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Input lag: are TVs the sole culprit?


toptenmaterial
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Impossible for us to say.

 

If you can, run a comparison. For example if you also own a NES, connect both your Wii and your NES via composite to your HDTV and see what happens, ideally with the same game. And make sure your emulator is set to output 240p and isn't outputting at 480i.

 

If your tv is primarily at fault, the results should be very similar. If the genuine article performs significantly better, then it's your emulator at fault.

Edited by Atariboy
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Are you using a Wii Remote and Classic Controller or other wireless combo? Any wireless controller solution is likely to introduce some amount of lag, I recently got a Playstation to Gamecube adapter for my hacked Wii and it made a big difference in lag to have everything wired up.

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I am using the Wiimote. I ought to get a GC controller. As for the earlier comment, that's sounds like the acid test of flat screens. Regretfully I don't own an NES. I think I'll try all available experiments.

The GCN controller is pretty bad for retro gaming, but will be an easy way to verify if it mitigates the lag you're experiencing. If so, you could get an adapter to use a controller of your choice instead. I was able to get almost perfect response on my CRT, and ~1-2ms lag on my VIZIO (almost certainly caused by the display) with the Mayflash PS1/PS2 to GCN adapter. The 240p Test Suite homebrew has a couple tools for measuring input lag if you don't have an NES handy.

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As the guys explained there's two types of lag. Input lag between the controller and the computer. And output lag between the computer and display. Output lag caused by digital TVs can be improved by turning off all extra processing and effects in the television. Even if you can turn all that stuff off some digital TVs are better than others when processing standard definition signals and some are horrible.

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So I hooked up my Wii to my nice little flatscreen today to play some NES Castlevania. This was on a homebrew emulator, not a virtual console game. The lag was unbearable. Is the TV the main culprit? Is it worth it for me to drop $10 or $20 on a tube set? Thanks.

 

Not sure if this has already been mentioned or if you already took note of it if it has but... try turning off ALL extra signal processing on the TV. Some TVs have a "gaming mode" which does the same thing, but a lot of times "gaming mode" simply changes things like brightness, contrast, etc., and does little or even nothing about signal processing.

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So I hooked up my Wii to my nice little flatscreen today to play some NES Castlevania. This was on a homebrew emulator, not a virtual console game. The lag was unbearable. Is the TV the main culprit? Is it worth it for me to drop $10 or $20 on a tube set? Thanks.

 

What cables were you using? If they are analog cables connected to an LCD, it's probably the TV. You're probably better off using the HDMI port, but I'm not sure if the Wii is capable.

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The GCN controller is pretty bad for retro gaming, but will be an easy way to verify if it mitigates the lag you're experiencing. If so, you could get an adapter to use a controller of your choice instead. I was able to get almost perfect response on my CRT, and ~1-2ms lag on my VIZIO (almost certainly caused by the display) with the Mayflash PS1/PS2 to GCN adapter. The 240p Test Suite homebrew has a couple tools for measuring input lag if you don't have an NES handy.

 

The manual input lag test really only shows that you can adapt your game play timing for the modern set. I can consistently get less than one frame of lag, and my setup is definitely in the 40ms range.

Edited by keepdreamin
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I just installed the homebrew channel this past weekend and I notice very very slight lag but nothing that affects game play. I was playing through SMB and it runs good. I was also pleasantly surprised at how well the wiimote works for paddle games. Very smooth and accurate. Finally a decent way to play paddle games via emulation on my tv.

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The manual input lag test really only shows that you can adapt your game play timing for the modern set. I can consistently get less than one frame of lag, and my setup is definitely in the 40ms range.

There are 2 lag tests in the 240p test suite for that reason; and even the manual test is better than nothing if one is just ball-parking it anyway.

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So I hooked up my Wii to my nice little flatscreen today to play some NES Castlevania. This was on a homebrew emulator, not a virtual console game. The lag was unbearable. Is the TV the main culprit? Is it worth it for me to drop $10 or $20 on a tube set? Thanks.

