appear on the screen. The figure can be as high as 68ms, which corresponds to roughly 3 or 4 frames on a monitor with a 60 Hz refresh rate.

If you use a console setup, then the signal delay that defines monitor latency actually begins in your controller. It then goes through your PS4 or XBOX device, passes through the HDMI/VGA cord, gets into your monitor, works its way through the processor in your monitor, and then finally goes into the pixels. Any deficiency in any of the outlined stages (or any setback encountered on the way) will result in your reticle becoming less responsive, and this event translates to an increase in the amount of time required for the input to manifest itself on the screen.

Well, if you use a monitor with a high level of input lag, your overall gaming experience will be negatively impacted, especially in games that are twitch-sensitive. We believe monitors with display lag figures under 20ms should be decent for gaming. It will be impractical to play most games on a monitor with a figure as high as 68ms as its input lag.

Monitors with high refresh rates are generally good for gaming since the time each frame spends on the screen is as small as possible. They do not come cheap, though.

What is input lag on a Windows 10 laptop?

You must understand that input lag differs from response time – those terms refer to different things. Response time corresponds to the time it takes for a pixel to change from black to white and then return back to white. As far as we know, monitor manufacturers prefer to state the GTG (gray to gray) response time for their devices; they seldom disclose the actual input lag measurement for their devices.

The provided figure (response time) tends to be less than it should be (input lag). Anyway, you might want to watch out for monitors with response time below the 5ms figure. Such devices tend to leave blur with the images displayed moving quickly.

When you watch fast-moving objects on a monitor with very low response time, the images will look much clearer or smoother, which means you will find it easy to track things. In theory, response time does not necessarily affect how fast or slow you aim while playing games. However, when the response time is significantly high (7-20ms), your eyes are likely to get tricked into thinking the display is lagging.

How to test a monitor for input lag

All the setups used to test or measure input lag consist of several processes, which the average user might be unable to manage. The most basic method of the lot requires you to record your display and input at the same time and then try to calculate or extrapolate the difference in time – if it exists at all.

If you want to get accurate input lag figures, then you have to use devices specifically designed for such testing purposes. You can also check out sites with algorithms that measure display lag at a rudimentary level. Some dedicated websites host databases of input lag for several devices. You might want to run your monitor name and model on them to get the information you need.

If you do not find your display in the input lag databases for monitors, then you can perform search operations on Google using queries formed of your device name and model. You are likely to find some data, especially if your screen is not too old or rare.

From our explanations, you might have figured out that a monitor with a low input lag and response time is the ideal display device. These days, it is easy to buy monitors with fast response times since the industry standard is around 1-2ms. It might interest you to know that there are hardly observable differences between a 1ms display device and a 2ms monitor. You get to notice strange things, however, when the response time difference between the two screens is 7+ms. Beyond that figure, to be fair, the video rendered for your game begins to look like a slide show.

We already established that display devices with 1-2ms response time are easy to obtain. You might then begin to wonder what your monitor shortcomings are down to. Well, its input lag is the real issue. Unfortunately, that is one measurement manufacturers deliberately refuse to disclose. Input lag is probably the most important variable when it comes to how well or good your aiming will feel to you.

How to reduce display lag on Windows 10

Here, we plan to recommend new settings or changes that you can make to your hardware setup and that should bring about reductions in your display lag. To be honest, most of our recommendations (even at their respective bests) can only provide a small or minute advantage. However, if you do manage to make several small changes, then the reductions in the input lag will eventually add up and translate to a noticeable (positive) difference.

  1. Improve your hardware:

If you have an ordinary computer (not meant for gaming), there is only so much you can do to reduce the display lag or input lag when the devices that make up your setup are not up to required standard.

  • Get a better monitor:

Ideally, you should use a monitor with 1-2ms as its response time and an input lag that does not exceed 15ms. The cheapest monitors usually have response time around the 9ms and 15ms figures. You might be able to make do with the performance levels associated with such devices, but we do not recommend them.

  • Use a wired controller:

Yes, there is almost always a difference in signal transmission between a wired and wireless controller. Wired controllers are still faster than their wireless counterparts, even with all the advancements in technology. Some tests indicate savings as high as 16.67ms when a wired controller is used in place of a wireless equivalent in standard conditions. When interference comes into play, the difference gets even bigger.

