All about milliseconds in games

What is input lag, ping, response time, or frame time?

We often hear about various milliseconds associated with games or computer hardware. When a new monitor is presented, the response time is sure to be voiced , which is so many milliseconds. When they talk about the quality of the Internet connection or the connection with the server, they mention ping , also measured in milliseconds. When measuring the performance of a video card in games, they mention not only the number of frames per second, but also the rendering time of each frame . And, finally, when it comes to TVs as a monitor for a PC, then again they certainly remember the milliseconds of some kind of input lag .

It’s time to figure out all this: what it is, what it affects and how it is connected with each other.

What is input lag and how to reduce it

20 ms

Input lag is the time during which the signal from the mouse, keyboard or gamepad is processed first by the control itself, then by the computer, and after that the result is displayed on the screen. But usually this term means only the responsiveness of a monitor or TV. Although, in reality, the input delay will be 5-10 milliseconds higher due to the time spent on the video card and processor. And in the case of wireless peripherals – another 5-10 milliseconds higher.

If the input lag is too large, then you can see how the virtual mouse pointer is a fraction of a second behind the movement of the physical mouse itself. This was especially noticeable on older LCD TVs – the mouse became less responsive compared to the monitor, and the pointer seemed to “float” slightly. From the keyboard, the input lag is no longer so noticeable, and the “lever” control of the gamepad completely compensates for the imperfect responsiveness.

It is possible to reduce the input lag in all three links: the control body, the computer and the screen. For this you need:

  1. Use only a wired mouse, keyboard or gamepad (minus 5-10 ms). The latency of an analog signal physically cannot exceed 1 millisecond over relatively short computer peripheral cables.
  2. Configure video card drivers (minus 5-10 ms). Enable Low Latency Modefor NVIDIA GeForce or enable Radeon Anti-Lag Technology for AMD graphics cards.
  3. Use a monitor instead of a TV (minus 5-20 ms). Monitors are initially tuned for use with a PC and maximum responsiveness, and TVs spend additional milliseconds aiming a “marathon” before displaying an image.

We win in total – from 15 to 40 milliseconds!

What is ping and how to reduce it

The ping of the Internet itself is more than 1 ms over the cable – very bad

Ping is the signal latency in milliseconds from the signal from the computer to the game server and back. If you are located in the same city as the server, then ping up to 20 milliseconds is considered acceptable. And if you run the game far from the server – up to 100 milliseconds. Well, in competitive games in the first person, a value above 70 milliseconds is already considered uncomfortable. Also add the local input lag – input lag from the chapter above. Therefore, ping can be considered an additional input lag that appears in online games. True, it is technically possible in singleplayers too- if you play through GeForce NOW , Playkey, and similar services.

It is quite possible to reduce the ping , but its value depends more on the game provider. You can move closer to one of the servers, or at least change your provider to a better one. With a good cable connection, the ping of the Internet itself should not exceed 1 millisecond. It goes without saying that any wireless Internet is not suitable for online games.

What is response time and can it be reduced

The response time is also sometimes called the matrix response . Of these two names, a definition is already visible – the time in milliseconds in which the matrix will react to the image change in the next frame.

Typically, only a partial response time is mentioned in the specifications – from gray from the beginning of the color spectrum to gray from the end (or simply “from gray to gray”, GtG). Formally, the more honest response time would be from a fully off pixel (black) to fully lit (white), and then back (“black to black”, BtB). Then instead of a beautiful 1 millisecond of a premium monitor or 5-8 of a budget monitor, it will be 2-3 times more. However, for typical tasks, especially games, it is the “gray to gray” option that is more relevant. So it can be considered true.

For most monitors with a frequency of 60 hertz, a matrix response within 16 milliseconds from black to black or 5-8 milliseconds from gray to gray will suffice. Fortunately, almost all modern models meet these requirements.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to reduce the response time . Sometimes, however, there are matrix overclocking functions in the monitor settings, but most often they generate loops and other artifacts. Therefore, if the monitor has a too weak matrix response, then it will have to be changed to a more responsive one.

What is frame time and how to improve it

Screen tearing is only the most noticeable in case of frame time issues

The frame time reflects the smoothness of the gameplay. 45 frames per second with the same time of each frame can be perceived much better than constant interruptions from 45 to 60. In addition, it is not uncommon for unstable FPS to overlap adjacent frames or even tear the picture (see illustration above).

At first glance, the frame time is easy to calculate – you just need to divide 1000 milliseconds by the number of frames. For example, if the game is running at 50 frames per second, then it turns out 20 milliseconds per frame. However, this is only an average value derived from the average FPS per second. To get accurate data, every millisecond must be considered. But this will put too much load on the processor.

In MSI Afterburner, you can reduce the sensor polling rate to 100 milliseconds. Thus, we get the average rendering time of a frame from 3-6 adjacent frames (at FPS from 30 to 60, respectively). In this case, the additional load on the computer will increase insignificantly, and the results will not be too far from the truth.

To reduce the frame time , you need to reduce the load on the processor or replace it with a more powerful one. To reduce the load on the processor, you can lower the settings responsible for calculating mechanics or placing objects in the world. In some games, an additional load is placed on the processor even for calculating shadows.

However, in addition to shortening the frame time, you can also stabilize it. There are two ways to do this – free and paid:

  1. Free way. You need to limit the maximum number of FPS through the RivaTunerStatisticsServer program (comes with MSI Afterburner, but can be downloaded separately). Stabilization of frame time will significantly improve the smoothness of the gameplay without harm to the picture, and even with an average FPS below 60.
  2. Paid way. Requires a FreeSync (Radeon) or G-Sync (GeForce) capable monitor. These technologies will adjust the monitor’s refresh rate to match the frame rate, making frame times significantly more uniform.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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