What Is NVIDIA Reflex? Everything You Need to Know

When playing video games at the highest level, latency plays a huge part in your ability to perform. If you’re a competitive gamer, NVIDIA has a solution for you; a technology called NVIDIA Reflex. It promises to minimize your system latency to levels that were never achievable before.

NVIDIA Reflex was first announced alongside its Ampere-based GPUs late last year. However, the feature is not exclusive to these new graphics cards. You’re ready to go as long as you have a GTX 900-series GPU. So, let’s see what NVIDIA Reflex is all about, shall we?

What Is System Latency?

PC System Latency Explained
Image Credit: NVIDIA

Before you learn more about NVIDIA Reflex, it’s essential to understand the basics of system latency. In the simplest terms, it’s the delay between your mouse or keyboard input to the response on your monitor. You would be quick to assume this is just input lag, but there’s more to system latency.

Your input devices and the monitor alone don’t determine the overall system latency. Your internal hardware and even the game engine can impact this latency too. Here’s how:

Typically, when you’re playing a graphically intensive game, your CPU prepares the frames to be rendered by the GPU and puts them in a Render Queue. This allows your GPU to maximize its frame rate since it always has frames to access from this queue and render. However, this comes at the cost of system latency since frames are waiting in queue to be rendered.

System Latency without NVIDIA Reflex
Image Credit: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Reflex aims to minimize the system latency by getting rid of the render queue altogether. Now that you know it’s not just your network ping that affects your multiplayer experience, it’s time to see how this technology works.

How Does NVIDIA Reflex Technology Work?

Image Credit: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Reflex keeps the CPU perfectly in sync with the GPU to eliminate the render queue. This means your graphics card renders the frames fed by the CPU almost immediately, minimizing the Render latency.

Since the render queue is no longer a problem, this reduces the back-pressure on the CPU side as well. This makes it possible for games to sample mouse and keyboard input at the last second, reducing the game latency by an extensive amount.

Both render and game latencies are just a portion of the entire system latency that impacts the overall gaming experience on the client-side. The end-to-end system latency will also include your peripherals (mouse and keyboard) and your monitor.

That being said, NVIDIA Reflex works best in GPU-limited scenarios where your PC is not pushing hundreds of frames per second. At higher frame rates, the difference in latency is negligible since your PC is CPU-limited, and there aren’t many frames waiting in the render queue.

Do All Games Support NVIDIA Reflex?

NVIDIA Reflex is an SDK (Software Development Kit), which means developers need to incorporate it into their games for you to take advantage of the technology. Hence, even if you have a compatible graphics card, you’ll need a Reflex-supported game. You can find a list of titles at NVIDIA.com.

As of now, there are only seventeen games that support this technology, with three more confirmed to receive support in a future update. This doesn’t sound so promising, right?

Well, NVIDIA Reflex is a feature that targets esports gaming. The good news is that it supports almost all popular esports titles you can think of right now. One massive name missing from this list is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but we can’t really complain since that game is almost a decade old.

Big names in the industry like Valorant, Call of Duty: Warzone, Apex Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six: Siege are all supported. Hence, if you’re someone who enjoys playing competitive shooters, you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues.

NVIDIA Reflex in-game settings

To use this feature on a supported game, you’ll need to head to the in-game graphics or video settings and set the Reflex option to either On or On+Boost.

What Is NVIDIA Reflex Latency Analyzer?

NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer
Image Credit: NVIDIA

Apart from the Reflex SDK, NVIDIA is also using monitor hardware to market this new technology. The company’s new Reflex Latency Analyzer will allow users to measure the end-to-end system latency on select monitors. Find a list of supported displays at NVIDIA.com.

This is a game-changer because not too long ago, you needed expensive high-speed cameras and other equipment to get this data, which popular YouTubers do. This is no longer needed as long as you have a high refresh rate monitor with the built-in Latency Analyzer and a compatible mouse.

Before you splurge on a new monitor with this hardware, note that, unlike the Reflex SDK that actually works to reduce system latency, the Reflex Analyzer is simply a latency monitor.

Even if you don’t have a supported monitor, you will still be able to view the Render latency from the GeForce Experience overlay by pressing Alt+R.

What’s the Best Way to Reduce System Latency?

Apart from using Reflex SDK, NVIDIA suggests that overclocking your graphics card and using faster hardware will help minimize the system latency.

As long as you’re playing at high frame rates, you’re fine on the latency side of things, even without NVIDIA Reflex. Of course, you can also achieve this by playing games at low graphics settings and turning off unnecessary features like V-Sync that add input lag.

Don’t forget that playing on a high refresh rate monitor is extremely important if your hardware is capable. This is one reason NVIDIA is pushing this technology along with the new 360Hz monitors. However, you’ll be just fine with a 144Hz monitor since it’s just diminishing returns beyond that refresh rate.

Related: The Best Cheap 144Hz Gaming Monitors

Don’t Let Latency Bottleneck You

Every millisecond matters when you play games competitively. It could be the deciding factor on whether you connect your shot and secure the kill. Unlike your network latency, which is not under your control in most circumstances, you can improve your system latency with the right settings and hardware.

With NVIDIA Reflex enabled, you can make sure your system latency is never the reason for your underwhelming performance while playing ranked games with your friends. Your PC shouldn’t bottleneck your true potential, ever.

Image Credit: NVIDIA

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