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Use your Wii U Gamepad to Test Your TV's Input Lag
by 
Editor
May 26, 2013, 04:46:01
 
Caution!! If you do not care about input lag and want to remain blissfully ignorant, please do not perform this test. This is simply for the very picku of us out there who want to know the ins and outs of the tech behind our games. This can also be very helpful for anyone interested in testing a new (or old) television. While there are many resources online that can give you an idea of your TV's input lag, this is a quick and dirty way of verifying those results for yourself.

Intro

This probably isn't the most scientific test in the world, but I stumbled upon it after looking for a way to test my TV's input lag. I thought I'd spread the knowledge (assuming that this is indeed a semi-reliable way of testing input lag).

As a quick brief - our modern LCD and Plasma TVs do not work like the common tube TVs of old. When you hit a button on a gaming console on an old tube TV, the result was instantaneous. Mario would jump immediately, Mega Man would shoot exactly when you told him to, and Little Mac would uppercut just at the right moment.

On the TVs most of us use now (LCD and plasma flat screens), we have to deal with a new issue called input lag. Long story short, on these TVs, there is a small delay that occurs between you hitting a button and the result appearing on screen.

Tonight, I finally got to play a game on Wii U that I am incredibly familiar with - Super Mario Bros. 2. So far, the games I've played haven't seemed to require the most precise precision. Super Mario Bros. 2 is a game I've beaten to death, over and over again. I know how exactly how it should play, and something about it was just a little bit off. I decided to try the test at the link above to see how my TV fares.

Nintendo has said that the Wii U Gamepad indeed has a small delay - it's about 1/60th of a second, or .016 seconds - 16 milliseconds. Since our images display at 60 times every second, we would say that this is "one frame."

What the following (admittedly not scientific) test will let you do is judge how much faster (or slower) your TV is than the Gamepad.


What you'll need:
- A camera - I think a digital camera or phone could suffice, but you will want to make sure that the camera speed is fast enough to catch the numbers as they tick away on screen.

- Your TV (obviously) - If your TV has something called Game Mode, you will want use this mode. While this won't necessarily reduce your input lag ,this will turn off any sort of processing your TV is doing to make the image better. This includes things like Dynamic Contrast, Noise Reduction, and Motion Interpolation. If your TV does not have a Game Mode, just make sure that all of those fancy things are disabled.

- The Wii U Gamepad (I've found that the best way to do this is to put it on its stand, if you have it)

- An internet connection (the stopwatch you'll be using is found at a link below)

How to (roughly) test the input lag of your television:

1.) Load up your Wii U's internet browser, and click on the following link: http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/response_time.php

2.) Scroll down to the section that says "Input Lag Test". You will see a little box that says "Start Test."

3.) Set the Wii U Gamepad in front of the TV (or wherever you can place it so that you can photograph both the Gamepad and the TV at the same time).

4.) Have your camera ready. If you have a "manual" mode on your camera, it might be a good idea to make sure your shutter speed is at 1/320 of a second or faster. It may help to have your camera on a continuous shooting mode so that you can take many photos in succession.

5.) Tap the "Start Test" button in the input lag section.

6.) Take a bunch of photos that have both the TV and Gamepad screen in the frame. Not all of them will come out clearly (since the screens will only update once every 60th of a second), so you will want to take a lot to ensure that you don't simply take photos of the numbers as they tick away (they'll be blurry).

Your Results:

After you've done this, look at your photos and compare the number on the Gamepad to the number on the TV.

If you find that the numbers on your TV screen are HIGHER than the Gamepad, then your TV has less input lag than the Gamepad (because the timer is displaying on the TV FIRST).

If you find that the numbers on your TV screen are LOWER than the Gamepad, then your TV has more input lag than the Gamepad (because the timer is displaying on the GAMEPAD first).


For example, in one photo, the TV may display 5.438s, while the Gamepad displays 5.477s. This is a difference of .039s, or more clearly, 39ms. This is around 2.5 frames of lag. If we then take into account that the Gamepad itself has about a frame of lag, then I can tack 16ms onto my number to have a guestimate as to the TV's input lag - in this case, it is 55ms.

Soooo if anyone is ever inclined to try this out for themselves, it's a neat way of testing your TV's input lag. For many of you out there, this is probably the easiest way to test input lag, since the only other reliable way would be to use a CRT monitor as a secondary monitor for a PC. If the Gamepad is indeed somewhere in the realm of 1-2 frames per second, this test at least allows us a rough reference point in which to measure our TVs' input lag.

I'm interested to hear any results you guys may have! This could also be a great way for all of us to put our heads together when shopping for a TV with low input lag.

For information on particular TVs, check out the website www.displaylag.com. While not all TVs are accounted for, it gives you a rough idea of what to expect for certain TVs.

In the end, this may not matter too much to you. I know that really hardcore fighting game fans LIVE by this stuff, because they need to be as precise as humanly possible. In most cases, most of us probably wouldn't notice a delay of 1-2 frames (or 16-32ms), but it may be a good idea to be aware of this stuff when TV shopping.