 

 

There are three reasons for lag, and it depends what you're talking about

 

1. Output lag, between the device and the TV. This includes cables, "active" cables (ones with chips in them, like some HDMI adapters), Upscalers/line-doublers, TV/Monitor based upscaling/de-interlacing.

2. Input lag, between the controller buttons and the device CPU. This includes, again, cables/adapters, wireless or wired, and even some interfaces like USB.

3. Communications lag, more typically used in the multiplayer context, but applies to digital communications latency and analog communications error correction.

 

There is only so much you can do about communications lag, and that pretty much means remove as many stages as possible. So a wired "dumb" controller like a NES/SNES/N64 pad is better than ALL USB controllers, which are in turn better than all Bluetooth controllers.(The Wii U's tablet actually uses WiFi.) On the output side, don't buy a SmartTV :) Don't run the HDMI through any device before it gets to the TV.

 

With Analog cables (Composite, S-Video, Component) you just get more signal attenuation with longer cables, so the images end up darker/noisier.

 

The more likely thing in an uncontrolled environment is that the analog input on the TV runs through an upscaler/deinterlacer, which adds 2 frames of latency (42ms) by design. If the TV has frame-rate doubling features (seen in many large TV's, "soap opera effect" motion smoothing) that adds an additional 2-3 frames of latency because it has to deinterlace (1 frame), upscale (1 frame), duplicate 2-3 times (3 frames), so two incoming frames at 60i are converted into 4 60p frames or 8 120p frames. Things start to get really silly in latency once you compare the output lag to the input lag of a wireless controller.

 

On the input side, each console is designed only for it's pack-in controllers. So if you use a Wiimote with a Wii, all Wii games are designed with that latency in mind, but you may have 2.4Ghz hardware nearby that adds noise (like a WiFi router) and thus makes the bluetooth circuitry have to correct more errors, adding more latency. The Wii is connected by WiFi to the internet, so if it has to use a stronger radio signal, it will drown out it's bluetooth controllers. The BT chip on the Wii is made by broadcom (BCM2045A) https://fccid.io/MCLJ27H002and only puts out 0.0025 watts. All Bluetooth radios are bridged over USB (see next statement.) The latency will increase exponentially the farther you are from the Wii.

 

Wired controllers typically will not have latency unless they are USB. USB latency polls at 125hz, which is more than enough, however not all USB drivers and chipsets are the same. However in the case of the Wii, the Gamecube ports are not on the USB bus as the Wii is an evolution of the Gamecube. AFAIK only gamecube games can use the gamecube ports BUT, some Wii games can use the gamecube ports if they were designed for it. http://gaming.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Wii_games_that_use_the_Nintendo_GameCube_controller, which I don't know if the homebrew channel supports that, but if it does, that's undoubtedly the lowest latency solution and the easiest to determine if it's wireless controllers or the TV. If the latency persists even with the wired controllers, then it is definitely the TV.

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Do you have any VC titles to compare? Or some other emulator/game? That would be a good way to check if the software or hardware is at fault.

 

If can it's also worth trying a component cable. Some TVs have really cheap video uspcalers for the RCA connector. Turning. on "game mode" in the TV menu (as others have said) should also help.

Edited by Newsdee
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So I hooked up my Wii to my nice little flatscreen today to play some NES Castlevania. This was on a homebrew emulator, not a virtual console game. The lag was unbearable. Is the TV the main culprit? Is it worth it for me to drop $10 or $20 on a tube set? Thanks.

 

I love tube sets, but if you're going to be playing the Wii on an HDTV, you really need a component video cable. I don't personally know how much that will reduce input lag, since our TV has very little anyway, but progressive mode looks pretty great.

 

There should be some TV settings (like "game mode") that you can adjust also, but not all TVs are created equal.

 

 

If you do end up getting a CRT, a lot of the Wii emulators run in 240p mode, if you're into scanlines at all. It almost looks like the real thing.

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There are three reasons for lag, and it depends what you're talking about

 

1. Output lag, between the device and the TV. This includes cables, "active" cables (ones with chips in them, like some HDMI adapters), Upscalers/line-doublers, TV/Monitor based upscaling/de-interlacing.

