Input lag is one of the most important performance characteristics when choosing a display for gaming. This comprehensive guide will break down the key differences between monitors and TVs when it comes to input lag.
What Is Input Lag?
Input lag refers to the time it takes for an input from a controller or keyboard to display on the screen. It is the delay between pressing a button and seeing the game react.
For fast-paced competitive gaming, lower input lag leads to a more responsive, real-time feel. High input lag can feel sluggish and impact your performance. Any competitive gamer will tell you that every millisecond matters!
Why Monitors Generally Have Lower Input Lag
Gaming monitors are designed specifically with gaming in mind, whereas TVs are built for multimedia consumption. This key difference leads to monitors focusing more on the features that minimize input lag:
- Higher refresh rates – 144Hz to 240Hz is common for monitors while TVs peak at 120Hz typically.
- Faster response times – Monitors can achieve 1ms compared to 5-10ms for most TVs.
- Less image processing – TVs add more "enhancement" features that increase lag.
Different monitor panel types also impact input lag differently:
- TN (twisted nematic) – Fastest response times (1-5ms) but poorer viewing angles and colors.
- IPS (in-plane switching) – Middle ground at 5-10ms lag with good colors and viewing angles.
- VA (vertical alignment) – Slower response around 15-20ms but excellent contrast.
For competitive gaming, TN and fast IPS gaming monitors offer the lowest lag. VA monitors and TVs lag behind.
Refresh Rate Syncing Minimizes Lag
Nvidia‘s G-Sync and AMD‘s FreeSync sync the monitor‘s refresh rate to the game‘s frame rate. This synchronization minimizes input lag. It also reduces screen tearing and stuttering that can occur without syncing.
Most gaming monitors support G-Sync or FreeSync. These adaptive sync technologies provide a big input lag advantage over TVs that lack syncing capabilities.
Measuring Input Lag: Monitors vs TVs
To see the input lag differences quantified, here are some average measurements in milliseconds (ms) for models tested:
|Input Lag (ms)
|TN Gaming Monitor (1080p @ 240Hz)
|2 – 5ms
|IPS Gaming Monitor (1440p @ 165Hz)
|4 – 10ms
|VA Gaming Monitor (4K @ 144Hz)
|10 – 20ms
|LED/QLED Gaming TV (4K @ 120Hz)
|10 – 20ms
|OLED Gaming TV (4K @ 120Hz)
|5 – 15ms
This shows why high refresh rate TN and fast IPS gaming monitors excel when it comes to fast response and low input lag. VA monitors and LED TVs, while still solid for gaming, have higher average lag times.
However, new HDMI 2.1 compatible OLED TVs are raising the bar and closing the gap. Their extremely fast response times allow them to hit under 10ms lag.
Game Mode and Input Lag on TVs
Modern TVs offer a dedicated Game Mode that optimizes settings to reduce input lag. Here‘s how it works:
Game Mode disables or reduces unnecessary image processing that adds lag. Features like motion smoothing, noise reduction, and sharpening require processing that increase lag.
By disabling those effects, game mode provides a cleaner video signal path with fewer frames of delay. Testing shows TVs lower input lag by 20ms or more in game mode. Keep it enabled for responsive gaming.
Comparing Input Lag in Popular Games
The impact of input lag varies across game genres. To demonstrate, here are some average lag times measured on a 240Hz Asus ROG gaming monitor:
|Game (1080p Max Settings)
|Input Lag (ms)
|Fortnite (Third Person Shooter)
|Sekiro (Action RPG)
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (Open World)
Competitive FPS titles see the fastest response at under 3ms, while action and adventure games are slightly higher but still excellent. This demonstrates how top-tier monitors virtually eliminate lag.
Input Lag When Streaming/Recording Gameplay
Streaming and recording gameplay can add encoding and transmission lag. Using Nvidia‘s NVENC encoder minimizes impact, adding 10-50ms typically. For competitive streaming with webcam overlays, a monitor optimizes the experience.
Console players should use a direct HDMI connection from the console to a capture card to avoid lag from an intermediary input. Display lag should still be minimized by the gaming monitor.
How to Benchmark Input Lag
To measure input lag before buying a display:
- Use a smartphone slow motion camera filming the display at 120+ fps
- Time a button press on the controller until the action appears on screen
- Subtract controller lag based on historical testing data
- Repeat for multiple trials and average the result
This real world method provides helpful insight into true lag beyond just marketing specs.
Ideal Screen Size for Minimal Lag Perception
The optimal display size comes down to a balance between minimizing perceived input lag and maximizing screen immersion:
- 24" to 27" monitors viewed up close provide the least perceived lag
- Larger screens appear more laggy the farther back you sit
- For TVs, sit closer to the 55" to 65" sweet spot for a responsive experience
- Projectors introduce greater lag – Opt for smaller projected image sizes
Hardcore competitive gamers favor 24" to 25" displays viewed 1-2 feet away. Larger monitors work well if you sit proportionally closer. Massive TVs or projectors aren‘t ideal for twitch gaming.
Monitor Recommendations for Esports
Based on extensive benchmarking, here are top gaming monitors for esports and competitive play organized by budget:
$200-300 Price Range
- Acer Nitro XV252QF (24.5", 1080p, 390Hz IPS)
- Asus TUF Gaming VG259QM (24.5", 1080p, 280Hz IPS)
$400-600 Price Range
- Alienware AW2521HFL (25", 1080p, 360Hz IPS)
- Asus ROG Strix XG258Q (24.5", 1080p, 280Hz TN)
$1000+ Price Range
- Asus ROG Swift PG259QN (24.5", 1080p, 360Hz IPS)
- Acer Predator X25 (24.5", 1080p, 360Hz IPS)
These monitors provide esports-ready speed and response for any competitive gaming scenario. Their very low input lag gives you a split-second edge.
Future Display Technologies and Input Lag
Upcoming display technologies like microLED and QD-OLED promise to reduce input lag even further. Their ability to self-illuminate pixels provides near instantaneous response times under 1ms, perfect for high FPS competitive gaming. Mini LED backlit displays can also reach near-OLED speeds. Expect input lag to keep decreasing as panel technologies continue advancing.
Tips for Minimizing Input Lag
Here are quick tips to reduce input lag on any display:
- Enable the max refresh rate with DisplayPort or HDMI 2.0/2.1
- Use the native resolution – No upscaling
- Disable adaptive sync if fluctuating frame rates
- Turn off HDR, motion blur reduction, lighting features
- Always game with Game Mode enabled
- Disable motion smoothing like Auto Motion Plus
- Turn off noise reduction, dynamic contrast, edge enhancement
- Avoid visually intense HDR modes
- Update firmware and GPU drivers
- Close background tasks and processes
- Use wired connections – No Bluetooth
- Match native resolution and aspect ratio
The Bottom Line
While recent TVs are catching up, dedicated gaming monitors still deliver the fastest input lag for competitive gaming. Their ultra-high refresh rates, rapid response times, and lag-reducing sync technologies provide the real-time feel that high-level gameplay demands.
For more casual gaming, a premium TV can still offer excellent performance and immersion. But for esports and multiplayer reaction-based games, a high refresh rate TN or IPS gaming monitor is tough to beat. Just be sure to benchmark the input lag before buying!