How to Reduce Lag on the PS4, Xbox One and Other Games Consoles


Latency or Lag - Round Time Trip (RTT)

Just a quick Google search will reveal that lag (also known as latency or ping) on the PS4 is still a big issue for many gamers. The PS4 is at an immediate disadvantage to the Xbox One as most games on this platform operate on a peer to peer networking basis for online multiplayer modes, meaning that the consoles are connecting to each other for online gaming rather than communicating through a dedicated server.

This means PS4 games are always more likely to lag straight away compared to Xbox One games, which usually send data to each other through dedicated servers. But what other factors determine latency for PS4 gamers, and are there any ways we can reduce lag for better online play?

In short, yes, there are multiple different things you can try out that have the potential to reduce lag on the PS4. Anything that increases the time between you pressing a button on your controller, this input being sent to and registering on a competitor’s screen, and their data being sent back to you is going to contribute towards lag so lets look at all the factors that could influence this one by one and see what we can address.

This may require some trial and error and some methods may not work for all people but if we look at all the different delays that could occur between a) the controller and the console; b) the console and the router and c) our router and the other persons’s router, then we have a decent shot at reducing lag on the PS4.

Here’s a quick summary of some tips to reduce lag on the PS4 and other consoles:

  • Use ethernet or powerline connections, not Wi-Fi.
  • Reset & update the router and console
  • Delete any files/games you don’t need to free up space.
  • Restore default settings or rebuild database in Safe Mode.
  • Use QoS settings to prioritize consoles on busy networks.
  • Plug controllers in to reduce input lag.
  • Use a Gaming Monitor to reduce input lag.
  • Use DMZ for an open connection to the internet
  • Use a Gaming Router for optimized settings.
  • Play against competitors geographically close to you.
  • Use high quality HDMI cables.

We’ll run through each of these points in more detail, starting off with input lag and moving on to network lag and console settings.

Latency – A Quick Definition and Online Tools to Test

In the context of PS4 online gaming, latency, the fancy word for lag or ping, is the time taken for a packet of data to be sent from console to another console and back again, usually measured in milliseconds. When measured correctly, latency needs to be a there-and-back or round time trip (RTT) measurement for a data packet and not one-way-only to be relevant to online gaming.

For example, if you run a speed test and get a ping of 100 milliseconds, then it has taken a data packet 100 milliseconds (one tenth of a second) to be transferred to a test server and back again.

This sounds fast but in reality even a 100 millisecond ping is edging towards the high side for past paced first person shooter games like Call of Duty and the lower the ping the better for any game where the relative position of players is important (first person shooters, racing games).

A ping below 20 milliseconds is considered excellent for online gaming; anything below 50 is good but anything above 250 milliseconds and you are very likely to have noticeable problems with lag in certain games. You can test this yourself using either the pingtest.net or the speedtest.net tools we link off to on our site. Let’s take a look at all the different factors we could find that influence latency or lag and how we can try and solve them

Geographical Distance Between Competitors is Crucial for PS4 Online Play

With the PS4 using peer to peer connection for most games online the first thing we should be aware of is how far we are geographically from our competitors online. Latency will always increase the further a data packet has to travel; fiber optic cables can transfer data very quickly but not instantaneously.

So if you run a ping test on one of the tools above from different servers in different parts of the world you will notice that the average ping always increases the further you are away from the server.

This is unavoidable and so to reduce lag on the PS4 the first thing we can do is make sure the gamers we are playing against online are reasonably close to us geographically. In random open game lobbies this can be difficult, although some games try to help you out with this by providing localized matchmaking so you are paired up with gamers with a lower ping closer to you.

Geographical location is directly related to latency or ping

Geographical distance and latency

Otherwise it is a case of organizing any social or league gaming clubs so that it has players in the same continent and preferably the same country that are playing against each other online. A gamer based in the UK playing a fast paced racing game or shooter online against someone in Australia is not going to work as you are probably looking at 300 to 400 milliseconds ping minimum even with a perfect internet connection because of the distance the data has to travel.

He has a much better chance of stable online play against other UK or EU gamers. So geographical distance is the first thing we can look at; let’s look at some other factors that affect latency.

Input Lag: Your Controller’s Connection to Your Console and Your Monitor

The first stage in gaming where there is the potential for delay is between the pressing a button and that input registering on the console. It is generally acknowledged that a wired connection is always preferable to a wireless one for connecting to a router, and it is no different for controllers either.

The bluetooth technology has improved with the current generation of consoles but in our opinion a wired connection is always going to be more solid than wireless one on average so it makes sense to have a wired connection to your controller if possible.

Some of the USB cables that come with console controllers are stingy in length, which can make this difficult, but longer cables of up to 4 meters are available cheaply on Amazon so you can have a wired controller connection even sat quite far away from the console. This can reduce input delay and stop wireless controllers losing connection with the console altogether, which does still happen occasionally on the PS4.

Another thing you can look at to reduce input lag is your monitor or TV. There are a couple of settings you can change easily that may reduce latency. Firstly , if you dig into your TV’s settings menu, many have a “Game” Mode you can switch it to, which straight away fine tunes your TV for minimum input lag.

