Updated

Input Lag of TVs

What it is: Delay between input and onscreen reaction.
When it matters: Video games; when TV is used as PC monitor.

A television’s input lag is the amount of time that elapses between a picture being generated by a source and that image appearing onscreen. When gaming, you’ll experience this as the time between making an input and seeing the reaction appear onscreen. It’s only important for gamers, and even then, different gamers will have different sensitivity to lag.

We record the lowest input lag time of which a TV is capable, the amount of lag present when motion interpolation is enabled, and the amount of lag a TV has when using our calibrated settings.

Update 9/14/2016: We are now testing input lag in various resolutions, including 4k and HDR. We've retested all 2016 4k TVs that we bought so far. For testing 4k and HDR, we are using the Leo Bodnar tool chained into the HDFury Integral and the HDFury Linker to upscale to 4k and inject HDR metadata. These tools don't add any significant input lag to the measurements.

Note: Do not confuse the input lag time with the response time. The response time is the time it takes a pixel to shift from one color to another, which is significantly shorter than the input lag time. Response time is related to motion blur.

Test results

For older models, see our results for 2013 and 2014 TVs.

When it matters

Input lag only matters for playing video games, either on a console or on a PC.

With fast-paced games like shooters and fighting games, quick reflexes are key. Lower input lag can mean the difference between a well-timed reaction and a move that takes too long to register and ends up countered by the opponent before it can ever be performed. This lag doesn’t matter for watching movies, though, so unless you’re a gamer and are worried about PC peripheral lag, or Nintendo, Xbox One, or PS4 controller input lag (or other controllers too), you have nothing to worry about. Most people will not notice under 50 ms of input lag while more competitive gamers should look for a TV that can do below 40 ms. Almost everyone will also find anything over 100 ms terrible to play with.

Our tests

Input lag

What it is: Lowest input lag possible on TV with a 1080p @ 60Hz input.
When it matters: Video games and also when TV is used as PC monitor.
Good value: < 40ms
Noticeable difference: 15ms

This input lag test represents the lowest lag a TV is capable of achieving. This is the amount of lag that is best for gamers, and is pretty important for most fast-paced, competitive games.

We use Leo Bodnar’s input lag checker to perform this test, as it provides an accurate, continuous measurement of a TV’s input lag. To get the lowest amount of lag on most TVs, it’s necessary to enable game mode. On some, though, special steps are required, which we list in a section lower down.

Input lag with interpolation

What it is: Lowest input lag when the motion interpolation feature is turned on.
When it matters: When you want to play video games with the Soap Opera Effect enabled.
Good value: < 40ms
Noticeable difference: 15ms

This input lag time represents the lowest amount of lag a TV can get with the motion interpolation feature (soap opera effect) turned on. If you want to increase the frame rate of videos by adjusting the TV’s settings, this is a test you should care about. Just keep in mind that this setting will usually have significantly higher input lag than the TV’s minimum, and so isn’t great for competitive games (it works well for most RPGs and turn-based games, though).

We use the same testing process as for the first test, only instead of enabling game mode, we enable motion interpolation at its highest setting.

On most TVs, this isn't playable for fast games. Some people chose to live with the higher input lag in order to get the smoother motion. Learn more about motion interpolation.

 

Input lag outside game mode

What it is: Input lag in picture modes other than the specific game mode.
When it matters: For playing video games while retaining access to all features of the TV.
Good value: < 40ms
Noticeable difference: 15ms

Our ‘outside game mode’ measurement represents the amount of input lag that is present when a TV uses our posted review settings – no game mode, no motion interpolation. Game mode disables many of the picture options a TV has, so this test is useful for people who want to play games with all of the TV’s settings available to them.

We use the same testing process as for the first test, only we don’t enable any settings other than what is used by our test calibration.

Additional information

How input lag is measured

How to measure a television input lag
An input lag of 40ms can be seen on the television.

Input lag is not an official television specification because it depends on two varying factors: the type of source and the settings of the television. The easiest way you can measure it is by connecting a computer to the TV and displaying the same timer on both screens. You can find a timer here. Then, if you take a picture of both screens, the time difference will be your input lag. This is, however, an approximation, because your computer does not necessarily output both signals at the same time. In this example image, an input lag of 40ms (1:06:260 – 1:06:220) is indicated.

