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Monitor Response Time Vs. Input Lag Vs. Refresh Rate

Brandon has been writing online and creating YouTube videos for the past 6 years. He specializes in computer hardware and PC gaming.

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Three key terms with three completely different meanings. Monitor response time, input lag, and refresh rate all impact your gaming experience, but what exactly is the difference between them? We'll talk about their meanings as well as their importance in finding a good gaming monitor.

Response Time

What Is Response Time?

Response time is defined as the time it takes for a pixel to go from black to white and back again. Most manufacturers display the gray to gray or GTG response time in order to post faster times. Response time is typically represented in milliseconds or ms. Longer response times can negatively impact gaming or a movie watching experience by leaving trails behind fast moving object. This is sometimes referred to as ghosting. This is not only confusing, it can also be distracting when playing twitch-sensitive games.

Response Time Vs. Input Lag

What's the Difference Between Input Lag and Response Time?

Input Lag

Input lag is the difference in time from when you input a command on a keyboard or mouse or other peripheral and when it shows up on your display. This can greatly impact performance in FPS, RTS, and fighting-style games. Check out our review on input lag and how to reduce it for more information.

Response Time

Response time differs in that it is the time it takes for a pixel to change from white to black and back again. A poor response time results in ghosting and not the lag from inputting a command. Typically a good response time would be anything under 5MS.

That being said this number is a bit complicated as manufacturers define their response time a bit differently.

TN or twisted nematic panels typically have a lower response time. That being said many IPS panels, especially those used with marketed gaming monitors, have a low enough response time to avoid any type of ghosting.

This comparison is fairly generic. Not all gaming monitors have low input lag and some TVs when put in game mode can also be quite good. Still, it gets the point across which is that a high input lag can easily make you miss a shot.

This comparison is fairly generic. Not all gaming monitors have low input lag and some TVs when put in game mode can also be quite good. Still, it gets the point across which is that a high input lag can easily make you miss a shot.

What Is Refresh Rate?

Refresh rate is measured in Hertz or Hz and is a measurement of how many times per second your monitor can display an image. This is driven by your CPU and graphics card which deliver these frames. Frames per second is the number of frames that can be delivered by the processor and GPU. So, to take full advantage of that 240Hz monitor, you’ll need to have an in-game FPS of 240. For more detailed information, take a look at our post on what is refresh rate.

What’s a Good Response Time for Gaming?

This really depends on the monitor and the person. While 1–2ms response times are common among twisted nematic or TN panels, IPS panels typically have higher response times. Still, some gaming IPS monitors have response times under 5ms which we feel is more than adequate for most gamers.

Yet, there’s still one more thing to take into account. Many manufacturers list their own response times rather than use some type of unified scientific measurement. So, the best way to truly know whether or not a monitor has the response time you’re looking for is by checking an authority source. That being said, we have yet to come across a monitor with a 1ms or 2ms response time that has had an extensive issue with ghosting.

How Much Input Lag Is Okay For Gaming?

While there are a few steps you can take to reduce the input lag that your monitor has, it still has limitations.

So, it's important to pick the right monitor or TV from the start. There are many lists online for input lag. I've written about some as well. We'd recommend you start there.

Typically anything under one frame or 16ms is good for gaming. In general, input lag is greater on TVs where additional processing is done.

So, expectations for a good gaming TV may be a bit higher.

Some quick and easy ways to eliminate or reduce input lag include the following:

  • Change the Mode of the Display
  • Change Your Console Settings
  • Change Your Cord from HDMI to VGA
  • Use a Lower Resolution

If you've already purchased your TV or monitor, I recommend you give the above a try.

Summary

Overall, we feel that a response time of under 5ms is good for gaming. Most monitors, even IPS panels, that are listed as gaming monitors tend to be very good in this area. Checking customer reviews for any ghosting issues is a good way to determine that a manufacturer hasn’t posted an ideal case scenario number for its response time.