Your picture quality may suffer a little but if online gaming is your main concern then its definitely worth adjusting to reduce lag. Some TVs also have a HDMI-CEC setting which can also reduce lag if you disable it. See this Reddit post for a user who adjusted these and a few other settings and managed to noticeably reduce his input lag. You can easily change these settings for free so its definitely worth a try to see if it helps.

For gamers who really take their online play seriously and perhaps play competitively in eSports, you may want to consider getting a specialized gaming monitor. They can be expensive but they are specifically optimized for online gaming, having super high resolution, high refresh rate and a very low response time of typically 1-5 milliseconds depending on the model.

Another thing to look at is how your PS4 or other console is connecting to the TV/monitor. Make sure you are using high quality HDMI cables with a fast transfer rate. The Zeskit 8K Ultra HDMI Cable from Amazon is extremely well reviewed, but there are plenty of others as well.

All of which should help to reduce input lag and response times for gamers in any kind of super competitive eSports environment.

Gaming Monitor

LAN Factors: Always Use Wired Connections to Your Console.

We have already covered this in detail in another article (see Is Latency or Download Speed More Important for Online Gaming?), but this is part of the internet connection that is often missed. A good internet package with high download and upload speeds does not necessarily guarantee lag free gaming for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, download speeds and latency are different measurements – download speeds being how much data can be transferred per second to the router and latency being how fast this data can be transferred. See the article linked above for more explanation of this.

Secondly, the speed at which a router can send and receive data from the internet is only part of the story, as this data also has to get to and from the games console from the router, and it is this delay that causes so much lag in online gaming, especially for people using Wi-Fi. This is an area where Wi-Fi users can make the biggest improvements in reducing lag, as a wired connection is always more solid and consistent than a wireless connection.

The data getting to and from your home/router from the internet can be considered the WAN (Wide Area Network) part of the connection; the connection between your console and the router within your house can be considered the LAN (Local Area Network) part of the connection. The two things are not often differentiated properly when people talk about lag, and both parts of the connection need to be optimized if you want to game without lag.

The LAN is the network inside your home; the WAN is the network outside your home

The difference between a lan and a wan network

Image Credit: Harald Mühlböck

LAN Solutions – Ethernet Cables and Powerline Adapters

So how do we go about strengthening our console’s connection to the router? There are two main ways of doing this, the first one being to use ethernet cables whenever possible. These can be easily found online; our gamers section has a couple of links to ethernet cables up to 20 metres long.

This is the preferable option if at all possible, as ethernet does deliver the most solid and reliable connection for minimal lag. It is definitely preferable to using Wi-Fi, but many gamers are only using Wi-Fi in the first place place because they are too far away from their router to run an ethernet cable to it.

This is where the next best solution of a Powerline Adapter comes in. They are a great alternative if a direct ethernet connection is not possible and most times give a solid connection that is almost as good as an ethernet cable. Our Powerline Adapters page covers them in more detail, but they consist of two adapter plugs, one of which you connect to your console and the other you connect to your router.

The two adapters then transfer data between each other through through the electrical wiring of the house, effectively creating a solid wired connection without having to run long ethernet cables through the house. They are great LAN connectivity products and are very highly reviewed on Amazon. Here are a couple of models below, check out our full page on them for more information.

How a Powerline Adapter Works

Powerline Adapters are a great next best solution to create a strong reliable wired connection if you cannot run an ethernet cable directly to your router

TP Link TL-PA 4010 Kit Nano Powerline Adapter

TheTP Link Nano TL-PA4010 Kit model is an entry level, best selling no nonsense powerline adapter model with just one ethernet port and no passthrough. Click here to view on Amazon. It will provide a solid, wired ethernet connection to your router using the existing electrical wiring of your house. See our full review of the product and our Powerline Adapters page. Our Product Comparison Table compares all the wired and wireless powerline adapter models at a glance by feature and functionality.

 

These devices will help you extract the most out of your internet package wherever you are in the house, both in terms of download speed and latency, and are an ideal alternative for gamers who cannot run ethernet directly to their router.

Wireless Powerline Adapters  are also available that do a very similar job except they produce a cloned wireless connection at the receiving end as well as having an ethernet port, but for gaming we always recommend a wired connection. Wi-Fi Powerline might be useful if you want to game through the ethernet port but also want to use other devices wirelessly in the room like laptops, tablets and iPhones.

Use Port Forwarding to Reduce Delays in Traffic Being Sent to Your Console

The first experiment we can try on the more advanced side is to implement port forwarding to your games console in an effort to reduce the time it takes for gaming traffic to be sent and received by our consoles, which can hopefully help to keep latency down on our home network.

There are a number of ways of implementing port forwarding, and we have summarized the three main methods in a detailed article on the subject. The most complex and long winded but precise way of port forwarding is to manually set a static IP address for your games console and then forward all ports on your PS4.

