Input lag is the most notorious performance issue gamers will encounter.
Whenever your actions on screen get delayed you are in deep trouble.
It makes you miss crucial shots and the whole experience feels disconnected.
The Input Lag Optimzation Guide
- What is Input lag
- Why latency is important
- How to fix Input lag
One of the best ways to think about this is when you try your favorite retro game that you played on a CRT monitor. CRT Monitors have close to zero Input-lag meaning we were spoiled in the old days. If you compare it to how it feels when you play the same game on a modern console of your LCD TV, you will notice an enormous difference.
Games like Megaman and Super Mario are overly sensitive to Input lag. The slightest delay between inputs and actions on the screen will make the games unplayable. Modern TVs also uses plenty filters to improve the picture quality which we will learn adds to the latency. Computer monitors are better even when using "Game Mode" on your television.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is input lag?
Input lag is defined by the amount of time between physical action and the visual response on the screen.
More Input-lag will increase the time from when you push the button on your mouse to when your character will fire its gun in the game.
Input-lag is measured in ms (milliseconds) and equals the amount of time
between an action and a visual reaction on the screen.
While it’s easy to describe and feel Input-lag it’s often more complicated to understand why and how latency is introduced.
Latency happens in all stages of the processing inside the computer which makes it impossible to eliminate completely.
Why is input-lag bad?
Accuracy Another way of explaining Input-lag is to describe the floaty feeling you get when using the mouse cursor.
Floaty gameplay makes it harder for the brain to predict future movements which affect our ability to react and adapt.
Is 9ms input lag good? - According to various sources a difference in 5 MS lag is perceivable by humans.
Responsiveness If there is a delay between the physical movement on the Mousepad and the cursor on the screen. Based on this it's easy to understand why this behavior is bad for your performance.
During competitive play, your actions need to make an impact instantly. The goal is to have your skills work 1:1 with your actions in-game because a missed shot can make or break an important match.
How do I reduce input lag?
While it’s easy to explain what latency is, how it works in every step is far more complex.
It’s always a clever idea to limit the number of devices, effects, and software running on your system, reducing the resolution and graphics settings of your game, disabling V-sync, and using a monitor with a low response time.
Does RGB increase input delay?
There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on a number of factors. However, RGB does tend to increase input delay. This is because RGB signals are typically processed in addition to other signals, which can lead to increased delays. Furthermore, RGB often require more processing power in terms of required software, which can also contribute to increased delays.
Factors impacting input lag
- Human reaction time (200-300ms)
- Input devices
- Computer processing
- GPU and graphics
- Display output & monitor
Human Reaction time
- The importance of sleep
- Get enough sleep to stay alert.
- Sleep also enhances our ability to predict future actions.
- Improves the brain's speed to process available information.
Keyboard & Mouse
Use 1000 Hz polling rate on your mouse which equals 1 MS added latency, 500 Hz equal 2 MS added to your overall latency.
More devices will add more strain to the USB controller, make sure to disconnect any non-crucial peripherals during important games.
There is data suggesting that using a high polling rate on multiple devices will interfere with performance.
(If desired you can experiment with lowering the polling rate for the keyboard as it is not as crucial.)
Limit the number of connected devices and make sure the essential drivers are up to date.
Avoid software suits with added functionality such as RGB which will add latency.
Modern drivers are smaller in size which can improve the access time for your system.
The above is one of the main reasons to update your drivers regularly.
Limit the number of running applications on the computer, because they will often ping remote servers and may run background tasks on your system stealing resources.
Exit game launchers and other programs when you launch a game, you can always start it again later.
And finally, make sure to disable autostart for non-essential apps when you log in to Windows.
Make sure you always play at your monitor's native resolution to avoid Input-lag and other side effects.
The monitor is designed to use the native resolution, other settings force the monitor to add an extra layer of processing.
Higher graphical settings will put an increasing amount of strain on your graphics card.
Avoid the most demanding visual effects to keep the GPU utilization below 100%.
Anti-Aliasing and other post-processing techniques will increase the visual fidelity at the cost of responsiveness.
A bonus effect is that your own vision will improve, as well as the processing of visual elements inside your brain.
In most cases, lower graphics settings will reduce the amount of clutter and details in the viewport that will distract you from the enemy.
Limit the FPS output using an application such as Nvidia Control Panel, RTSS or use the in-game FPS limiter.
Different methods come with different pros and cons depending on how your system hardware is balanced.
Limiting the FPS lowers GPU utilization and improves input lag.
(This also has an enormous impact on Frame-pacing making it one of the most important settings overall.)
In-game FPS limiter
Limits the FPS on a game engine level.
Usually results in the lowest impact on input lag.
The main downside is the risk of uneven frame timing.
NVIDIA Control Panel
Nvidia has improved the FPS limiter with the latest version.
Limits the FPS on the (GPU) driver level.
Works best if you are not limited by GPU utilization.
Limits the FPS using the CPU.
Generally, adds 1 frame of lag.
Works best if you are not bottlenecked by the CPU.
V-sync will result in smoother gameplay because every frame is perfectly lined up with the monitor.
The downside is that there is going to be added input latency thanks to how V-sync waits for an even frame output to the monitor.
The key is to find a compromise between input lag and frame-timing to avoid stutter and retain stutter-free gameplay.
Post-processing and filters
Limit the number of filters and post-processing techniques in your monitor.
Avoid Anti-Aliasing and other visual filters as they will add to the post-processing and increase Input-lag.
(Bigger problems on TV but still relevant for gaming monitors.)
Enable Overdrive to increase pixel response time and counter input lag.
Avoid filters and additional features that add strain and overhead to your monitors.
If you follow the general steps above, you will have heads start against your opponents.
Combine these concepts with our other more specific guides to optimize your complete setup for increased responsiveness.
And remember high FPS is not all, instead you want a balanced configuration with as low latency as possible.