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Pointer lag

bug mouse lag

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16 replies to this topic

#1 Dae

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 07:33 PM

Fact: the on-screen pointer lags behind the mouse (or trackpad) in OS X more than in other operating systems, such as Windows or Ubuntu Linux.

To sum up:
  • The problem has been confirmed by an Apple engineer (thanks to him for that) in an email correspondence with me. He has also mentioned that they were working on a solution.
  • The problem has existed at least since OS X 10.4 "Tiger". The current version of OS X (10.8 "Mountain Lion") still exhibits the problem.
  • Many people confuse lag with acceleration, this is what my blog post was about.

Solutions:
  • SmoothMouse.
  • Running Mac as a Synergy client with a mouse connected to another computer running Synergy server.
  • Using Wacom tablet instead of a mouse.

Some technical insight provided by John Carmack:

You can measure all this objectively. I took a few minutes, pulled out my handy high speed camera, and shot some quick video dragging a window around on my windows desktop and my old macbook. I used the same mouse, a Razer DeathAdder, on both systems.

Someone with more time should do a more exhaustive set of tests with a tripod and a trivial app instead of window dragging to make the data cleaner, but the results are so dramatically different that it isn’t a matter of splitting hairs.

Even being generous with exactly which frame the mouse started moving on, I never counted less than 10 frames (at 240 hz = 42 milliseconds) and sometimes as many as 17 from the time the mouse moved to the time the pixels on the screen started to change. I’m sure this is better on a more modern system.

The PC result was surprising. I was running on a 120hz monitor, and I couldn’t positively identify any frames of latency between the mouse starting to move and pixels on the screen changing.

The mac does tear-free, retrace-synced desktop compositing, which means that a window at the bottom of the screen will always update 14 milliseconds later than one at the top of the screen due to a 60hs scanout. I don’t know the internal details, but it is possible that there may be a full frame of latency involved in latching the stable output of each window in preparation for the compositor, which would roughly line up with the observed data.

The windows system (not running with Aero, which is probably significant here!) apparently gets a new mouse update ever 2 milliseconds and moves the window immediately. This is why you get tear lines while dragging windows, and there were other temporal repainting artifacts visible in the high speed video.

Apple made a (presumably) conscious decision to sacrifice responsiveness for perfect pixels.

Again, someone could make a more direct comparison of similarly configured systems and write a real article about the results. It is also possible (likely?) that full screen 3D apps may bypass the desktop compositing and not suffer from any of this.


Another useful comment by Matthijs:

32ms… that sounds like the time taken to display two screen frames at 60 Hz.

Observation: when I quickly select text using the mouse, there is no lag between the mouse cursor and the selection of text.

I’m assuming Mac OS X uses double buffering for graphics. Here’s what I think is happening in the worst case:

  • A frame is drawn onto the back buffer. (current time: 0ms)
  • You move the mouse just after this is done. (current time: 0ms)
  • After the next vsync, the back buffer is drawn. (current time: 16ms)
  • A new frame is drawn onto the back buffer, with the new mouse position. (current time: 16ms)
  • After the next vsync, the back buffer is drawn. (current time: 32ms)
If the assumption is correct, this leads to the following conclusions:
  • The mouse itself does not lag, but merely the graphical representation of it.
  • Your statement “Yes, Mac OS X is less suited for gaming and design.” is false. All games and design apps use double buffering (or in some cases, triple buffering), otherwise incomplete frames would be shown.
Regarding Windows: I suspect Windows uses a different, ancient technique to draw the mouse cursor: sprites. With active sprites, the GPU draws them on top of the displayed frame without having to manually draw them into the back buffer. If this is true, selecting text (like the observation above) will result in the selection lagging after the mouse cursor.

Note: if you have access to a display with a faster refresh rate than 60Hz, you will notice less mouse lag if you use that display. If my assumption is correct, of course.


(I disagree with conclusion #2. You can turn off double-buffering in most games. Design requires a lot of precise mouse work and lag does not help that).

#2 scarlac

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 04:35 PM

I used my iPhone to measure the lag once. Put my ms explorer 3.0 mouse close to the screen and the pointer close to the edge where the mouse was, so could get a shot of both. Disabled acceleration. I inspected the video and used the fps measure to come up with at least 30-60 ms lag from physical movement to screen movement, which supports the measurements made by John Carmack and by you.
  • Dae likes this

#3 ariskouk

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:03 PM

It s awful to buy a new computer and you cant work on it at all.
I have a windows XP service pack 3 system and everything is working fine for five years.
But, a little devil said to me "look on Macs, are far better". And some months ago i bought a Mac mini http://www.everymac....2011-specs.html

I bought also the apple magic mouse. The lag is terrible. I can do nothing !!!
I tried usb mouse with same result. Finally tried a microsoft wired mouse and the lag is still there !!!!