By changing some settings on our console or router we can force the IP address of our PS4 to remain static or fixed. That way it will always have one IP address that won’t change, unless you change the settings or move to another house. This will then allow you to do the next step of the process of Port Forwarding. See our full article on the subject for a more in depth description of specifically how to do it by this more thorough but complex method.

There are however easier and quick methods to implement port forwarding on your PS4, using UPnP or DMZ settings on your router. They require less time and effort but are less customizable and precise than the manual method. See our comparison article where these two easier methods are compared to the longer manual method. The manual static IP method is more complex and has it’s own article here.

Our preferred choice for games consoles is to use the DMZ method, as it is very easy to implement, can be specifically applied to games consoles only and not other devices on a network, and is safe to use on games console at least, though it is not recommended for other devices.

Whichever method you decide to use for port forwarding, it is a good method in reducing latency as it removes any filtering of traffic that a router normally does before it passes anything along to a device and therefore reduces delays in transmission, helping to bring down those millisecond ping times. Whilst this is not always safe to do for other devices, it is fine to do for games consoles as they do not have the same security vulnerabilities that other devices do.

Always Use a Wired Connection if You Have Multiple Internet Users at the Same Time

Another recommendation we make is that all gamers in a house are on a wired connection to their router when playing online, with none being on Wi-Fi.

So if you have brothers or friends living in the same house that game together online it is not recommended that one be wired and the other one be on a wireless connection; all gamers in a house need ideally to have a wired connection when gaming online at the same time. See our article on reducing lag in houses with multiple gamers.

The reason for this is that in our experience wireless connections always come off second best when competing against wired connections for bandwidth at the same time.

There are multiple reasons for this which we have covered in a separate article, but it mainly has to do with the difference between how wired and wireless connections work, with wired connections able to send and receive simultaneously and wireless only able to send or receive at any one time but not both.

If it is not possible for some people in a house to run an ethernet directly to the router, then this a perfect situation for a Powerline Adapter as mentioned above.

They allow a solid wired connection to the router wherever you are in the house and the pairing up of a set of Powerline Adapter is definitely the next best alternative to a direct ethernet connection, giving you the benefits of a wired connection and usually  delivering a much stronger connection than Wi-Fi.

Consider Purchasing a Gaming Router if Necessary

Another option if you are still struggling to reduce lag is to look at getting a specialized gaming router, which are meant to be designed specially for gamers to help keep latency down.

However it is best to be cautious when buying gaming routers as many of the features they offer are already on most standard ISP supplied routers anyway, so there is not necessarily any need to pay for something that you can already get on your main router.

Routers do however always offer Quality of Service settings, which can be good for prioritizing your games console on a busy home network.

See here for our article on configuring QoS on a router. Here are the quick steps:

  • Find the MAC address of your PS4 in Connection Settings/Status
  • Log into your router (type 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.1.254 into any browser, plus the router admin/password)
  • Find QoS Settings if they are available
  • Select your PS4 using the MAC address you found earlier.
  • Set the priority to Highest or Maximum.
  • QoS is not available on all routers.

Many standard routers do not offer this feature so in high internet use households it may be a good purchase for gamers. Many of the features often promoted on gaming routers, such as gigabit ethernet ports and 802.11ac dual band Wi-Fi are already on most up to date routers as standard.

We produced a post on whether we believe a gaming router was worth the investment. In summary, there are a couple of scenarios when it may be useful to get one, such as when your current router does not have QoS settings and/or you cannot run a wired internet connection to your router by any means. We do not believe it should be an automatic purchase though. See our article on gaming routers for more details.

A review of the NGXR 500 Gaming Router

 

Click here to view the NGXR 500 on Amazon.

Summary – Test Out What You Can and See What Gains You Can Make

For online gamers, finding out what is causing them the most lag can be a trial and error process. Often it may not be one single thing but a combination of factors that is affecting the strength and stability of their internet connection. So we recommend getting a baseline testing your latency using one of the tools we link to.

Then try making some or all of the changes we recommend in this article and then re-test your latency to see if there is an improvement in the ping.

Some settings are free and easy to change so it is a no brainer to give them a go; other options like Powerline Adapters will cost some money but are worth it if you are on Wi-Fi and really serious about gaming lag free online. Again there are no guarantees that any settings changes will improve latency for everyone, but they are worth trying and if there is no improvement it is easy to revert back to the old settings you had anyway.

If you have sorted out everything you can sort from your end of the connection (controller and TV configuration, the strength of your console’s connection to the router, port forwarding on your router) then it may be worth considering a gaming router as an option, though they can be expensive so we would usually leave this option til last.

If after this you are still experiencing lag then it may be your ISP that is the problem. If they cannot or will not sort it for you then consider switching provider as there is no reason why any package from any major ISP should not allow you to game without lag as long as your own LAN connections within the house are solid. We will deal with ISPs and advanced fiber optic package in the second article linked below.

Click here for Part 2: More Options to Reduce Lag on the PS4

See also:

Oliver

Online gamer and general home networking enthusiast. I like to create articles to help people solve common home networking problems.

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