You can get any micro USB – from an old phone or device, for example – and use it to link your controller to your console or PC. If you use an Xbox One wireless controller, then the cord will charge your controller and transmit input signals directly using the cable instead of doing that wirelessly. Microsoft has done a lot to improve Xbox One’s wireless technology, but there is only so much improvement that can be made in the grand scheme of things.

  1. Tweak your monitor’s settings and its setup:

Your monitor’s performance is dependent on several settings. Its input lag is a function of those variables. Here, we must account for the varieties among manufacturers or device brands and models, the different terminologies for functions or parameters, and so on. Well, if you make mistakes or mess things up, there is always a reset option which you can use to restore normality. Ideally, before you begin, you might want to find out how to access the reset option now – in case you end up needing it later.

  • Switch the input mode from AV to PC/HDMI:

If you have a monitor or TV that has the “HDMI” label (instead of PC), then you have to rename the input mode to “PC” and switch to it. Our recommendation here might not seem like much, but you just have to try it and see what happens. The procedure is quite easy, so if it makes a difference, you will believe your little effort paid off somehow, and if it does not, you will know you did not lose much.

If you do not know how to change the required label from “HDMI” to “PC” or if you cannot get your device to make the alterations, then you just have to switch to HDMI and go with it. In such a scenario, the HDMI mode should work just fine.

By switching to PC or HDMI mode (to replace the default Auto mode), your monitor gets programmed to shut or cut off all the unnecessary post-processing protocols used for AV mode. The proposed change might result in smoother images and videos on your display. You might notice an anti-jaggy (AA) effect, which tends to be a good thing.

It seems most AV modes employ some form of artificial or digital sharpening functionalities whose operations cause jaggies and make games look worse than they should. Sure, those features might have great applications for movies and similar video content, but they have no business in gaming dynamics. Furthermore, once they are gone, you might gain more screen estate (up to an inch). It seems most AV modes are often zoomed and stretched on the screens involved.

You are free to test things as much as you need to. If you notice significant differences, then you can choose to keep the new configuration for your monitor resulting from the changes you made or you can reverse the alterations through the reset option we mentioned earlier.

  • Enable Game Mode (if your monitor has it):

To be fair, this option is absent when a true PC mode is in use. PC mode generally forces monitors to stop all post-processing and similar operations that cause input lag. Users get to use Game mode when HDMI is in use. Nevertheless, if you see the Game Mode option (even when your monitor is using PC mode), you must select it.

If you do not see Game Mode, then you can set your monitor’s input mode to HDMI and see if the needed option becomes available. If it does, then you must turn it on. If you find out that Game Mode does not exist in your monitor configuration (after extensive checks) or if it is available but you cannot use it for any reason, then you have to stick with PC mode.

  • Use the advanced Response Time (or overdrive) setting:

Here, we want you to check for the Response time setting or something similar. It could be Pixel overdrive, for example. The controls for the option in view are usually these: Normal, Faster, or Fastest. Your monitor manufacturer might have advertised 1-2ms as the response time of your device, but you need to use the setting here to achieve it.

Nevertheless, you might want to check Google for information on your monitor to confirm that your monitor’s overdrive push is worth it. Well, the overdrive or response time setting should force some improvements in your response time figures – in theory, at least – and the changes should translate to object images moving smoother on your screen. In some exceptional scenarios (outside the norm or in events involving certain devices), the introduction of the overdrive or a similar setting does nothing to improve the response time and instead introduces some form of input lag, which is counterproductive.

Unwanted input lag might come from intense or complicated post-processing operations. Here, we must reiterate that faster response time smoothens things over while lower input lag allows you to feel your aim better than before. You have to figure out the sweet spot and make do with a compromise.

For example, if there is no motion blurring effect – besides the ones from the game’s own graphics engine and related components – then you will do well to stick with better input lag – if you were forced to choose between the two possible outcomes. If your monitor overdrive function proves to be more efficient than expected, then you can test things out with it carefully to enjoy the best of both worlds for the competing (or contrasting) features.

  • Disable magic-color or auto-color or any similar feature:

You must check for features – like magic-color or auto-color – that have a patented or gimmicky or funny name. As a general rule, any color or picture settings that are computer-generated or automated in their setup are basically processes. The “Custom” or “Manual” settings are the ones you must use. Well, if you do not like the way your monitor displays stuff in manual or custom modes, then you have to move or adjust the sliders for the parameters that matter: Sharpness, RGB color balance, contrast sliders, and so on.

