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Tested: How Nvidia Reflex can make you a better esports gamer

Lower latency, faster kills. Here's everything you need to know about Nvidia Reflex, which just got added to Rainbow Six: Siege and Overwatch.

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360Hz G-Sync esports monitors with Reflex Latency Analyzer

The Nvidia Reflex Low Latency Mode feature helps the majority of gamers out there—people who want their games to both look good and feel good. The other half of Nvidia’s Reflex suite focuses on esports obsessives: people who play their games on low visual settings to eke out every drop of responsiveness, and who don’t mind spending money to optimize their setup.

asus rog swift 360hz monitor Asus

The Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR we used for testing.

The Reflex Latency Analyzer comes integrated in four 360Hz G-Sync Esports monitors being unveiled Tuesday. These monitors are built around a new G-Sync processor that includes a USB pass-through port that was itself carefully tuned to avoid adding latency. Nvidia also worked with peripheral makers to create Reflex-compatible mice that send packets with exact click-timing information.

When you plug a Reflex-compatible mouse into the designated USB port on the rear of your display, and configure an on-screen box to identify your muzzle flash, Reflex Latency Analyzer can measure mouse latency, PC and display latency, and an overall system latency.

reflex latency pic Nvidia

The Reflex Latency Analyzer found in 360Hz G-Sync Esports displays lets you measure all this.

That’s very helpful info for latency optimization while you’re tinkering with game settings or hardware upgrades. Previously, you needed a 1000fps camera or specialized testing equipment to measure overall system latency. With Reflex Latency Analyzer, it’s displayed in real time via a new on-screen display in GeForce Experience.

The RLA overlay displays not one, not two, but ten different metrics. It’s topped by FPS and render latency stats, but we’re most interested in the items further down: Mouse Latency, PC + Display Latency, and System Latency. Mouse Latency speaks for itself and is tied to your Reflex mouse’s left click. PC + Display Latency is “Measured from the moment the mouse click is received by the OS to the end of display latency,” per Nvidia. This measurement also displayed by your monitor’s on-screen display. System Latency combines the other two metrics to measure full end-to-end responsiveness. In all three items, the “Average” measurement displays the average of the last 20 clicks and is more useful for analysis than the pure frame-to-frame numbers.

screenshot 75 Brad Chacos/IDG

Nvidia’s Reflex Latency Analyzer overlay in the upper-right corner of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Reflex Latency Analyzer is kicking off with four Reflex-compatible mice: The Asus ROG Chakram Core we used for testing, the Logitech G Pro Wireless, the Razer DeathAdder v2 Pro, and the SteelSeries Rival 3. You may need to download new firmware to enable Reflex support. If you don’t have a Reflex-compatible mouse, Nvidia’s setup can’t measure your mouse latency, which prevents the full system latency from being measured as well. That said, if you have one of the most commonly used esports mice, RLA still works. From Nvidia’s reviewer’s guide:

“For mice that have not gone through our validation process to become Reflex Latency Analyzer Compatible, there is a mouse database that stores the average latencies of known mice as well, making full System Latency analysis still possible. We will be adding new mice to the database as well as continuing to validate new per-click Reflex Latency Analyzer Compatible mice.”

Even if your mouse isn’t supported whatsoever, you can still track PC + Display Latency with Nvidia’s tools. That can be very helpful while you’re optimizing your game settings or hardware setup.

360hz monitors Nvidia

The monitors and mice currently compatible with Nvidia’s Reflex Latency Analyzer.

Four monitors are kickstarting the RLA ecosystem: the Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR, the Acer Predator X25, the MSI Oculux NXG253R, and the Alienware AW2521H. These are all high-end 1080p, 360Hz G-Sync monitors, rocking the same advanced G-Sync processor and even the same AU Optronics panel. While bleeding-edge refresh rates typically kick off with faster, but less vibrant (TN) panels, these debut 360Hz monitors feature dual-driver IPS panels that maintain face-melting speeds without sacrificing color. Hallelujah.  We’re testing the Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR, and the almost tactile smoothness of a 360Hz refresh rate can’t be overstated. From games to mousing around the desktop, everything runs like butter, and Asus’s hardware and software polish is top-notch.

Because these displays all use the same underlying hardware, Nvidia was able to create a new G-Sync Esports feature that provides an identical experience across monitors. Activated via your display’s options menu, G-Sync Esports puts the display into high-power mode, disables variable backlighting, activates Nvidia’s Dark Boost technology, and increases the gamma rating to show shadowy areas more clearly. That can impact contrast ratio aesthetics, but competitive gamers will appreciate the tactical advantage. Nvidia says it can help provide a uniform experience in high-end competitions.

Setting up Nvidia Reflex Latency Analyzer

Getting the Reflex Latency Analyzer running takes some work.

gfe overlay Nvidia

Nvidia is releasing a new version of GeForce Experience this week that supports the technology. To see the new RLA overlay, you’ll need to enable experimental features in GFE, as well as the “in-game overlay” option.

gfe performance Nvidia

Click the gear icon

Once that’s done, you need to press Alt + Z to summon the GFE overlay. Select the Performance option, and in the Performance tab that appears, click the tiny gear icon next to the “Performance overlay” option.

gfe latency overlay Nvidia

How to set up Nvidia’s Reflex Latency Analyzer overlay.

You’ll see a lot of options. Select Performance, choose your overlay position, and select Latency. Now, when you press Alt + R the Reflex Latency Analyzer overlay will appear onscreen.

nvidia reflex muzzle overlay Nvidia

This Nvidia-supplied screenshot shows the Reflex Latency Analyzer monitoring box over a muzzle flash in Destiny 2.

You also need to use your monitor’s menu tools to tailor the technology to your specific games, and the specific animations you’re tracking to measure latency. Reflex Latency Analyzer works by tracking the luminance of a specific part of the screen—typically a muzzle flash. It then calculates how long it takes for that area to change after you click your mouse, to determine overall system latency. Nvidia’s Reflex SDK for games includes a “latency marker” option that displays a flashing box on the edge of the screen to make measurements easy and universal, but currently, only Fortnite supports it. In other games, you’ll need to position the monitoring rectangle manually over your gun’s muzzle flash (or whatever other animation you’re measuring).

nvidia reflex osd Brad Chacos/IDG

You’ll need to use your monitor’s OSD to move the monitoring box around.

To do so, head into your monitor’s menu and head to the G-Sync Processor option, then the Nvidia Reflex Latency Analyzer section. From there you’ll see all the options you need to resize the monitoring rectangle and move it around as needed. Get it right over the center of your muzzle flash, and make it as small as possible in the center of the action. You don’t want light bloom at the edges of the flashes affecting measurements if you can help it.

Next page: Our test setup, benchmarks begin

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