I found many articles on the web but not a solution

Now i m writing on my Windows XP.
I m using the Mac mini only for searching the solution....

#4 ibhalbherz

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:41 PM

I recommend this:

http://www.teamliqui...topic_id=194668

Test it and tell me if it fix your issues =)

#5 ariskouk

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:53 PM

No, the lag is still the same....

#6 dgreen97

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 01:27 AM

Yeah this is definitely an issue. I have been using Windows for like 18 years and after trying to use a mouse on a mac the difference is extremely noticeable. It's not nearly as responsive and I end up missing what I want to click on half the time. Synergy works but its a waste of energy and a pain to setup. It's pretty sad I have to run another computer at the same time Im trying to use this mac just to get the mouse to function better. People who don't notice this lag must have gotten used to using a mac for years but if you're a PC person trying to switch to Mac you will want Synergy. When are you guys planning on releasing Smooth Mouse? I would love not to have to run another computer its such a waste.

#7 dgreen97

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 01:41 AM

Aris trust me everybody on here is experiencing the same problem. This is what Smoothmouse is supposed to fix. Right now use Synergy with your Windows computer as the server and your mac mini as the client thats what Im doing right now. Until Smoothmouse is released this is the only way to get Windows mouse performance exactly on the mac.

#8 ariskouk

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 11:10 PM

Ok, i found that my problem was the tv. When i connect the Mac mini with a pc monitor all the mouses (usb, magic mouse and wired) worked fine. Well, not exactly like my Windows XP mouse, but i can work now.
I found some options on my tv and desactivate all and now i can have a normal mouse and keyboard on my mac mini on tv.
Now i know what all you mean when you re talking about lag on Mac 's mouse, but it s a very small lag.

#9 Dae

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 04:49 PM

I updated the first post.

#10 qdub

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 06:45 PM

Hi, new to this forum, but have been very passionate about this issue for a while! Just wanted to confirm: Does Smooth Mouse fix the lag problem? Or does it just provide a loyal translation of the Windows acceleration settings?

Btw, the pointer lag issue doesn't seem present when you play Starcraft 2 for Mac. Either 3D games don't suffer from this issue due to rendering differences, or Blizzard has taken their own steps to fix this issue given how important mouse accuracy is at 200 actions-per-minute =)

#11 Dae

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 06:59 PM

Welcome to the forum!

Does Smooth Mouse fix the lag problem?


Yes, it does.

Blizzard has taken their own steps to fix this issue


Looks like it:

sc2.jpg

Although I don't know how it works.

#12 vdentello

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 11:30 PM

Welcome to the forum!



Yes, it does.



Looks like it:

sc2.jpg

Although I don't know how it works.

That's pretty interesting, i'm trying to use CAD software like AutoCAD and Cinema 4D and it's just impossible!

#13 lif

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 05:04 PM

Ok, i found that my problem was the tv. When i connect the Mac mini with a pc monitor all the mouses (usb, magic mouse and wired) worked fine. Well, not exactly like my Windows XP mouse, but i can work now.
I found some options on my tv and desactivate all and now i can have a normal mouse and keyboard on my mac mini on tv.
Now i know what all you mean when you re talking about lag on Mac 's mouse, but it s a very small lag.

 

I was having tremendous lag in my mouse with on a new external full HD display and this post lead to think about the TV... that was my problem.
I select the PC/Game mode for my Philips smart TV an that it was...
Then, smooth mouse for fine tuning (because it not resolve my main problem but is the cursor behaves better with it)


#14 Zulu0

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 01:12 PM

With the new Yosemite... I don't need Smooth Mouse anymore, the Mouse Lag is history :)

 

Apple did not fixed it with an update for Mavericks, but it is fixed now in Yosemite Beta 2.



#15 cc bcc

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Posted 14 October 2014 - 02:58 PM

With the new Yosemite... I don't need Smooth Mouse anymore, the Mouse Lag is history :)

 

Apple did not fixed it with an update for Mavericks, but it is fixed now in Yosemite Beta 2.

Can anyone confirm this?



#16 falcn

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 10:53 AM

As a long time Smoothmouse user, I don't feel the lag on Yosemite, and cannot perceive any difference with Smoothmouse enabled and without it.



#17 karlmariaseeberg

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 11:42 AM

As a long time Smoothmouse user, I don't feel the lag on Yosemite, and cannot perceive any difference with Smoothmouse enabled and without it.

 

hurray to that...

 

edit:

well, i am not sure about this...





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: bug, mouse lag