We talked about system latency in an earlier article about NVIDIA’s LDAT and how its a vital new perspective when talking not about system performance, but rather system responsiveness. Just as network latency plays a big part in the game servers response time, system latency is a measure of how quickly your click becomes an action screen. Now its important to establish this dimension immediately at the start of the article. Its going be central to how we’re going to frame NVIDIA’s new Reflex technology as well as their Reflex Analyzer.
We’ll discuss NVIDIA’s multi-pronged solution for gamers looking into increase not their game performance, but rather their performance in-game. Let’s dive right in!
What is System Latency?
Every gaming system has an end-to-end latency. This includes the moment of input until the moment of actuation on screen. Again, to oversimplify, this means the moment you click the mouse to the moment that action is reflected onscreen is an actual measurable value and that is called system latency.
Here’s an excerpt from our system latency article and I highly advise to check it out as it serves a larger purpose into understanding the concept behind this little buzzword. To summarize, system latency is a measure of how responsive your system is. Frames-per-Second or FPS has always been the de-facto performance measurement of games. That’s great and all if you’re trying to meet that 144hz monitor’s refresh rate but a smooth gaming experience is different from a responsive gaming experience.
In the our system latency article, we covered the primary reasons why system latency is vital particularly in the realm of esports. Every millisecond matter in in esports and none more so in million dollar tournaments. Every millisecond counts in esports system responsiveness is much more important than just raw FPS.
In the figure above, we can see the standard pipeline of an action on your PC. From the left we have the click and towards the right we see the reaction which in games, is usually a gunfire or weapon action that usually results in changes in pixels. That entire sequence is the system latency pipeline and these happen in mere milliseconds.
So what does this mean for you, my gamer friend? Well, it depends on what you play. If you’re playing the The Witcher 3, it won’t affect your combat skills or quest completion. If you’re playing the campaign on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, it might make the game feel more responsive when making the shot but ultimately, it is in competitive gaming or esports where system latency plays a big role.
Have you ever asked yourself why the PC industry is chasing after higher refresh rates? You really won’t find any definitive answer on the web but if you ask anyone, the concerted response will be is that it looks good. Higher refresh rate just look smoother. Just so happens, system responsiveness is directly affected by it.
Much like how energy return is a measure of how much a shoe springs back providing extra stride, understanding system latency is a key measurement into understanding the science of esports.
NVIDIA Reflex Low-Latency Mode
Focusing our attention to esports, to improve the cyber athlete, there’s a lot at play here. The system latency figure we showed earlier shows us our systems source of latencies: the input device, the PC itself, the game, and the display.
Research and development is always ongoing to increase the performance of peripherals such as better mice or a better monitor. PC performance is also ever evolving and ever increasing. But what about the game? Are we just gonna wish our PC runs at 9000FPS so we can feel better responsiveness? If that’s the case then we can just revert back to 8-bit graphics and hope our RTX 3080 can do the job and sacrifice all the computer graphics we’ve had over the year. Not possible, right?
The other way is reduce possible causes of latency at the game level. This is where NVIDIA Reflex comes in. NVIDIA Reflex technology is an SDK which can be used by game developers to reduce and measure rendering latency. The aim is to make the game submit frames in a just-in-time manner, reducing render queue. This delivers a larger latency improvement compared to what can be achieved with driver methods like NVIDIA Ultra Low Latency Mode.
As of this writing, NVIDIA Reflex Low-Latency mode is currently implemented on Call of Duty: Warzone/Modern Warfare, Fortnite, and Valorant. Future games that will support NVIDIA Reflex are Apex Legends, COD: Black Ops Cold War, and Destiny 2, amongst others. NVIDIA Reflex also support GPUs up to the GTX 900 series graphics card.
NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer
Complimenting NVIDIA Reflex which is the solution to reducing latency in games, now we have the ability to measure system latency itself. NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer comes with with G-Sync 360Hz monitors and allows users to monitor and see information in relation to system latency from FPS to latency information. Paired with an NVIDIA certified mice, the Reflex Analyzer will also be able to measure mouse latency for the most accurate and thorough information.
The video above shows us an example of increased accuracy thanks to system latency and see that higher refresh rate also reduces system latency, provided your system can hit that with your GPU. In the video, we see that flicking to the head is easier with lower system latency. This ultimately helps in increasing shot accuracy. Repetition results to muscle memory and for competitive gamers.
NVIDIA G-Sync 360 Esports Monitors
Somewhat part of this ecosystem as well is the release of the 360hz monitors. Announced together with the RTX 30 series, these 360Hz monitors feature internal NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer. Other than that, they all sport the same screen refresh rate. Ahead of availability, NVIDIA sent us the ASUS ROG PG259QNR (see press release for this monitor).