In our tests, we measure input lag using a dedicated device made just for this purpose: the Leo Bodnar tool. This is a lot more accurate than the two screens method.

Why there is input lag on TVs

Input lag television workflow

The total input lag time is the addition of three parts

There are three main functions that delay the television: acquiring the source image, processing the image, and displaying it.

Acquisition of the image

The more time it takes for the TV to receive the source image, the more input lag there will be. With modern digital TVs, using an HDMI cable will allow you to minimize the acquisition time, as that will transfer from the source a digital signal that is easily accepted by the TV.

You might find a bit more lag is present with analog connections, like component or composite cables. This is because the TV needs to convert the analog signal to digital before video can be displayed, and the conversion process takes time.

Video Processing

Once the image is in a format understandable by the video processor, it will apply at least some processing to alter the image in some way. A few examples:

  • Adding overlays (like menus)
  • Adjusting the colors and brightness
  • Interpolating the picture to match the television's refresh rate
  • Scaling it (like 720p to 1080p, or 1080p to UHD)

The time this step takes is affected by the speed of the video processor and the amount of processing needed. Though you cannot control the speed of the processor, you can exercise some control over how many operations it needs to do by enabling and disabling settings. The more settings you enable, the more work the processor needs to achieve.

Some televisions have a dual core processor in them. This can help reducing the input lag if a lot of processing options are turned on.

Displaying the image

Once the television has processed the image, it is ready to be displayed on the screen. This is the step where the video processor sends the image to the screen. The screen cannot change its state instantly, and the amount of time it will take depends on the technology and components of the television. There’s unfortunately no way to improve or control the amount of time taken by this phase; it is a fixed amount of time for each television.

How to get the best results

Most televisions can be adjusted so that they do not have high input lag. As a general rule, try the following (which is how we set up the TVs in our tests):

  • Set the TV to Game or PC Mode
  • Disable all of the television's settings

Additionally, you can try different combinations of settings/modes/inputs until you arrive at whatever balance of features and input lag that you like.

Here are the steps necessary for getting minimal input lag on TVs from several brands:

  • Samsung: Go to Menu > System > General and set ‘Game mode’ to ‘On.’
  • Sony: Go to Menu > Picture adjustments and set ‘Picture mode’ to ‘Game.’
  • Vizio: Go to Menu > Picture > More picture and set ‘Game Low Latency’ to ‘On.’
  • LG: Go to Menu > Picture and set ‘Picture mode’ to ‘Game.’

Related settings

  • Game mode will disable some of the television's most time-consuming processing. However, gaming mode is not necessarily the setting that guarantees the lowest input lag of the television; you will sometimes need to play with the other settings to get the optimal input lag time.
  • Inside game mode, it doesn't really matter what settings you turn on.

Other notes

  • The input lag varies slightly depending on the input resolution and frame rate.
  • The input lag also varies in time. On some TVs, it even varies +/- 5ms.

Conclusion

Input lag is the amount of time that elapses between performing an action with a source device and seeing the result onscreen. It’s important for gaming, and is particularly important for fast-paced, competitive games. Anything below 50 ms is unnoticeable by most people. We test to find the lowest amount of lag a TV can have, as well as how much lag is present when a TV has motion interpolation enabled, or when it has normal, non-gaming picture settings on.

To improve the amount of lag, the best thing to do is use ‘Game’ or ‘PC’ mode on your TV (depending on the brand). If you want to use other settings that aren’t available in game mode, you’ll unfortunately need to deal with a higher amount of lag.

