Is My Keyboard Lagging? SOLUTION: Keyboard Latency Tests: Wired vs. Bluetooth vs. Wireless USB – The Best Wireless Keyboards Review
Answers to your questions about keyboard latency, lag, and a top list of the fastest, best wireless gaming keyboards to choose from.
- Are you wondering about latency (lag) on a wireless bluetooth keyboard? My own test results are listed, along with an easy to understand explanation.
- Do you want to know which type of keyboard connection is best for low latency gaming responsiveness? I compare Wired vs. Bluetooth vs. Wireless USB keyboards.
- Wondering: what is the difference between wireless bluetooth and wireless USB keyboards? Milliseconds of latency (ms) are listed for popular Logitech, Corsair and other keyboards.
- Answers are here–a great read to help understand what is the best choice for you, in your real world use.
Do Bluetooth Keyboards add Latency (lag) for Gaming?
Yes, connecting over Bluetooth adds somewhere around 70ms, based on my research from mainstream sources, and verified in my own tests. This is not a complete deal-breaker, but is significant enough to affect performance in competitive multiplayer games and other fast reaction games like FPS, MOBA, and RTS games. Some Bluetooth 5.2 may reduce latency to around 40ms, but options for Bluetooth 5.2 are currently limited and that is still not an ideal latency.
Simple Explanation of Keyboard Latency, Lag, and Polling Rate – What Actually Matters?
If you want to avoid reading a bunch in this article, here’s what you actually want to know. Most modern wired keyboards have little to no noticeable latency difference (common range is 1-2ms, maxing out around 10ms.) Some keyboards with bad connections, cables, or shoddy hardware may range up to 50ms or even more if they are defective. For most mainstream options, this a very small amount of latency, however, there are some pitfalls with your system that could introduce latency and with a few compounding factors this could add up to 100-200ms of latency in extreme cases. For a more thorough dive into the topic, and an opposing view, keep reading!
Can I Use a Bluetooth Keyboard for Gaming? (FPS, MOBA, RTS, etc.)
Yes, you can use a bluetooth keyboard with “okay” results, but the added 70ms of latency is more than enough to affect performance in fast reaction games like MOBA, RTS, FPS games. If you’ve ever closely monitored your network latency (ping) in a game, you may have noticed that going from 50 to 150 ping can make you noticeably worse. You could say that using a Bluetooth keyboard will add an extra ~70ms to your ping, but since it’s local latency from your control input, issues will be way more noticeable. On the other hand, for casual or slower paced single player games, Bluetooth keyboards will be fine for most people and won’t ruin the experience.
The Best Wireless Low Latency Gaming Keyboards!
In the past few years wireless ultra low latency gaming keyboards (that don’t use Bluetooth) have become available. They utilize a small USB receiver that you plug in and sync with the keyboard. In past years, wireless peripherals did add some latency. It has slowly been getting better over time. Finally the mainstream brands like Logitech and Corsair now have ultra low latency options, with no measurable added latency compared to wired options. These are very popular and if you need wireless peripherals they are a great option. Some offer both Bluetooth and the Wireless-USB option in one keyboard – just be sure not to use the Bluetooth connection if you are concerned about keyboard latency.
How can I reduce my keyboard’s latency?
How to lower your keyboard’s latency, increase response time, make it faster for gaming, and avoid mistakes that can increase latency:
- Use a wired keyboard (or at worst, a low latency wireless USB receiver like Logitech low latency – Logitech G613 LIGHTSPEED
- Do NOT use bluetooth to connect the keyboard (adds ~70ms latency)
- Be sure to plug your USB keyboard directly into your motherboard’s USB port, not into a hub or front panel.
- Be sure to use a high quality USB cable for a strong signal (if your keyboard has a detachable cord)
- Don’t use an extra long USB cable, adapter, or USB extension
- If your keyboard has the option, use the fastest polling rate available (for example on Corsair K70 switch to “1” for 1ms on the slider on the back.) Some keyboards may have this option in their driver software, or may not have the option at all.
- Try a low profile / low travel keyboard. Reduced key travel can result in 2-5ms faster key presses. In the end it is up to your personal preference.
How can I test my keyboard’s latency?
This test is to quickly compare the difference between two or more devices that you have in front of you. To be clear, this test is not ideal to compare your results with other people to determine whose keyboard is faster. There are too many factors when tested by different people on different systems using this method. With this in mind, my results were consistent, and I’d estimate a margin of error of about 10-20ms after averaging many, many tests. My test method was using a browser based reaction time test and hitting a key on the keyboard. This is obviously not super accurate, but its good enough to check for problems and compare keyboards on the same system.
- Read the above paragraph about this test to understand the limitations and goals of this “quick and dirty” test.
- Use the following website to test keypress (keyboard) latency in response to a visual trigger. You can press a key instead of clicking as the test states:
- Be aware non-keyboard factors are adding a large base delay to what is shown in the test.
- The idea is that non-keyboard factors should be consistent enough with everything averaged and tests performed on the same system.
- 100-200ms of the time shown are not due to the keyboard. Remember the time includes your human response time etc.
- Test on the same system, same cable, ports, same person testing, etc – keep everything the same where possible.
- Run the test many times for each device in the same sitting, at minimum 5-10 full tests, then average the results.
- Compare the results between keyboards. Remember it’s not intended to compare your results with other people or on different systems.
