Arcade Stick Input Lag: How it works and troubleshooting

We’ve all experienced that frustrating moment when you’re playing a fighting game, you push a button, and your character doesn’t respond as quickly as you expected. Unfortunately, input lag can be a real downer, especially when using an arcade stick.

In this article, we’ll explore input lag, how it works in arcade sticks, and how to troubleshoot and resolve the issue to keep your gaming experience as smooth as possible.

What is Input Lag?

Input lag refers to the delay between when you press a button and when the game registers the input. This delay can make a significant difference in games where precise timing is crucial, such as fighting games.

For example, a split-second delay can differentiate between victory and defeat in these games.

Low Latency: The Key to a Smooth Gaming Experience

1. Competitive Gaming

In the world of competitive gaming, every millisecond counts. Players at the highest level of competition rely on lightning-fast reflexes and precise timing to gain an edge over their opponents.

When using an arcade stick, low latency (or low input lag) is essential to ensure your inputs are registered as quickly as possible, giving you the best chance to win.

2. Enhanced Gaming Experience

Even if you’re not a competitive gamer, low latency is still vital for an enjoyable gaming experience. When you press a button, you expect your character to respond immediately. High input lag can make games feel sluggish and unresponsive, detracting from the overall experience.

How Input Lag Works in Arcade Sticks

Connection Type

The connection between your arcade stick and your gaming device can also contribute to input lag. Wired connections like USB are generally faster and more reliable than wireless connections like Bluetooth. However, the quality of the cable and the USB port on your device can also impact input lag.

The Components

To understand how input lag works in arcade sticks, it’s essential to know the key components involved. An arcade stick consists of buttons, a joystick, a PCB (printed circuit board), and sometimes additional features like LEDs or touchpads.

When you press a button or move the joystick, a signal is sent to the PCB, which then processes the input and sends it to your gaming device (console or PC).

The Process

Input lag occurs when there’s a delay at any point in this process. The arcade stick’s hardware can introduce lag, the connection between the stick and your gaming device, or the game itself. Understanding where the lag is coming from is the first step in troubleshooting and resolving the issue.


The quality of the components used in your arcade stick can significantly impact input lag. High-quality components, such as Sanwa or Seimitsu buttons and joysticks, are more likely to provide quick and accurate input response, resulting in lower latency.

Additionally, a well-designed PCB with optimized firmware can help reduce input lag.


The game you’re playing and the settings you’re using can also affect input lag. For example, some games are better optimized, leading to lower latency. Additionally, certain display settings, such as V-Sync or motion blur, can introduce additional lag.

Therefore, it’s essential to consider the game’s optimization and settings when troubleshooting input lag issues.

Measuring Input Lag

Measuring input lag can be challenging, as it requires specialized equipment and software. However, some online resources and tools can help you get a rough estimate of your arcade stick’s input lag.

These tools often involve recording your gameplay at high frame rates and analyzing the video to determine the delay between your inputs and the on-screen action.

Troubleshooting Input Lag Issues

Updating Firmware

If your arcade stick has updatable firmware, it’s essential to ensure that you’re running the latest version. Manufacturers often release firmware updates that improve performance and reduce input lag.

Check the manufacturer’s website for any available updates and follow their instructions for updating your arcade stick.

Switching Connection Type

If you’re experiencing input lag with a wireless arcade stick, consider switching to a wired connection if possible. As mentioned earlier, wired connections are generally faster and more reliable than wireless connections, which can help reduce input lag and provide a low latency experience.

Adjusting Display Settings

Some display settings can introduce input lag, such as V-Sync, motion blur, or post-processing effects. Experiment with different settings to find the optimal balance between visual quality and input responsiveness.

Upgrading Hardware

If you’ve tried all the above troubleshooting steps and still experience input lag, it may be time to consider upgrading your arcade stick’s hardware.

Investing in high-quality components, such as buttons, joysticks, and PCBs, can help reduce input lag and improve your overall gaming experience with low latency.


Input lag can be frustrating when using an arcade stick, but understanding how it works and how to troubleshoot it can help you minimize its impact on your gaming experience.

By considering factors like hardware, software, and connection type and following the troubleshooting steps outlined above, you can optimize your arcade stick for the most responsive and low-latency gaming experience possible.


  1. What is the average input lag for arcade sticks?
    The average input lag for arcade sticks varies depending on the quality of the components and the connection type used. Generally, input lag ranges from 1 ms to 10 ms for most arcade sticks.
  2. Can I reduce input lag by using a different USB port on my gaming device?
    Yes, sometimes switching to a different USB port can help reduce input lag. In addition, some USB ports may perform better than others, so it’s worth trying different ports to see if it makes a difference.
  3. Are there any arcade stick brands known for having low input lag?
    Brands like Hori, Qanba, and Razer are well-known for producing high-quality arcade sticks with low input lag. However, even within these brands, the input lag can vary between models.
  4. Is input lag more of an issue for certain types of games?
    Input lag can be more noticeable and impactful in games where precise timing and quick reflexes are crucial, such as fighting games, rhythm games, and first-person shooters.
  5. Can I eliminate input lag?
    While it’s unlikely to eliminate input lag, you can minimize it by using high-quality components, optimizing your game and display settings, and using a wired connection when possible. By taking these steps, you can ensure a low-latency gaming experience.


  1. Teyah’s Input Lag Testing: A blog that conducts input lag tests on various arcade sticks and provides detailed results.
  2. Tek-Innovations: A website that offers information on custom arcade stick parts, which can help upgrade your hardware.

Illustration of a smiling man with stubble in a black shirt, with colorful digital background resembling a music studio.
Tom "Button Master" O'Neil

Tom fell in love with fight sticks after realizing that mastering the mechanics could give him an edge in competitive gaming. He's since devoted countless hours to perfecting his inputs and understanding the nuances of different fight sticks. As a result, Tom has become a force in both online and local tournaments. Now, he's on a mission to help others unlock their full potential with the right fight stick.