Input Lag vs Response Time – Which Should I Prioritise For Gaming?.....
Have you ever experienced a lag during a game on your computer? It’s annoying, isn’t it? Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or an occasional one, you don’t want to experience lag or slow response time from your PC. If you’re on the hunt for new parts, then now is the right time to learn about input lag and response time and how they affect your gaming experience.
What is Input Lag?
Input lag refers to the amount of time between you pressing a button on your input device and seeing it materialise on the screen. When you press your device, what happens is a series of processes for you to be able to see it happen on the screen. Specifically, the device registers it, and the instructions go all the way to your computer. The computer brings it to the monitor, and it gets processed on the board. That’s when your monitor adjusts the pixels in order to display the action you just pressed in your input device.
Breaking it down suddenly gives it more sense. However, that’s no excuse to have a long lag time. After all, you will definitely lose if there’s a long lag. This usually applies to games that are dependent on reacting to your surroundings like racing and combat games.
Related: What Is a Good Latency for Gaming?
What is Response Time?
On the other hand, you have response time. Response time refers to your monitor’s speed in changing its pixels’ colours. In short, it’s how fast each pixel changes from black to white and vice versa.
While response time does not seem relevant to you when you play, it actually does. This is because a slow response time will have a lag when displaying things on the screen. If you don’t see what’s actually going on in real-time, how are you going to input the right action on your device? This suddenly makes the response time even more important.
The response time is determined by a monitor’s or a TV panel’s capabilities. Response time is measured in ms (or milliseconds) and having 1ms response time means it’s already fast. When picking a monitor, you will often be asked to choose between TN, IPS, and VA panels.
Here’s a short description of these three types:
- TN (twisted nematic) has low colour quality and very narrow viewing angles. This means that you have to be right in front of the screen to actually see everything. However, the advantage of this is TN has the fastest response time. If your priority is a fast and smooth gaming experience, then the TN is the best choice.
- The IPS (in-plane switching) is like the middle-quality display if there is such a thing. It’s not as good as the TN, but it’s way better than the VA. Nonetheless, more recent models today have fast response times in spite of being IPS in nature. Some can already compete with TN by having approximately 1ms.
- Lastly, you have the VA (vertical alignment). The VA is probably the best one in terms of contrast because the pixel can achieve almost a pure black colour. However, the caveat for this is you have to wait longer for the pixels to change colours from black to lighter shades. In effect, you’ll end up seeing some smearing across the screen for fast movements.
While there are other types of panels showing different levels of response times, keep in mind that the panels are not the only factors affecting this metric. In fact, response times are also affected by your monitor’s board and input lag. Just because a screen is made of VA does not mean that it will be the slowest. The same goes for the TN, where it is not your only guarantee of having a fast response time.
What Should I Prioritise?
In spite of what others think, newer models can have both a low input lag and a quick response time. It’s no longer an either-or thing because you can actually have both.
In the event that you have to choose over a lower input lag or a quicker response time, it is best to pick a part that has a lower input lag. This is because there are already displays that can reduce their contrast and display settings in order to accommodate a faster response time. If you have high input lag, the quick response time will be deemed useless as your actions on the device will still not be registered as fast on the monitor.
To add to that, slower response time is not at all bad, especially if you are not playing high-speed games. Ghosting only happens if you’re playing really fast games and you see those blurring and smearing effects in the background. Don’t get confused, though, because most of them aren’t part of the effects.
However, what you should know is that input lags and response times are not often placed by the manufacturer in the TV’s and monitor’s specs. Sometimes, you just have to research it or ask it directly from the manufacturer. In fact, the most you can expect is that you can find a response time speed for some monitors (again, not all). While this can be a bummer, there are reviews that you can find online so that you can make a better decision.
Again, input lags are not advertised by manufacturers. If you’ve seen a manufacturer do so, this can already be fishy as no one in the industry does that. It can also be misleading since others still confuse the input lag specs for the response time rate.
Fortunately, you no longer have to sacrifice input lag over response time or the other way around. More modern displays can have low input lag while having a quick response time. The best way to know which is best is to do your own research online and to check which models and brands will fit your preferences. It’s also important that you balance it with your usage. Sometimes, you don’t really need the fastest response time, especially if you’re not a fan of high-speed games like racing, combat, and the like.