Friday , December 4 2020

Lab – Xbox Series X: really reduces input lag


Among the many unusual promises made about the next generation of gaming consoles, Microsoft has placed great emphasis on system latency issues. Is the Xbox Series X really the champion in responsiveness?

“But I swear to you, I insist!” Will one of the most common reasons – as it is called in competitive gamer jargon – will soon be forgotten by the Xbox Series X? After all, this is what Microsoft promised, which, already last March, assure us that each step separating action on the controller from its effect on screen has “carefully tuned to ensure the most precise and responsive game controlsA few days ago, The Coalition, development studio Gear 5, add layers by ensuring that optimized X Series versions of games benefit from system latency that is reduced by more than one-third in single-player campaigns, and even more than 50% in multiplayer.

Behind this supposed exploit hides two technological innovations that Microsoft is bringing to the next generation consoles. Bottom line and summed up very quickly, optimized S / X Series games can now notify the controller of the exact moment when it should check its control status (button pressed or not, stick tilt …), to ensure that the status used for the next image calculation has been recorded at the last possible moment; a technology designated by the manufacturer with a cute name, namely Dynamic Input Latency. What’s more, the controls emanating from the gamepad can be transferred to the game logic engine in a way that is completely separate from the game. pipe rendering; in other words, make sure these control lines are in the console in all situations as quickly as possible. Are the results as promised? We set out to verify it.

Generation division

Therefore, to take our measurements we use games Gear 5 running on Xbox Series X (optimized version) and Xbox One X, both consoles are connected to the same LG CX television. Using a 1000 frames per second camera that records the controller and the screen simultaneously, we recorded the time lag between pressing a button on the controller and the impact of this action on the screen. ; Therefore, it is the total latency of the channels, including the television set, that we measure. To ensure the most accurate measurement possible and absolute parity between consoles, we set the video output to 120Hz in both cases – to minimize the effect of TV display delay, which occurs. then rises to about 7 ms in Game mode -, in the definition of 1440p (because the One X is not compatible with HDMI 2.1, and therefore cannot output Ultra HD signals at 120 Hz). In each tested situation, we took at least 5 measurements, to be able to take the average and get an idea of ​​the variance of the results.

The first games were played in the most standard configuration: in the red corner, Xbox One X with its classic controller; in the blue corner, the Xbox Series X with the new controllers – which will also be the Xbox Series S, let’s be clear. On the game’s single-player campaign, the older generation consoles gave us an average latency of 123ms, while the newborn content with 84ms, a reduction of exactly one-third, was as promised. developer. As for multiplayer, it saw the 93 ms from One X change to 57 ms in the X Series. The promised 50% drop wasn’t fully achieved this time around, but either way, the difference at hand is very clear. Even without being a professional competitive player – far from it! -, you immediately feel more precise in the X Series, especially in aiming.

Gears 5. © Xbox Game Studios

Gear 5. © Xbox Game Studios

And that’s not all since multiplayer Gear 5 The new generation maintains another ace, in the form of the above mentioned 120 fps – 57 ms mode has been captured in 60 fps mode. With this very high frame rate, games can still move in a few milliseconds, averaging up to 41 milliseconds. At this point, the system latency becomes invisible, except perhaps for very high level gamers. For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that this score is not exclusive to Gear 5 : Certain Dirt 5, the only other game to offer a 120 fps functional mode at the time of writing, there is also a total system latency built with lots of consistency between 38 and 46 ms.

Xbox One X: moyenne (min – max) Xbox Series X: moyenne (min – max)
Gear 5, solo 123 ms (136-111) 84 ms (74-92)
Gear 5, multiplayer (60 fps) 93 ms (84-100) 57 ms (56-59)
Gear 5, multiplayer (120 fps) / 41 ms (40 – 42)
Dirt 5 (120 me / sec) / 43 ms (38-46)

Blame it on the controller

As mentioned above, according to Microsoft, this increase is due to what is happening under the console itself such as to the management of the connection between the console and the controller. Therefore, the latter has a role to play in this case; This is why the manufacturer has also changed the inside of the S / X Series controllers, which can now continuously read the status of each stick and button – and that’s how any sync signal received from the console part responds immediately. All of this, however, leaves us with one unanswered question: What happened to the user of the Xbox One controller? The backward compatibility of One’s accessories is indeed one of the big promises made by Xbox for this generation of consoles. Is it at the expense of some of the experiences of the next generation?

The answer is not just yes or no. Come on back on Gear 5 : In the single player campaign, playing with a single controller in the X Series resulted in an experience that was completely identical to that of the S / X Series controllers. But things change when you switch to the more responsive multiplayer mode. In 60 fps mode, on most measurements the One controller was capable of producing latency in the range of 55 and 63 msec, like the S / X Series controllers. But on several occasions, we were able to find peaks over 80 ms, and one case at 91 ms. In 120 fps mode, the gap gets wider: controller One causes a minimum latency of 46 ms (not 38 ms for S / X Series controllers), and peaks at 80 ms. This loss of stability to the experience is ultimately a very logical consequence of the lack of synchronization between the game and the controllers; and again, it’s a very sensitive controller on hand.

One controller on Xbox Series X: average (min – max) S / X Series controllers on Xbox Series X: average (min – max)
Gear 5, solo 85 ms (76-92) 84 ms (74-92)
Gear 5, multiplayer (60 fps) 70 ms (59-91) 57 ms (56-59)
Gear 5, multiplayer (120 fps) 58 ms (46-80) 41 ms (40 – 42)

If you’re wondering, on the other hand, we also checked what happens when connecting an S / X Series controller to our Xbox One X – and not surprisingly, since the Dynamic Latency Input feature isn’t implemented on the One X, there’s absolutely no advantage. important to note.

Cables to save?

All measurements carried out so far have used a wireless connection between the console and the controller, using Microsoft’s proprietary radio protocol. But all serious gamers will tell you: if you really want to minimize latency between the controller and the screen, wireless should be avoided, for the sake of a good old wired connection … but is that really the case? ?

The fact is that it is known that on the Xbox One, using a USB connection does not yield any gain in reactivity at all – which is again confirmed by the new measurements we took during these tests. Does history repeat itself in Series X? It turns out that it is … at least as long as you are using an S / X Series controller. The One controller, on the other hand, makes use of its threads to eliminate the latency instability noted above, and thus offers performance on par with next generation controllers.

One controller on Xbox Series X, wireless: average (min – max) One controller on Xbox Series X, USB: average (min – max) S / X Series controllers on Xbox Series X: average (min – max)
Gear 5, multiplayer (120 fps) 58 ms (46-80) 41 ms (38-44) 41 ms (40 – 42)

This is certainly good news: for multi-local gaming, players who find themselves using the old One controller won’t be able to lose – only if they think about bringing a USB cable with them!

Real profits, but can remain scarce in the first months

Therefore, undeniably, the promise of greatly reduced latency on the X Series was kept. However, the effect will not be systematic: let’s emphasize that S / X Series games must be thoroughly optimized, and specifically support the new technologies embedded in Microsoft’s next-generation consoles. In fact, if you wish to replay Red Dead Redemption 2 or Shadow of the Tomb Raider in backwards compatibility without the weight of the colossal latency (over 200ms) these two games experience on the Xbox One, your hopes will be dashed. As for games optimized for the new generation, it is impossible to know at the moment what proportion will benefit from the same treatment Gear 5 and Dirt 5. One can only hope that it will be high.

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