For example, your monitor might have the gimmicky Magic Color setting and employ it, which means the setting’s processes are supposed to auto-balance colors dynamically. In most cases, this option comes on or is activated by default – it works even in PC mode. Therefore, you have to disable it to ensure no process influences your signal. This way, you to get to eliminate the remaining or outstanding lag.

If your monitor has a Magic Bright picture mode that works to adjust variables for your display on the go, then you must turn it off too. Ideally, you should go through every section or menu in your monitor settings, check for such features, and then disable them. If you find a function or control you know nothing about, then you can run search operations on Google using the appropriate queries. If you make changes that result in your display being better than before, then you can keep the new configuration. If things turn out bad, however, then you can always fall back to the reset option and try new alterations again.

  • Check your monitor refresh rate:

The recommended refresh rate setting varies from country to country or by geographical location. If you are somewhere in North America, then it is probably 60Hz. If you stay in Europe, then it should be 50Hz. Nevertheless, regardless of your location, you must try to set the refresh rate to 60Hz – since this value offers the smoothest display experience.

If your display becomes worse due to the initiated change, then you can wait for 10 seconds or thereabouts for your monitor to switch the refresh rate to the old value. We also advise that you choose the full HD resolution (1920X1080p), but you should know this by now.

Other things you can try to reduce display lag in Windows 10

If you experience display lag even after you made the necessary changes based on the recommendations above or if you want to reduce display lag during events that have nothing to do with gaming on your PC, then you have to see our list of additional procedures. The fixes here are focused on boosting Windows overall performance to eliminate the issues that result in the lag.

  1. Make some changes to your power settings:

You can switch to the High Performance power plan to get Windows to execute operations with as many resources as it can spare while not minding the rate at which power is being consumed. Of course, we are making this recommendation with the assumption that your PC stays connected to a power source.

Follow these instructions:

  • Drag your cursor to the power icon on your taskbar on your desktop screen. Right-click on the icon to see its context menu and then choose Power Options from the list.

You will now be directed to the Power Options screen in the Control Panel application.

  • Click on the radio button for the High Performance plan to select it.

If the High Performance plan is missing from the list of power plans, then you have to click on the Additional power settings link. You will now see the needed option. Choose it and then move on.

Now, you are supposed to notice significant improvements in your PC’s performance and some of the good changes should translate to a reduction in your display lag – since your computer is now doing everything quicker than before.

  1. Adjust your system performance options:

If the switch to the more intensive power plan fails to bring about the changes you need, then you have to adjust the essential performance variables from an advanced system menu. There, you get to give Windows specific instructions on managing your computer.

Go through these steps:

  • Open the Settings app quickly using this popular keyboard shortcut: Windows logo button + letter I key.
  • Assuming the Settings window is now up, you must fill the text field on it with Performance to perform a search task using that keyword as the query.
  • From the results that show up, click on Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.

The Performance Options window will be displayed now.

  • Assuming you are on the Visual Effects tab, then you must click on the radio button for the Adjust for best performance parameter.

Click on the Apply button and then click on the OK button to save the new display configuration.

Run your preferred games or applications to test things out.

If you do not like the changes resulting from the application of the new configuration, then you can go through the same steps above to get back to the Visual Effects tab on the Performance Options window and then choose Adjust for best appearance. This option might succeed in delivering the results you need where the previous one failed.

If you feel your display lag has something to do with a particular visual effect – especially one that Windows uses – then you can disable it by clicking on its box to deselect it. You can save the new display configuration and check if things have improved.

In any case, if you end up not liking the changes you made, then you can choose the Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer parameter or select the default option (the one your computer used before you started making alterations).

  1. Use an Ethernet cable to connect to the internet instead of WIFI networks – if the display lag plays out while you game online.
  1. Get a faster internet connection – if the display lag occurs in games played online.
  2. Update the drivers for all the devices in your gaming setup or components involved in the graphics operations.

TIP:

If you ever need to update many drivers – such as the drivers for your controller, graphics card, monitor, and other devices or components that make up your PC – then you will do well to get Auslogics Driver Updater. This program will help you handle all the driver-updating tasks. It will actually assist you outrightly by running a scan on your computer to identify the drivers for which updates are needed, search for their replacements on the web, and then move on to download and install the necessary software.

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