Wired vs Wireless: How To Keep Input Lag Under Control

By Matthew Braga

Input lag on a wireless device can suck. But for those of you who favor your wire-free lifestyle, here's a few tips for keeping your devices lag free.

Nothing is more frustrating than playing a game of Rock Band, only to find that something is slightly...*off*. Sure, your friend can't sing on key and the bass buttons sticks, but the real problem, it seems, is your drums — terribly off-beat, and out of sync with the rest of the band.

explained in the past, manufacturers use various wireless technologies to send your strongly-worded forum posts on-screen. Older, 27MHz wireless is often found in low-end products, and is prone to interference and range issues. Both 2.4GHz and Bluetooth technologies, meanwhile, are much improved, but still susceptible to problems of their own.

Nevertheless, if you suspect you're a victim on input lag, there's a few things you can do to diagnose and solve your mouse and keyboard woes. PC World points out a web-based reaction test that can actually be used to measure response times between wired and wireless mice. After establishing an average with your wired mouse, determine by how much the two models differ. If your results are off by more than a few milliseconds, wireless lag may be the cause.

Short of switching to a wired keyboard or mouse, there are a few tricks for reducing serious input lag. If you're using an older, 27MHz wireless device, try to keep the distance to the transmitter as little as possible. Operating on the boundaries of that 6-foot range may only pickup a weaker  signal, and be more susceptible to objects that are physically blocking the transmitter's signal. For 2.4GHz or Bluetooth models, ensure that no other devices are operating on the same channel or band, which could also introduce input lag or other unpredictable behaviour. And as always, keep those batteries fresh.

StickyKeys: turn it off. 
Mouse acceleration, pointer trails, FilterKeys and even StickyKeys can cause slight delays on some systems, as well as other custom hotkey software, so its worth disabling these if all else fails. And of course, if you're using any custom or proprietary drivers, its worth keeping those updated too.

Remember, nothing beats a wired keyboard or mouse in terms of latency. Almost all wireless models exhibit some form of input lag, but it's often so small that you'd hardly ever notice. Yet, if input lag ever does rear its ugly head, at least you have options for keeping the problem in check.  
Lead image via Flickr user stopthegears.