2. Input lag, between the controller buttons and the device CPU. This includes, again, cables/adapters, wireless or wired, and even some interfaces like USB.

3. Communications lag, more typically used in the multiplayer context, but applies to digital communications latency and analog communications error correction.

 

There is only so much you can do about communications lag, and that pretty much means remove as many stages as possible. So a wired "dumb" controller like a NES/SNES/N64 pad is better than ALL USB controllers, which are in turn better than all Bluetooth controllers.(The Wii U's tablet actually uses WiFi.) On the output side, don't buy a SmartTV :) Don't run the HDMI through any device before it gets to the TV.

 

With Analog cables (Composite, S-Video, Component) you just get more signal attenuation with longer cables, so the images end up darker/noisier.

 

The more likely thing in an uncontrolled environment is that the analog input on the TV runs through an upscaler/deinterlacer, which adds 2 frames of latency (42ms) by design. If the TV has frame-rate doubling features (seen in many large TV's, "soap opera effect" motion smoothing) that adds an additional 2-3 frames of latency because it has to deinterlace (1 frame), upscale (1 frame), duplicate 2-3 times (3 frames), so two incoming frames at 60i are converted into 4 60p frames or 8 120p frames. Things start to get really silly in latency once you compare the output lag to the input lag of a wireless controller.

 

On the input side, each console is designed only for it's pack-in controllers. So if you use a Wiimote with a Wii, all Wii games are designed with that latency in mind, but you may have 2.4Ghz hardware nearby that adds noise (like a WiFi router) and thus makes the bluetooth circuitry have to correct more errors, adding more latency. The Wii is connected by WiFi to the internet, so if it has to use a stronger radio signal, it will drown out it's bluetooth controllers. The BT chip on the Wii is made by broadcom (BCM2045A) https://fccid.io/MCLJ27H002and only puts out 0.0025 watts. All Bluetooth radios are bridged over USB (see next statement.) The latency will increase exponentially the farther you are from the Wii.

 

Wired controllers typically will not have latency unless they are USB. USB latency polls at 125hz, which is more than enough, however not all USB drivers and chipsets are the same. However in the case of the Wii, the Gamecube ports are not on the USB bus as the Wii is an evolution of the Gamecube. AFAIK only gamecube games can use the gamecube ports BUT, some Wii games can use the gamecube ports if they were designed for it. http://gaming.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Wii_games_that_use_the_Nintendo_GameCube_controller, which I don't know if the homebrew channel supports that, but if it does, that's undoubtedly the lowest latency solution and the easiest to determine if it's wireless controllers or the TV. If the latency persists even with the wired controllers, then it is definitely the TV.

Very well said! Homebrew Channel Emulators do support the GCN controllers. When paired with a CRT and a wired controller (I use a Playstation to GCN adapter on mine), the results are nearly perfect on the better emulators. It's really an impressive emulation machine when used on a tube, and it's still pretty decent in 480p on an LCD.

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I have to agree with the others the TV can make a huge difference. As for wireless controllers i have no idea as i always use wired so there is no restrictions on that side. However having said that i have noticed sometimes it depends on the emulator; i find for Nintendo emulation the Higan emulator by Byuu is by far the best if your system can run it to full potential. Like i said before though the TV can make a huge difference, once i upgraded to a LED Samsung with PC mode and gaming settings it runs with minimal input/output lag. I run all emulation on PC though as i find it to be most accurate:

 

Atari 2600 --> Stella of course

Atari 5200 --> havent found anything decent yet

Atari 7800 --> Mame

MSDOS --> DOSBOX

Nintendo --> Higan

Sega --> Fusion 3.64

Sony - Epsxe

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So I hooked up my Wii to my nice little flatscreen today to play some NES Castlevania. This was on a homebrew emulator, not a virtual console game. The lag was unbearable. Is the TV the main culprit? Is it worth it for me to drop $10 or $20 on a tube set? Thanks.

 

Have you tried looking up your TV model on say displaylag.com or rtings.com?

