How to Fix Samsung LED TV Screen Lag

by John Lister

Screen lag, sometimes also called input lag or display lag, refers to a delay between the time a video input (such as a cable box, DVD player or games console) issues an instruction to a television to display a particular image and that image appearing on screen. It is primarily caused by the need for modern screens, which have a fixed number of pixels, to adjust the incoming signal to fit the "grid" of pixels. Other key causes include the TV having to create artificial images if the input signal doesn't match the TV's display rate (the number of times the image is redrawn per second), and the TV adjusting the picture to improve the color balance or contrast.

Effects of Screen Lag

For the most part, screen lag is not a problem when watching TV or movies: although there's a delay in processing, the viewer won't notice any delay in the signal unless it is inconsistent. Occasionally, you may notice that the TV is out of sync with the audio on an external surround sound system; often, the surround system will delay playback to eliminate this disparity. Screen lag is most likely to be a problem in video gaming, where the process of the player seeing something happen on screen, responding to this by pressing a button, then seeing the effects of pressing that button delayed, making the game feel less responsive.

Pixel Response Time

Screen lag may be confused with pixel response time. The latter is the actual time it takes for a pixel to change color, which in an LED or LCD screen involves the physical process of crystals twisting to either block or let through light. Pixel response time can be a problem if it is slower than the interval at which the screen refreshes, meaning that, at any instant, some pixels will be showing the display of one frame and others the display of a previous frame. However, this causes a different effect, namely an apparent blur in the moving image. In theory, a slow pixel response time could contribute to overall screen lag, but it will only account for a very small part of the problem.

Samsung Lag

The DisplayLag.com website tests hundreds of televisions for screen lag. As of November 2013, its database shows that Samsung's LED TV range is roughly evenly split between models rated as "great" (with a screen lag between 22 milliseconds and 40 milliseconds) and merely "OK" (with a screen lag of 42 milliseconds to 59 milliseconds). If you are considering a Samsung LED screen and plan to play a lot of games, the wide range of lag times in Samsung models means you should research and choose your TV carefully.

Fixing Screen Lag

Your screen will always have some form of lag as it processes the input signal, but reducing the amount of processing required may reduce the lag to the point that it is not a noticeable problem. With a Samsung TV, the easiest fix is to use the on-screen menu to select "Game Mode," which is usually found within the General section. This automatically adjusts the settings to minimize the processing while keeping the image quality as good as possible, though you may still notice a slight deterioration. For best results, connect your games console to the TV first, then switch on game mode. Make sure to switch game mode off when you finish playing, as leaving it on may mean you either can't watch video from other sources or will experience poor picture quality. If you are not happy with game mode, you can try using the settings menu to turn off any additional or unnecessary picture processing features. You'll need to use trial and error to find the best balance between screen lag and picture quality.

About the Author

A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images