One of the most annoying things that can happen while playing video games is that the game doesn´t respond to your commands. The action getting delayed by a second or two after you press a button.
Input lag, as it is called, is somewhat common, but there are ways to fight it. To make sure it doesn´t get too annoying. In this article, we´ll tell you what it is and how to reduce it.
What is input lag in a controller?
Input lag is the delay between pressing a button and the game acting on said command. To use a simple example, if you have to press X to jump, and your character jumps one second later, the one-second delay is input lag.
Now, to have a one-on-one experience is practically impossible. All the controllers for all the consoles and games have some degree of input lag or latency. It´s usually almost imperceptible, a delay down to milliseconds that doesn´t affect the gameplay.
Input lag tends to be the result of something interfering with the data sent by the controller. Wireless interference and defective hardware are the usual culprits.
The problem is that sometimes the latency is too high, the delay becomes very noticeable and annoying. The good news is that you can usually improve the lag.
How do I know that my controller has input lag?
It´s important not to confuse input lag with plain old internet lag. If you play on wi-fi (instead of using a LAN cable), the problem might be your connection to the internet rather than the controller´s signal.
Online games are pretty demanding nowadays. If your connection is slower than 5 Mbps, you can expect some sort of lag. Even if you have speedy internet, there might be other factors running your connection.
If you are trying to play with people on another continent, or you have a lot of people sharing one wi-fi network, then your game might appear delayed when playing on the internet. The lag has nothing to do with your controller but your internet connection.
The surefire to know which type of lag you have is to play offline. Does the game still have a bit of a delay? Then it is not the internet, but your controller. However, there might be two additional causes for this lag to keep in mind.
It might the monitor. Just like information can be lost between your controller and the game, the same can happen between the console or PC and the monitor. The latency usually depends on the monitor itself, so you´ll have to search online for its model to see if it´s malfunctioning or just slow.
The second type of lag that you might be experiencing is not exactly lag. Some games are hard to run on the hardware, especially on a mid-end computer or a port for the Nintendo Switch. If your processor is struggling to run the game, then you might also get delayed inputs.
To know where the problem lies, try different combinations. Play the game on a different monitor, or try your controller on another console. Even your phone can work if you don´t have any other alternative. If you are playing on a PC, make sure to close all background apps before running to the game to reduce the strain on your computer.
If the problem persists, then your gamepad is likely the reason you have input lag. While cheaper controllers are more prone to having it, there are no exceptions. Ps4 controller, PC controller, even a Pro Controller can have input lag. What can you do to improve it?
How can you improve your controller Input Lag?
The main reason why your controller might experience input lag is wireless interference. Pretty much every modern digital device emits some electromagnetic signal. From your cellphone´s signal and Bluetooth, your router´s wi-fi, even your microwave with its characteristic radiation.
All this wireless clutter adds up. Your gamepad´s signal can get lost in the noise. All the wireless clutter increases the latency in the game and creates input lag.
So, how can you fix this type of problem?
The easiest solution is to avoid playing wirelessly. Connect your gamepad directly using a cable.
If you are playing on the Playstation, your DualSense or Dualshock should have come with a cable. For an Xbox controller or any other PC controller, a USB cable usually works fine. Be mindful of the kind of USB port your gamepad uses; a USB-A cable will not fit a USB-C port.
While using a cable, there´s little room for your input data to "get lost". It´s like it´s on an express highway to your game. This is one of the most surefire ways to reduce input lag.
But what if you don´t own a USB cable (even though they are pretty cheap and easy to find) or prefer to play wirelessly, there might be other ways to reduce input lag.
The first is to do a little redecorating. Try to move (or at least turn off) the following items away from you and your console/PC while you play:
Wireless devices such as headsets, mice, speakers.
USB 3.0 devices such as hard drives, thumb drives, LAN adapters, etc.
The placement of your console/PC matters too. We talked about this for the Nintendo Switch, but it bears repeating here. To reduce levels of wireless interference, your gaming device should not be:
Behind a TV
Near an aquarium
Placed in or under a metal object
Pressed against a large number of wires and cords
Within three to four feet of another wireless device, such as a wireless speaker or a wireless access point.
A final point of consideration is that if you are playing on a PC. You should keep your controller´s drivers up to date, as that can also be the reason for input lag. A last-ditch effort to fight input lag might be to overclock your controller, as it increases the response rate.
Finally, if you moved your console, updated your controller, and even plugged it in, but the lag persists (and you are sure that it´s input lag and not the monitor or internet) it might be because your controller is old and/or faulty.
Time takes its toll on everything, so it´s only natural that older controllers tend to function a bit slower than the newest versions. In the case of a busted controller, there is little you can do but to try and get yourself a new one.
In general, however, if your laptop already has performance issues, then it´s likely to also affect any controllers you connect to it. Check out our tips to increase your laptop´s performance to try and have a smoother gaming experience.