If you’re shopping for a new monitor or TV with the plan to play games on it, you may be concerned about “input lag”. So what is input lag and how much lag is acceptable when gaming?
Input lag is the delay between you performing an action and the screen displaying it, the lower input lag you have the smoother your gameplay will feel. Playing with high input lag feels clunky, and when playing an online game it can be frustrating. Unfortunately, most TVs or monitors don’t tell you their input lag in the specs, they may list the “response time” which is not the same thing. The best way to find out the real input lag of a model is to research it online, thankfully there are a few websites dedicated to testing popular TVs and monitors. I would recommend checking out rtings or displaylag.
Acceptable input lag for gaming
In my opinion, you should be aiming for 15ms or less input lag when buying a monitor, and below 30-35ms when buying a TV.
People’s opinions on what input lag is acceptable will differ depending on their personal preferences, and how invested they are in their game. If you’re playing online competitive games then it’s worth taking input lag seriously. 50ms+ is the point where the input lag will become a noticeable issue for most people, the gameplay will feel stiff and unresponsive making it a challenge to keep up with the pace of the game. 25ms of delay will result in 1 frame of lag which is great, 42ms will result in 2 frames of lag which is okay for most, and 58ms of input delay gives you 3 frames of lag which is not ideal.
If you’re playing a story-driven single-player game, Red Dead Redemption for example, then input lag will be less noticeable compared to a game like counter strike. The goal of a single-player game is to get immersed in the world it creates, in this case, you would probably prefer a TV with amazing quality and average input lag, compared to a smaller monitor with average quality and very low input lag.
TV input lag
TVs typically have much higher input lag than monitors, with the top of the range TVs offering a similar input lag to an average monitor. Over the years TVs have greatly improved in picture quality. Unfortunately, the tricks these TVs use to display this quality can have a detrimental effect on the input lag. It makes sense that TVs would prioritize picture quality over input lag as they’re primarily targeted towards television/movie watchers. They have to constantly push their quality to compete with other TV companies. When you buy a TV instead of a monitor you are trading worse input lag for better picture quality, as well as the choice to go big, if you consider yourself a casual gamer then this trade is probably worth it.
TVs with a “game mode” setting
A lot of TVs have a picture setting named game mode or something similar. This setting is usually designed to reduce input lag in return for a worse picture quality. For some TVs, this setting can cut the input lag by half. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, I’ve seen a few TVs where the game mode setting is just a color setting with no improvements to input lag at all. If you have a TV with high input lag it’s worth checking if it has a game mode picture setting, it may save you from having to buy a new monitor just to play games.
High refresh rate monitors
The refresh rate of a monitor is measured in hertz (Hz). You may have seen gaming monitors being advertised with a 120Hz, 144Hz or 244Hz refresh rate and wondered what that means, and why they’re so expensive. The refresh rate is how often the display refreshes its image, for example, a 144Hz monitor will refresh 144 times per second.
To display a game at full 60fps the monitor must be able to refresh 60 times per second. If your game is pushing past 60fps but your monitor is only 60Hz then it won’t be able to fully display the extra frames your game is producing, whereas a monitor with a higher refresh rate would. That being said, if you’re playing a game at 30fps then there is no use in having a monitor with a refresh rate higher than say 60Hz.
High refresh rate monitors will reduce screen tearing and motion blur, while a high refresh rate doesn’t directly correlate with input lag, the elements it improves will give you a sharper feedback which will improve your reaction times in the game.
- Aim for 15ms or lower input lag when buying a monitor
- Anything below 30-35ms of input lag is acceptable for a TV
- To find out the input lag of a monitor or TV you will have to research online, try using rtings.com or displaylag.com
- Try your TVs “game mode” setting to reduce the input lag
- High refresh rate monitors provide the highest gaming experience but are often expensive