If you’re a PC gamer on a budget, you probably know the pain of not-quite meeting a highly anticipated game’s minimum requirements.
There are plenty of software options out there that claim to help you squeeze extra performance out of your PC, including famous creators of gaming hardware and peripherals Razer. Razer Cortex is the company’s answer to PC performance-boosting, but does it work?
We’re about to take a head-first dive into the Razer Cortex software and see if it’s really worth using.
What Is Razer Cortex?
Razer Cortex is Razer’s gaming optimization software, intended to help gamers squeeze extra frames out of their rigs. It cuts down on the number of other applications running in the background to ensure you’re getting everything you can out of your PC’s hardware.
It also comes with various other features, such as creating an exclusive game environment. This environment cuts down on the number of external draws on your system’s power.
One of the most interesting features of Razer Cortex is Boost Prime. This feature includes several game-specific boosting modes for several supported titles. Even more than your regular boosting mode, these prime boosters aim to increase your performance in a game exponentially.
How Does Razer Cortex Work?
According to Razer itself, Cortex automatically shuts down excess processes whenever you boot a game. The software also puts your CPU into a special game-centric mode to boost your frame count.
With Booster Prime, Razer claims it uses an advanced AI with machine learning capabilities to tweak and optimize specific games. So far, the only games supported are Fortnite, PUBG, Valorant, Apex Legends, League of Legends, COD: Warzone, Cyberpunk 2077, and Overwatch.
In reality, most of what this Booster Prime mode seems to do is to reduce your graphical settings for you and give you somewhere to launch the game. Other than that, the boosting techniques seem to be mostly the same.
Razer Cortex also includes a system booster, which scans for junk files and processes to make your system much faster. The software also provides you with a list of what it has scanned, so you can be sure you won’t lose anything important.
Does Razer Cortex Improve Performance?
The real question is, does Cortex actually improve your games’ performance, and if so, by how much. We tested Razer Cortex on two different machines, one low-end, one mid-range. The first machine is an older desktop that no longer runs newer games too well, running an intel i7-4770k and a GTX 660. The second is a more modern system running an i5-10400F and a GTX 1660 Super.
As you can see, both machines aren’t top-tier and could benefit from a boost to their gaming performance. So we tested both machines on 2 games, Apex Legends, and Warhammer: Vermintide II, to cover both a regular boost and a Prime Boost game.
Improvements were relatively minimal with the older PC. Our average FPS was 45 on Apex, with and without Cortex’s Prime Boost mode. However, we saw our frame rate drop from the low 40s to the mid-30s while using the zipline with the boost enabled, a considerable drop in performance.
We should point out that the tailored boosts come with a slider that lets you prioritize quality over performance and vice versa. This effectively just changes your in-game graphical settings, so it didn’t have any effect here, as we were already playing on the lowest possible settings.
Vermintide II fared a little better. On Ultra settings, the older PC struggled immensely without the boost, pushing just 11FPS on average. However, with boosting enabled, we got a much more playable 25FPS, which is surprising considering this is a regular boost rather than a tailor-made boost.
Although the Vermintide II boost was much more impressive than the software’s negative impact on Apex, it’s still not quite approaching the territory of making the unplayable playable again.
With the slightly more powerful PC, the difference was even more slight than before. Vermintide 2 went from an unboosted FPS average of 74 to a boosted average of 75, a difference so small that we wouldn’t have even been able to tell if it weren’t for the benchmarking software.
Apex Legends fared a little better, but not by much. When we played unboosted with the graphics settings amped up, we were hitting 112 FPS on average. However, when we initially boosted into the balanced mode, we hit an average of 131 FPS.
However, the balanced mode had considerably worse graphical settings than we normally used. Once we set the Prime Boost to quality mode, more in-line with our normal graphics settings, we reached an average FPS of around 117, only 5 better than we were getting unboosted.
Once again, performance gains were almost nothing when taking graphical settings into account. So you’d literally be better of just nerfing your own graphics if you want to improve your performance.
Our Conclusions on Razer Cortex
It seems like a pretty open-and-shut case for Razer Cortex. Unfortunately, even if you have a low-end PC, you won’t find that you’ll get much of a performance boost despite all of the claims being made by Razer.
If you have a really low-end machine and you’re comfortable playing at 25-30 FPS, then you might just about get some use out of the software. However, the chances are that any improvements you see will be so small as to be completely negligible. If your PC cannot run a game, then Razer Cortex won’t make it run properly.
If you’re obsessed with squeezing every last frame out of your hardware, even at the expense of graphical quality, then you’d be better off lowering graphical settings. Unfortunately, outside of shutting off unnecessary background programs, Razer Cortex doesn’t seem to offer enough to make the hassle of installing and launching the software worth it.
Razer Cortex Is a Bit of a Dud
Well, Razer Cortex ended up being a bit of a damp squib, but at least you know that now and don’t have to waste your time installing and using it. There are much better ways of squeezing extra performance out of your hardware than this.
If you’re considering overclocking your PC, you need to check out these tools.
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