My Results: USB Wired Corsair K70 vs. Bluetooth 5.1 Wireless Keychron K2
Using the above described “quick and dirty” testing method, results were as follows:
- Corsair K70 Keyboard (Wired, USB): average 230 ms (0.23s)
- Keychron K2 Keyboard (Wired, USB): average 240ms (0.24s)
- Keychron K2 Keyboard (Wireless, Bluetooth): average 310 ms (0.31s)
- IMPORTANT: These numbers do not represent actual latency of the keyboards, only total response time, on my system, when using these keyboards. Remember the human response time, display latency and other factors are included in this number.
- Conclusion: 70ms difference between bluetooth and wired (USB.) After repeated testing with consistent results what this test does tell is us that the Bluetooth 5.1 keyboard was slower, with roughly 70ms added latency. This matches what other sources state as well.
Another test you can easily run is scan rate. This could help you determine if there is added latency due to how long the keyboard takes to process a key press.
- You can use the following handy websites to estimate scan rate
- Scan rate test #1: https://blog.seethis.link/scan-rate-estimator/
- Scan rate test #2: https://joltfly.com/keyboard-scan-rate-test/
- Tap a key as quickly and lightly as possible. Do this many times to get a rough estimate of the scan rate.
- Average normal results seem to be in the 20-30ms range, with some users reporting as low as 15-20ms. (On rare occasion you will get outlier results as low as 1-4ms, but that does not seem repeatable reliably.)
- Note that scan rate is different from poll rate. Scan rate includes the keyboard’s “debouncing” time, which is a ~5ms delay used to ensure accurate key presses when the switch is triggered.
A Counter Argument: Keyboard Latency Actually Does Vary Wildly?
After plenty of research from a wide variety of sources and some admittedly hacky testing on my end, this article covered what seems to be the consensus, based on current available information. However admittedly I’m not an engineer, and I don’t have the specialty devices or technical knowledge that would needed to profesionally test the latency of multiple keyboards. Here’s the issue: basically nobody has actually tested latency of keyboards scientifically. Most of the information out there is based on how things “should” work, mainly USB polling rates. Sometimes things get confusing when people do or don’t include key travel time, and even your operating system can affect things. Worst of all are manufacturer claims, which all seem to be pretty much “sub 1ms latency” these days.
End-user testing of latency on keyboards beyond basic methods like I used above is not very common. In fact, after plenty of looking, I couldn’t find any real comprehensive gaming keyboard latency benchmarks at all, even from major benchmarkers like Linus Tech Tips, Tom’s Hardware, and similar larger companies. LTT Labs seems to be “working on it” with some legit tech in their labs as shown on their YouTube channel, but LTT’s last update seems to be October 2022, and the results are long overdue. ‘
The closest I could find was Dan Luu’s tests below, but these are notably missing most of the current best-selling or popular keyboards. Dan Luu seems to be well respected around the internet. He has a Patreon with a couple hundred paying subscribers and appears to be or have been an engineer at Nvidia.
Here are the results from his tests. It should be noted that these results are measured from the start of the key movement and also would include debouncing time, whereas most manufacturers with their 1ms latency are not including these real world factors at all. Key travel time can add ~10ms and can vary based on the type of keys. Debouncing probably adds about 5ms in most cases. As Dan Luu mentions, low profile and low travel keys like Apple’s magic keyboard have an obvious advantage in this type of test and that is apparent in the results.
What does this mean? Well, it is possible that there is more to the keyboard latency issue than the mainstream consensus currently believes. Hopefully Linus Tech Tips’ Labs or another benchmarking company will release their findings soon, with a detailed testing methodology and wide variety of keyboards tested.
If you know of more tests or have any corrections, please share in the comments below!
What does the 1, 2, 4, 8, BIOS switch on the back of my Corsair K70 RGB (or other) keyboard mean?
The 1, 2, 4, and 8 settings adjust the polling rate of the keyboard. They stand for 1ms, 2ms, 4ms, and 8ms. This is how fast the system and keyboard checks itself for updates. The fastest and best (in most cases) setting is the “1” setting. According to some tests (here) switching from “8” to “1” does reduce keyboard latency by 7ms as expected.
Why wouldn’t you use the fastest polling rate?
In some cases some computers may not be compatible with the fastest polling rates. On some systems there could be a loss of accuracy for example. Also, faster polling rates consume more CPU resources, though this is not an issue for most modern systems. If you find this is an issue, you can try turning down the setting from the default (best) “1” setting to 2 or 4. Also, when in a system BIOS you may need to switch to the BIOS setting for compatibility in some cases. For most modern systems, such as most that have USB 3 or newer built into the motherboard by default, just leave the keyboard polling rate set to 1 setting for best performance.
How can I get 8000hz polling rate on my Keyboard?
Some high end gaming keyboards are now touting an 8000hz polling rate. One example is the Corsair K70 RGB Pro. (Note the PRO.) Other popular Corsair K70 keyboards max out at 1000hz (1ms) polling rate while 8000hz would mean 0.125ms. This is almost a 1ms latency savings over previous fast gaming 1000hz polling rate keyboards. Keep in mind other real world factors are going to add at least 5ms of unavoidable keyboard latency. Long story short, you don’t absolutely have to have it, and you’ll be unlikely to notice the difference, but it is technically better. Higher polling rates can increase CPU usage, but that would not be an issue for high-end gaming PCs.
The Corsair K70 RGB PRO is one of the few keyboards out now that offers an 8000hz poll rate: