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Latency vs. Lag: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 2, 2023
Latency is the time delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction, while lag is a noticeable delay between the action of players and the reaction of the server in a game.

Key Differences

Latency, in computing, refers to the time interval between a stimulus and response, particularly in networks, it's the delay before data begins to transfer. For instance, the latency of an internet connection might affect how quickly a web page starts loading. Lag, however, is often the result of high latency but is specifically the delay in response time, especially in video games or real-time applications; it's the noticeable slow response after an input has been made.
High latency can lead to lag, but lag can also occur due to other factors such as inadequate processing power or inefficient code. Latency is typically a concern when discussing the efficiency of network connections and can be measured in milliseconds. Conversely, lag is more about the user's experience, where even a small delay can affect the performance of applications, making them seem slow or unresponsive.
In a telecommunications network, latency is the time it takes for a packet of data to move from the source to the destination. It can be affected by various factors like signal propagation times, storage delays, and routing. Lag is what users experience when there is a delay in the interaction with software applications, which can be due to high network latency but might also be caused by other issues such as local hardware constraints.
Streaming services strive to reduce latency to ensure a seamless viewing experience. Even minimal latency can disrupt a live broadcast, resulting in a delay between the actual event and the streamed content. In contrast, gamers may refer to lag when their actions take too long to register in the game, potentially due to latency or frame rate issues, disrupting the flow and immersion of gameplay.
When talking about latency in a cloud computing environment, it’s about the delay before data processing starts after a request has been made. This can affect how 'snappy' a cloud service feels to the end-user. Lag in this context would mean the delay is significant enough to affect the real-time usage of the cloud service, making tasks like editing documents online or using cloud-based software feel slow.

Comparison Chart


Delay in time before data transmission begins
Delay in response time in an application or system


Measured in milliseconds (ms)
Can be subjective or measured in time

Main Concern In

Networks and telecommunications
Real-time operations, gaming, streaming


Propagation delay, processing time
High latency, inadequate processing power, software inefficiencies

User Impact

Less direct, technical measurement
Directly affects user experience and performance

Latency and Lag Definitions


Time taken for a packet to reach its destination.
Network latency affected the video conference quality.


The time difference between two systems or events.
There was a significant lag between the audio and video feeds.


Measurement of time delay in a system.
They tested the latency of their cloud services during peak hours.


The noticeable delay between action and reaction in games.
Players were frustrated by the lag during the online match.


The time it takes for an electronic signal to travel.
Satellite connections have higher latency due to the distance.


A slow response from a computer system.
Her computer started to lag after the new software update.


The period between the cause and effect in a system.
Latency issues were causing synchronization problems.


Temporary slowness or delay in data transmission.
Streaming movies was difficult with the internet lag.


The delay before a transfer of data begins.
The latency on the new network was remarkably low.


A falling behind in movement, progress, or development.
His jet lag made it hard for him to stay awake during meetings.


The state or quality of being latent.


To fail to keep up a pace; straggle
A hiker who lagged behind his companions on the trail.


(Psychology) The latency period.


To proceed or develop with comparative slowness
A nation that lags behind its neighbors in economic development.


Is latency only relevant to internet connections?

No, latency is relevant to all kinds of digital communications and data transfer.

Is low latency always desirable?

Yes, low latency is typically desirable as it means less delay in communication or data transfer.

What causes high latency?

High latency can be caused by signal propagation delays, network congestion, or routing issues.

Can network optimization reduce lag?

Yes, optimizing the network can minimize congestion and reduce lag.

Can hardware upgrades reduce lag?

Yes, upgrading hardware like the CPU, GPU, or RAM can reduce lag in many cases.

What is ping?

Ping is a network utility that measures round-trip latency in a network.

Do wired connections have less latency than wireless?

Typically, yes, wired connections have lower latency than wireless due to direct signaling paths.

Can high latency be due to a virus or malware?

Yes, malware can affect system performance and network traffic, leading to higher latency.

Can lag affect offline applications?

Yes, lag can affect offline applications if the device has insufficient processing power or memory.

How is latency measured?

Latency is measured in milliseconds (ms), representing the delay time.

Is zero latency possible?

No, there's always some delay in systems, but the goal is to make it imperceptibly low.

What tools can measure latency?

Network diagnostic tools like ping, traceroute, and network analyzers can measure latency.

Does weather affect latency?

Yes, weather conditions can affect signal transmission, especially in wireless networks, and increase latency.

Can software updates fix lag?

Sometimes, if the lag is due to software inefficiencies or bugs, updates can resolve these issues.

Is lag more noticeable in some applications than others?

Yes, lag is more noticeable in real-time applications like online gaming or video conferencing.

What is jitter in relation to latency?

Jitter refers to the variability in latency over time in a network.

Does traffic shaping affect latency?

Yes, traffic shaping can manage bandwidth and improve latency in a network.

Can a VPN increase latency?

Yes, because it adds an extra hop in the network path, a VPN can increase latency.

Does lag always indicate a problem with the network?

No, lag can also be caused by local hardware issues, software problems, or server-side processing delays.

Can you have low latency and still experience lag?

Yes, if there are other bottlenecks in the system, such as slow servers or inefficient code.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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