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What is the latency in drawing with the Apple Pencil?

The drawing latency of the Apple Pencil is just 9 ms— but you won’t see that unless you’re using an optimized app on a newer iPad that boasts an 120 hz screen refresh rate.  If you’ve got an iPad 10.2 in its iPad 10.2 case, expect to see a more noticeable latency.

To put 9 ms in context, the human eye can typically not detect a lag of less than 10 ms. So its fast. If you’d like to see this at work, grab one of the newer models of the iPad Pro, open Apple Notes, and start drawing! 

Achieving Low Latency with an Apple Pencil 

If you’re using an older iPad or an app that isn’t optimized for the iPad’s new refresh rates, you’re going to see a more noticeable lag. Latency will also increase if your battery saving settings are on. If this is the case, your battery icon will be yellow. To turn off battery saver follow these steps:

  1. Visit Settings
  2. Click on ‘Battery”
  3. Flick the switch on “Low Power Mode” at the top of your screen.

If someone else has been utilizing with your iPad they may also have dialed your max  refresh rate down, presumably to save battery. To check this— and fix it if, indeed, it’s been set down— you can follow these steps.

  1. Visit Settings
  2. Open ‘Accessibility’
  3. Click on ‘Display Accommodations’

The last option on the ‘display accommodations’ page is ‘limit frame rate’ and to the right of this is a toggle. If it’s green, your iPad is trying to save battery and processing power by keeping the number of frames per second low. This will save power, but may lead to a choppy drawing experience. Go ahead and turn it off. Now Promotion will function the way it was meant to. If it’s off already, there are no problems here.

If you are on a long trip and want your battery to last as long as it can, you can visit this same place to temporarily limit your frame rate and save a little battery. Just don’t forget to turn it back off when you’re back home and drawing again!

The iPad 10.2 and Latency

Let’s get back to where we started. 9 ms latency with the iPad Pro is great, but what can  you expect to see if you’ve got Apple’s newest iPad in the regular line? Your 10.2 iPad in its 10.2 inch iPad case is an impressive piece of tech, and you’re probably loving the 12 MP front facing camera.  Compatibility with the first generation pencil makes it the cheapest way to get a new tablet+ apple pencil combo,, and your iPad case 10.2 (if you’ve got a good one) is built to allow for seamless charging when you stick your pencil into the charge port. It won’t take long for your pencil to get a full charge! 

Though your iPad 10.2 doesn’t work with the second generation pencil, it turns out there isn’t any actual difference in drawing capability between the two. Second generation is a little more ergonomic, has a handy button, and is easier to charge. But as far as drawing performance? The two pencils are equal. They sample at the same rate, and they’ve got the same latency— theoretically.

The difference that does exist is the frame rate for your iPad 10.2—- 60 hz. That means the latency will be up to 40 ms, or 0.04 seconds.  A latency of 40 ms is pretty smooth for regular use, and to be honest you’ll hardly notice the lag it gives your pencil. But it’s not quite the same as a paper/pencil experience— or an iPad Pro 2018, for that matter. 

What if My Pencil is Lagging?

What about if your pencil is actually lagging—- as in a noticeable, jarring lag that seems more than the 0.009 second or 0.04 seconds you should expect, depending on your iPad model? It might be a software problem; some apps are just clunky. If you’ve tried the iPad’s own native Notes, though, and there’s still a problem, it’s time to look at other possibilities. 

First, check if your pencil has a decent charge. Charging an apple pencil is easy, and doesn’t take long, but if you’ve used it for five or six hours the charge may be getting low. Try charging it up for twenty minutes, then check if the latency is better.

No change? Try closing apps you aren't using, and if it's still no better, do a restart of your iPad.

If your pencil is still lagging even in Notes, check the tip. A worn tip can lead to a subpar apple pencil experience, so if it’s been a while since you’ve changed it it may be time to a new one. You can feel the top and check if it is smooth, or if it feels worn or jagged.

Pencil tips screw on, and if your screw has got loose, you can also expect lagging or other malfunction. Make sure your tip is screwed on well and fingertip tight. 

That not the problem? You may have to do a full restore of your iPad, a factory reset that erases any problematic settings that might be causing the pencil lag. Before you do that, make sure everything is backed up in a safe place— like the cloud or your desktop computer. 

Now your pencil should be working smoothly, but if it's not, it’s time to call up an Apple Care representative. 

Do you have any other questions on latency in drawing with the Apple pencil? Let us know in the comments!