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Last year I did some tests playing Super Mario Bros. on (1) a NES emulator for Dreamcast, (2) a NES emulator for Mac, and (3) a real NES. I tried #1 on both a CRT and my new allegedly "low-lag" Vizio set via the VGA > HDMI adapter, and #2 on the Mac's native display + via the HDMI port on the TV.

 

Using Fire Mario, I timed the length of time it took from pressing the B button (forcefully, so it made an audlble "click") to hearing the fireball noise from the TV or laptop speaker. Assuming the game's audio is in sync with the video, that should give a reasonably accurate number. The results were:

 

Dreamcast-based NES emulator (NesterDC) on CRT - 145ms
Dreamcast-based NES emulator on LCD TV via VGA > HDMI adapter - apparently I didn't write it down, but it was bad
Emulator (Nestopia) on Mac - 95ms
Emulator on Mac, HDMI out to LCD TV, default mode? - 205ms
Emulator on Mac, HDMI out to LCD TV, game mode? - 230ms
Real thing, AV out to CRT: essentially zero lag -- 25-30ms at the most between button press and fireball sound
As soon I went back to the real NES with a CRT, the difference was like night and day -- Mario felt infinitely more responsive. I never thought emulators had that much lag, but even my Mac was clearly adding a significant delay. And clearly the claim at rtings.com about the Vizio being a low-lag TV were nonsense -- it's adding at least 100ms. (Why game mode gave me longer numbers than the default, I have no idea.)
If my beige G3 still worked, I'd be curious to see what numbers I'd get with iNES on a CRT monitor.
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Last year I did some tests playing Super Mario Bros. on (1) a NES emulator for Dreamcast, (2) a NES emulator for Mac, and (3) a real NES. I tried #1 on both a CRT and my new allegedly "low-lag" Vizio set via the VGA > HDMI adapter, and #2 on the Mac's native display + via the HDMI port on the TV.

 

Using Fire Mario, I timed the length of time it took from pressing the B button (forcefully, so it made an audlble "click") to hearing the fireball noise from the TV or laptop speaker. Assuming the game's audio is in sync with the video, that should give a reasonably accurate number. The results were:

 

Dreamcast-based NES emulator (NesterDC) on CRT - 145ms
Dreamcast-based NES emulator on LCD TV via VGA > HDMI adapter - apparently I didn't write it down, but it was bad
Emulator (Nestopia) on Mac - 95ms
Emulator on Mac, HDMI out to LCD TV, default mode? - 205ms
Emulator on Mac, HDMI out to LCD TV, game mode? - 230ms
Real thing, AV out to CRT: essentially zero lag -- 25-30ms at the most between button press and fireball sound
As soon I went back to the real NES with a CRT, the difference was like night and day -- Mario felt infinitely more responsive. I never thought emulators had that much lag, but even my Mac was clearly adding a significant delay. And clearly the claim at rtings.com about the Vizio being a low-lag TV were nonsense -- it's adding at least 100ms. (Why game mode gave me longer numbers than the default, I have no idea.)
If my beige G3 still worked, I'd be curious to see what numbers I'd get with iNES on a CRT monitor.

 

 

Maybe it was the VGA-HDMI adaptor and not the Vizio?

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HDMI is definitely alot slower then DVDI as i have tried both and is clearly noticeable but i use DVDI to eliminate that issue. Without a doubt you can't beat CRT and never will as it uses completely different technology; there will always be some input lag on modern screens. However having said that my LED TV is rated to have a 32ms input lag and when using DVDI the lag is hardly/if noticeable. Also i highly doubt using a decent emulator is any worse then real hardware on the same TV although personally i think emulators are more suited on modern screens to correct aspect ratios and filters.

 

I have no figures but fairly sure the lag i experience is no worse then a modern day console on the TV if not less as DVDI is faster the HDMI anyway. Therefore it's definitely playable just not as responsive as real hardware on a CRT. I also believe good emulators try to reduce input lag and use sync corrections as much as possible because most people run then on modern screens, although im not 100% sure if thats true. Maybe Stephana or one the Stella devs could give us a little more information on the subject

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