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Questions & Answers

32 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
15
Is the input lag that you specify for each TV model a measure of the lag in "Game Mode" or at normal settings?
The input lag measured in our tests is the lowest we could get with the TV. We tested a few modes and different setting combinations. Most of the time, this corresponds to the Game Mode.
12
Why do old CRTs not have any input lag?
They do have input lag, but it is a lot less than today's televisions. They are analog televisions: the picture information is not a series of 1s and 0s, but is a continuous signal. They don't have a video processor at all; the only processing that they do are very basic, and analogic only. The signal can go straight from the input to the cathode tube without waiting to be digitized or processed. They are a lot quicker at displaying an image.
12
So all these TV's are horrible compared to 5ms tv/monitors I see all around the internet? Or is the 5ms a lie?
The 5 ms that you are referring to is not the input lag, it is the response time. The input lag (15-50 ms range) is the time between the input and the display. The response time (4ms-12ms range) is the time a pixel takes to switch to another color (usually measured from gray to gray). Check our response time measurements.
10
What is "CE Dimming"? Is it a Samsung-only issue? Is there a way to turn it off?
CE Dimming is the name of Samsung's technology that dims the whole backlight of the screen while displaying a darker scene. There is no way to turn it off directly - not even from the service menu.
7
I just got a Sharp 70 inch LC-70TQ15U. Played it today and it didn't have game mode on and it felt sluggish. Wondering if you tested these, and if so, what they tested at. Also, would game mode improve the feel on this model?
Unfortunately, we did not test this TV, so we can't properly comment on its input lag. Game mode should reduce input lag, so try playing with that enabled and see if it improves.
5
I'm an arcade gamer and have a bunch of arcade systems at home that use VGA, so I'm looking at a VGA-to-HDMI converter. These converters have lag ratings; 43 ms, for example. Do these converters "replace" the lag in your tests, or is it "additional" lag? For example, if the TV is rated 30 ms and I use a converter rated at 43 ms, will the TOTAL lag be 73 ms?
It's additional lag, unfortunately, so both lag times would stack.
4
Could you do a video with 2 TVs side by side? One with bad input lag and the other with excellent input lag, and then load up a first person shooter then just look from left to right and make the video slow motion? That would be very informative for people to really see what input lag can do in a video game that needs quick reflexes.
We could, but I don't think it would be very useful. The difference between a high input lag TV and a low one is about 30 ms, which also correspond to 1 frame of a 30fps game. Filming it in slow motion will just show one TV delayed by 1 frame, but it won't give you an idea of the feel. Instead, we've considered adding a tool to our website that adds a variable delay to a moving object, so you could experience it. The problem with this, though, is your computer screen also has an input lag, which would skew the demonstration.
4
Is there a workaround for game mode? If I disable all bells and whistles but leave on Movie mode to avoid CE Dimming, will I achieve a work around?
You won't get low input lag just by disabling everything. CE Dimming can also be avoided by going into PC mode.
4
My RCA 65" LCD/LED screen is so bad. I can't figure out how to reduce lag.
Try to see if it has a game mode on it. If not, disable all features.
4
Would you still get the 65 inch JS8500 over the 7100 even though I like gaming? Seems like I get more bang for buck with the 8500. Price difference is 1699 for the 65 inch 7100 vs 2000 for the 65 inch 8500.
Basically, you get more features with the JS8500 like its wider color gamut and HDR support but those won't benefit gaming. If it is what you do the most and don't care too much about the added features, save the money and get the JU7100. You won't miss much as far as picture quality and you will get an even better input lag.
Update 9/14/2016: Now with the new HDR consoles, there is a benefit for gaming.
4
According to your Settings in the review for the LG EC9300, you ask us to change it to Game mode then copy your settings. Game mode doesn't have the same calibration settings as the Expert 1 picture mode you calibrated for. When you do calibrations for reviews, can you include the settings for Game mode and the usual Cinema/Expert/ISF modes as well? Also, can you provide the Game Mode calibration settings for the LG EC9300 if you have them available?
When we say to copy the settings, we just mean the ones that are available. We didn't express that as clearly as we would like, so we'll update the recommendation and try to be clearer on that point going forward.
And generally, apart from some of the settings being disabled, the settings within game mode aren't really different enough that it makes sense to give them their own section, so we likely won't be adding that. But thanks for the suggestion!
2
