Wireless Controller Latency: is It a Problem?

Back in 2001-2002, I remember posing the question at a LAN party of whether or not a wireless controller negatively impacts gaming. At the time, half of the room said it doesn’t, and the other half went on and on about half-second latency and how it would decimate an otherwise enjoyable gaming experience. That was then, and today it’s hard to find a wired game controller (or gaming mouse).

Latency, in this case, refers to the reaction time between your action on the wireless controller and your character’s response on the screen. If you’re playing a first person shooter (FPS), you are probably hyper aware of every little obstacle that gets in your way as you play. Be it something as big as someone standing in your way, or as small as chip grease on your thumb. One thing you probably won’t see everyday gamers gripe about is controller latency.

Wireless Controller Latency: is It a Problem?Latency on wireless controllers does exist. In most cases, this latency is between 4-8 milliseconds, which is much less than a frame of video. In reality, the perception of latency on these controllers versus a wired alternative likely comes more from a believed reality than actual reality. If you get it in your head that latency is causing you to lose kills, then you’re going to experience heavy latency no matter how fast the response time is. Still, for these cases, there are some sub-millisecond wireless controllers out there (at a hefty price).

If you really want to improve your overall game, you should choose a controller that fits in your hand in a way that is most comfortable to you. Controls should be positioned in a way that won’t force you to bend your fingers in odd positions, and you may want to consider a model with extra features such as a cooling fan for your palms. Whether or not a particular controller has force feedback is another thing to consider. These can be far more important things to consider than whether or not the latency caused by a wireless controller will actually change your overall gameplay.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.