As all hardcore gamers know, reaction time – the ability to instantly spot your opponent and/or detect changes in your surroundings and react accordingly – is a matter of life and death. When it comes to hardware, it is this underlying idea that drives the purchasing decisions for much of the gaming community. Products that allow for quicker reaction time get the buy, while products that are slow or cause lag get left by the wayside. This rule also applies to the displays and projectors that they connect their consoles to, so as to ensure that they have the edge when push comes to shove.
As the use of high-performance gaming projectors grows, what should a gamer look for in a projector with regards to performance when contemplating a TV-free gaming setup? The following is quick primer on some of the terms and concepts you need to be aware of when looking at gaming projectors:
Latency time or input lag time refers to the time between when the audio/video signal from the input source (the gaming console) is received by the projector and when the projector actually projects the video that corresponds to that signal. Low latency or low input lag time is one of the key things to focus on in terms of determining whether a projector will boost or hamper your gaming abilities, as you want a projector that instantaneously projects the video that the console is transmitting to it to ensure that you’re able to make split second decisions.
NOTE: These two terms should not be confused with response time. Whereas response time refers to the duration of time between when a button is pushed on a controller and when the character performs the corresponding action and involves all the hardware involved in the gaming setup, while latency and input lag refers only to the part of the equation involving the input signal and projector.
Refresh rate or refresh frequency is the rate at which a projector projects the images or frames in a video broadcast. Refresh rate/frequency is measured in hertz (Hz) which indicates how many cycles or frames is shown per second, meaning that a projector with a refresh rate of 120Hz projects 120 frames every second. To think of it in another way, the refresh rate for a projector is essentially the same as the frame rate for a video camera, and Hz is the same as frames per second (FPS). When looking for a projector, a higher refresh rate means clearer videos with cleaner motion and less blur, as a projector with a higher refresh rate pumps out more images/frames per second.
Another key part in evaluating the performance of a projector is figuring out the length of time occupied by each frame projected by the projector. To do so simply invert the refresh rate for the projector (i.e. divide 1 by the refresh rate) and then convert that number into milliseconds; so, for a projector with a refresh rate of 120Hz each frame represents 8.3 milliseconds. This type of conversion helps tie together both concepts described above as it allows for a way to express the latency or input lag for a projector (as a factor of its refresh frequency) in units of time. As a result, most gaming projector brands use milliseconds in their specification tables to express their projector’s input lag or latency values, thus acknowledging that time is one of the most important factors in gaming.