I have three questions. 1) Are you using the Leo Bodnar lag tester for your input lag tests? 2) Also, is it true that a plasma TV reports a higher input lag number because of its luminescence? 3) If so, should we expect a little better "feeling/experience" from a given plasma input lag number?
1) For 2014, yes, but for 2013 we used the two screens method. 2) Yes, it is true that the tool isn't accurate for plasma. The flickering of plasma TVs messes with the tool, because the tool is using a luminosity threshold to detect the lag, so it takes a little longer for the plasma to trigger it. 3) Indeed, maybe 10ms less.
2
I am planning on getting the BenQ XL2420G, it has G-Sync. Does it have less input lag than the BenQ XL2420Z? I am looking for the best gaming monitor as I am a competitive gamer.
Unfortunately, we do not test PC monitors yet.
2
I'm looking at a 55" TV for gaming. Low input lag is a focus for me. I also want to watch some movies and TV shows on it. Right now I'm looking at the LG LB6300, Sony W800B, and Samsung H6350. The Sony doesn't interest me, due to their mode that lowers motion blur. I don't want to have a dimmer TV with noticeable flicker. Which one do you feel would be best for gaming if you ignore Sony's Impulse mode? The other issue is that the LG 6300 is $899. I've also sometimes seen it at $799 on Amazon. The other two are around $1,100. Is it really worth the extra money for the Samsung or Sony? Right now the LG looks like the best choice. The only issue I see is the medium motion blur. I really appreciate your feedback, thanks!
Yes, the upgrade from the LG to Sony/Samsung is worth it. Far better contrast ratio and uniformity. If you don't plan on using Sony's Impulse mode, it is a tougher call compared to the Samsung H6350. Picture quality wise, they are very similar, so you won't be wrong either way. The difference in terms of input lag isn't very noticeable, so go for the Samsung H6350 (it has better extra features).
2
Do you know the input lag of the Sony kdl60w630b?
No, we didn't test that TV. Based on the similar Sony W* that we tested, it is probably below 30ms.
2
For input lag measurements for 4k TVs are you using an 4k signal? Would input lag be different using a 1080p signal? Thanks!
Unless specifically mentioned, it is via 1080p using our Leo Bodnar tool. On some TVs though, we tested it in 4k via a computer and using the less accurate 2 screens method, and the input lag was about 10ms higher.
2
I have older Samsung TV's, 5-+ years old. Occasionally, while watching a DVD, I have this "what was that" moment. I'd characterize it as my screen seems to "freeze" for a fraction of a second, then continue on. Most of the time, my family never even notice it. I don't know if this is input lag, 3:2 pull, refresh rate, or what, but it bugs me a lot! I want to buy a new TV, that doesn't do this. Which spec do I watch for?
On your current TV, do you have Auto Motion plus enabled? That would explain why you're seeing the skipping, and disabling that feature would likely solve the problem.
If this is indeed the case, to avoid any of this kind of skipping in the future, just disable the motion interpolation feature on whichever TV you get.
2
Will the same model but different size have different input lag? Example on display lag they have the samsung 65ks8500 at 19ms and 55ks8500 at 20ms. Also you guys have the 55ju7100 at 26ms but cnet has the 65" at 21ms and another site with it at 17ms and others 27ms.
Small differences in input lag measurements occur because of the uncertainty of the measurement and the way it is measured. There are three main factors which affect the input lag. Firstly, we measure the input lag using a box in the vertical center of the TV. LCD TVs scan refresh from top to bottom, and this means measurements taken at the top of the TV report a (slightly) lower input lag than the bottom. It also depends on the backlight level, at higher backlight levels the input lag is measured to be lower because a threshold of brightness is reached sooner. It also varies with time, multiple measurements can give different results, generally with up to 5ms difference. A different size of the same model may have a slightly different input lag, but it is generally quite similar due to the same processing. These differences are too small to be noticeable when using the TV. Even with a 120fps signal one frame difference is about 8.3ms.
1
Is there any chance you can test the input lag on the Samsung f8500 plasma with the HDMI input named Game (instead of PC) and the TV in game mode? I have this TV and with the HDMI input relabeled to PC, the picture quality suffers too much. I have heard that recently Samsung sent out a fix and the lowest input lag is with the HDMI named Game and Game Mode on.
Unfortunately, we do not have that TV with us anymore, so we cannot retest it.
1
Is G-Sync worth it? Or is it a marketing plan?
It depends on your setup. If your computer has no problem rendering a game (it generates each frame in time for the monitor), there is no visual difference. In the case of the complete opposite, where it is just too slow, it won't help, because there will still be shutters. It is really just worth it in between those scenarios, where the computer is fast enough for most frames, but some frames lag behind.
1
