Understanding Capture Card Input Latency

Lag is something we discuss quite often in the world of retro gaming, but lag is a problem for gamers of all generations.  One interesting issue people sometimes run into, is lag added while streaming, due to capture card passthrough.  Most of the time, “gaming capture cards” have an HDMI passthrough that only add a *sub-1ms amount of latency and even ones that add more can usually be fixed by using an HDMI splitter.  Not sure which is which?  As usual, The Stream Professor has us covered.

A few things to note though:

  • Microseconds are NOT milliseconds.  EposVox is clear about this in the above video, but in case you were only half-listening, I wanted to reiterate the point (hence the * above):  In the context of gaming on flat-panels, less than one millisecond should be considered “zero lag”.  Only light guns and active shutter 3D glasses sync to sub-ms timings, but they only work on CRT’s anyway.
  • Playing games on your PC through a capture card is a completely different story and can add from two to ten frames of lag!  EposVox also tests this in other videos, but it’s generally not something I’d recommend for games designed in the zero-lag analog era:
  • Just because your capture card claims it’s for gaming and has an HDMI passthrough, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a zero-lag passthrough.  I’ve personally tested some knockoff “gaming capture devices” that add over a frame of lag (around 16.5ish ms) simply by using the passthrough!  Either test yourself with a Time Sleuth, or check EposVox’s channel for a review.

Speaking of the Time Sleuth, Epos uses both that device to test the HDMI signal’s lag, as well as NVIDIA’s LDAT test kit to verify the total lag when PC gaming.  I love that people are paying more attention to how lag can seriously affect your gaming experience and I’m grateful for channel’s like EpoxVox’ that spread that correct information about what to look out for!

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