(As an aside - if you're shopping for TVs, please do not confuse the term "Response Time" with input lag. Response time is simply a term used for LCD TVs that gives you an idea of how quickly it takes a pixel to change from one color to another. It is not necessarily indicative of a TV's input lag. Most TVs will be around 5-8ms in response time, which will kind of be a negligible factor in judging response time).



Edit regarding the Wii U VC: Regarding my experience with Super Mario Bros. 2 - apparently I'm reading that all VC games have a little bit of lag. Add in the extra frame of lag from the Gamepad, and this may explain why some of your Virtual Console experiences have been a little "off."

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Posted: 05/26/13, 04:46:01  - Edited by 
 on: 05/26/13, 05:21:30    
 
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
 
Cool info.

I wonder if modern game designers account for lag in their design.


Posted by 
 on: 05/26/13, 16:03:58
I think a lot of them do, but then again, we still have plenty of games that require split second reflexes.

I think Rock Band 2 has a calibrator that will let you roughly estimate your TV's lag so that it will delay the music a tad.


Posted by 
 on: 05/26/13, 16:45:15
I'm one of the lucky people whose television's "Game Mode" works very, very well. PHEW!

When my TV isn't set to Game Mode, I get a pretty substantial lag.


Posted by 
 on: 05/26/13, 17:34:51
I think this is a case of ignorance being bliss for me.


Posted by 
 on: 05/26/13, 17:38:54
Too much to read. ;)


Posted by 
 on: 05/26/13, 18:12:15
I know I said this before....this is kind of on topic I guess, but can anyone let me know if they've thought that Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario World, or Kirby's Adventure feel a little off? As in, there feels like there's more lag than even their Wii VC counterparts? I tried testing SMB2 over Component Cables, but even on the TV, things do not feel very responsive at all.


Posted by 
 on: 05/26/13, 20:59:17
@PogueSquadron

I don't think it's lag. I think it's the fact that the Wablet's buttons are different than the original NES and SNES controllers. They had 'soft' buttons, meaning a soft press would produce a small jump, hold it down, jump higher, etc. On the Wablet, there is no in between. The button is either pressed all the way down, or it isn't. Therefore, at least in my experience, it's really hard to do super accurate jumps. Maybe the WiiU Pro controller is different; who knows. That's just what my experience has been.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/13, 18:54:03
@TheOldManFromZelda

You make it sound as if they're analog buttons and that the games have been reprogrammed to take advantage of that. I played Kirby's Adventure and thought it was fine... though I never played it before so I can't really say if it feels off compared to any other version. Not once did I think that there was lag or that the GamePad's button was an issue.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/13, 19:24:37
@TheOldManFromZelda Hmm I don't know. I also tried playing with the Wiimote and it still felt weird. It just doesn't feel the same as playing a VC game through Wii mode.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/13, 19:25:05
Everyone should have a retro gaming room with a CRT television and the original systems. Then there'd be no problems!

It's unfortunate we have to deal with input lag nowadays. We get great graphics and picture, but not the best control.


Posted by 
 on: 05/27/13, 20:19:26
@ploot What I might do is take my Wii U and plug it into my CRT. I'm sure there's normal lag from the wireless controller, but I dunno, something still feels off. I can play Lost Levels on my Wii and it's really not that bad at all. Mario 2 on Wii U feels like molasses.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/13, 00:24:23
ploot said:
Everyone should have a retro gaming room with a CRT television and the original systems. Then there'd be no problems!

It's unfortunate we have to deal with input lag nowadays. We get great graphics and picture, but not the best control.

Pshyeah. Tell 'em about it.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/13, 00:32:10
I've never noticed lag in any game I've ever played (at home). The only time I have experienced lag is when playing SSBB online. Maybe I'm just lucky, or just blind to it. Or, just too slow and clunky in my gaming to notice? In either case, I will try out the test detailed in the OP and see. I also have the Wii SNES controller, and will try and spy a difference in playing with it compared to the Wii U GamePad.


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/13, 01:38:22
Actually, after some testing, I think my TV has way worse lag than I ever realized.

I did the same test listed above. My LCD is about 2 frames behind the Gamepad, while the CRT is about 1-2 frames ahead of the Gamepad. Super Mario Bros. 2 didn't feel nearly as bad. I mean, really, it basically felt like it always did.

When I move out, what I'm going to have to do is keep the Wii U hooked up to my TV via HDMI, and have the component running to a nearby CRT TV if I ever really want to play old school games as intended.

That is, if my future plasma doesn't do its job (and I think it'll be okay...looks like it'll be similar to the Gamepad at least)


Posted by 
 on: 05/28/13, 02:33:08  - Edited by 
 on: 05/28/13, 02:36:37
Hey, this is an awesome thread. I'll have to remember it for when I get a Wii U.

The first thing I did when I got my HDTV was hook up the Wii and try out Super Mario Bros. because I know the feel and timing so well. The lag was definitely impeding my performance and I would run off of platforms instead of jumping at the last moment. And I couldn't find a game mode at first. Couldn't see anything in the instruction manual. It was a total deal breaker. I was ready to send the TV back. Then I went online and found out that there WAS a game mode. Tried that out. Problem resolved. Thank goodness for game mode.


Posted by 
 on: 05/29/13, 19:03:02
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