So you are able to test Input Lag, which is great. I have read that there is no standard for testing response times in the gray-to-gray format, which many manufacturers are stating. Is there a way to test response times to standardize this figure? Also, will you be testing any OLED TVs (I know there aren't many), but just wondering. I am hoping this technology finally takes off and becomes mainstream, and would like to start seeing testing on these. Thanks.
We do an indirect test for response time through our motion blur test. Our testing rig tracks a moving image the same way an eye would, and records the visible blur that occurs while the object is in motion. The length of the trail is correlated with the TV's response time. You can see an explanation of our process here.
And yes, we do plan to test an OLED TV sometime this year.
1
The laptop would be the one with the 40ms lag in the provided graphic. The TV is 40ms ahead.
You are correct. Thank you for pointing that out. We will correct the picture.
1
Can you guys review the Vizio D series input lag before Black Friday by any chance? They have great prices and I was wondering if not a full review just input lag can be measured. Thank you.
Unfortunately, we won't have time to test that one before Black Friday. All the Vizio TVs we tested this year had a low input lag, so the D is very likely to have a good input lag too.
1
Does an audio receiver impact the input lag time on a TV? Does it matter if it has up conversion vs. pass-through?
It could potentially affect the input lag (in both cases, upconversion or pass-through), but it depends on the receiver. The safest way is to plug the console directly to the TV, then send back the audio from the TV to the receiver (either via HDMI ARC or optical).
1
I'm not seeing any BenQ or ASUS monitor/TV products tested. Typically these "Gaming" monitors have super low input lag ratings, but I'm curious if they are actually as low as advertised? Any chance you could test a few of these? Specific models I would be interested in: BenQ XL2720Z and ASUS MX279H.
Unfortunately, we currently only test TVs, and don't have plans to expand to monitors for the time being.
1
I recently purchased a Sony x810c 55" TV, and an NVidia GeForce 980 graphics card. The graphics card has both displayport and HDMI outputs. My TV does not have displayport, only HDMI. When hooking the PC to the TV for gaming, should I use a displayport to HDMI cable, or standard HDMI to HDMI? Will it make any difference in the picture and performance either way? Thanks!
It won't make a difference in the picture quality but you won't be able to do 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 with display port. The best solution is just to use a regular high speed HDMI cable.
1
What about a 65 inch Toshiba, whats the lag like on it? My picture seams great.
Out of Toshiba TVs, we have only reviewed the L1400U and L3400U. You can compare the input lag of two screens yourself by opening this timer on a PC connected to your Toshiba and another screen. Take a photo of both screens and the difference between the times in the image will tell you the relative input lag between them.
0
I am looking for a TV to replace my CRT TV, both for retro gaming and competitive gaming. While I know any TV will have higher input lag than a CRT, but what would you recommend for a 32", 40", or 50" TV that will mostly be used for gaming? I haven't jumped onto a W800B just due to its ~$800 pricetag. Also, Component/Composite hookups aren't necessary, as I can use HDMI passthrough for that. Thanks!
The Vizio E-series is a great gaming TV, and costs much less than the W800B. It has low input lag and minimal motion blur, as well as good contrast. The upscaling isn't great, but you should still be able to play retro games comfortably. You can find the E-series at any of those sizes.
0
Hi, I own the J4000 Samsung. You tested the input lag in game mode to only be 1ms less than outside game mode. I was just wondering if there are any benefits to playing with game mode on? Is 1 ms less input lag worth the decrease in picture quality I have read about in game mode for this TV? Thanks
No it is not really worth it.
0
Will you be testing the Samsung JS9500 at 4K 60hz, and 4K 60hz + HDR? I'm curious to see how the input lag is with these settings enabled.
We don't have 2015 models anymore so won't be testing this.
0
Hello, it looks like you removed the input lag test of the Samsung JS9500 from this list. Will this be coming back? I was looking at it this morning and now it is not listed. The input lag on this set in 4k and 4k+HDR are of interest to me as I have an opportunity to purchase this set. Thanks!
We did not remove the input lag test results for this TV. It is just that we just added the 4k and 4k+HDR input lag tests to the list of measurements that we now take and unfortunately, since we don't have this TV in our lab anymore, we could not take those measurements, so we had to let the space blank.
0
Hi, These exhaustive input lag measurements are really helping me decide which TV to buy! The one I'm really curious about, however, doesn't seem to be covered. For the TVs that support a 1080 @ 120hz signal, how is input lag affected relative to a 60hz signal? Thanks for the amazing work!
Our tools does not permit us to test it for the moment, but you should expect the input lag to be in the same ballpark as for 60Hz.
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