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The Dark Side of Overdrive

The Dark Side of Overdrive

Faster is always better. Thanks to that simple philosophy, LCD pixel response times have been driven down to puny proportions in recent years.

Today, even the slowest panels are rated at 16ms or better and deliver adequate response for all but the most fanatical PC gamers. High performance screens, meanwhile, now trade low single-digit millisecond blows in the battle for fast response dominance.

That’s the good news; the bad news is that the quest for ever lower pixel response times comes with a pair of undesirable side effects: input lag and inverse ghosting. Superficially, the two appear to be unrelated, but they share the same underlying cause. The culprit is a response-enhancing technique known as overdrive.

Also common to both input lag and inverse ghosting is a rather murky cloud of controversy. Some sneer at the idea that input lag even exists, while others argue that while it may exist, only pedants with a penchant for pointless whining could possibly notice it.

The Dark Side of Overdrive

Unsurprisingly, the monitor manufacturers haven’t exactly been falling over themselves to talk about input lag and inverse ghosting. The conspicuous failure of the industry to openly address these issues – whether the result of ignorance or intent – doesn’t help the situation and is a problem we've experienced ourselves during the process of writing this piece.

More on that in moment. First, make no mistake: both input lag and inverse ghosting are very real. We intend to lay out the evidence here to confirm that. However, to what extent you will notice, much less be bothered by either is another question.