This 25″ 360Hz monitor features many of the things that make ROG monitors great but aside from the 360hz monitor and color reproduction, ASUS is also adding some usability features that make this monitor a wee bit extra than its counterparts. The ROG PG259QNR is the deluxe model of their 360hz 25″ monitor, with this model featuring a desk mount replacement stand so you can clip it on your desk flush to the surface.
Reflex Analyzer works on the premise of measuring system latency which include mouse input. That said, right now NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer only works with certain mice, the one we have is the ROG Chakram Core. For other mice, NVIDIA has a preset database of known averages for popular mice while unrecognized mice will be displayed as such.
By this point in time, the new update of GeForce Experience should also be publicly available. This update includes the new performance view for the GeForce Experience overlay.
The new performance tab will also have the latency option which will show the little OSD as above. The latency tab shows us various information including current FPS, render latency, mouse latency and a few others.
As of this moment, there are only 3 games currently supporting NVIDIA Reflex Low-Latency Mode:
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare/Warzone
For this test, we’re testing with Valorant and Warzone. We’ll be using the RTX 3080 on our main test system with a Core i9 10900K and 32GB of DDR4-3600 C16 memory. We’ll also be testing with a GTX 1660 Super as well as a Ryzen 5 3600 CPU + GTX 1660 Super gaming build to see the results on that configuration.
A note on data gathering, much like the methodology for LDAT where we need to collect info from 100 shots, we applied the same method here. The only difference is that NVIDIA’s Reflex Analyzer is more precise so that removes some fiddling versus LDAT. What is complicated is the data recording and actual press off the mouse. For this, we taped down the mouse and used a brush to help in clicking while not disturbing the mouse’ position.
The latency overlay records the last 20 clicks and then provides the averages for those. To keep it uniform with our LDAT testing, all results are manually logged in a spreadsheet. We fire a a total of 120 shots, discarding the first 20 for our results.
First up we have the RTX 3080:
Going into these tests, we already expected that Reflex Low-Latency Mode will be favorable in GPU-limited scenarios. This is evident in Valorant, as we see 700FPS in our tests while Warzone hovers around 230 FPS.
We now change the GPU to a GTX 1660 Super and see how it goes:
This confirms our expectation that Reflex works better in GPU-limited situations. The GTX 1660 Super averages 340 FPS in Valorant while Warzone is around 100 FPS. By this point, we realize that this technology benefits either those with lower cards or people playing at higher resolutions. Still, from a numbers perspective, I still wouldn’t play 4K Valorant just because its got better results, I’m in it to win so 1080p it. Plus, all the 360Hz monitors are in 1080p only right now.
Last test we have a common esports PC combination, a 1660 Super + a Ryzen 3600:
Similar results with our initial test. With Valorant averaging 340 FPS in this configuration, Reflex gives us around 1ms of reduction in system latency. Warzone is more defined with reduction up to 8ms.
Now there’s two ways to look at this: based on the numbers and based on the concept in its entirety. Admittedly, I could’ve more testing but looking at it from the game themselves, these games will more readily benefit from a hardware upgrade. But, for people that don’t have that luxury, Reflex Low-Latency mode is a free game feature that you can use if you’re on an NVIDIA system. Treat it as a value-added service to your graphics card purchase. That’s basing it on numbers. Basing it on concept, every advantage counts and as its free, why not.
As for Reflex Analyzer, that’s the value added feature for the 360Hz monitors. There’ll come a time where monitor will be popping up as just plain 360Hz displays without the NVIDIA features and that’s always a good thing to democratize features but as it stands right now, anyone getting these screens are already paying a premium for first adopter rights so its still not evident if NVIDIA is putting a premium for the Reflex Analyzer module.
Esports and Science
NVIDIA Reflex Low-Latency Mode and NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer are two separate things. For the most part, the more important of the two is NVIDIA Reflex as it forms the foundation on which Reflex Analyzer revolves around. Still, the functionalities of NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer is vital to the target market for Reflex. Despite the fact that it is readily accessible to anyone with compatible hardware, Reflex Low-Latency Mode will ultimately favor competitive individuals and this is something that no benchmark on the planet Earth will ever justify nor will someone who has never participated an highly competitive match will know.
There is a reason why PTFE has bled onto the gaming scene as mouse feet and wrist wraps. There is also a reason why protective gaming eyewear is still a thing. Esports has finally made its mark this 2020, and it is easy to dismiss these technologies as just cash-ins but for people that are questing to get into the professional scene, win a championship or have the confidence in their skill to score a 1v5 clutch win, these things matter. It may be a niche market but much like extreme overclockers, there are esports enthusiast that want to achieve higher and further and every millisecond counts. That’s where Reflex comes in.
NVIDIA Reflex Low-Latency mode is there, no denying that. Reflex Analyzer is very much optional, but since its embedded into 360Hz monitors which will probably make their way to these players. One can also assume that its a nice way to verify your mouse performance during a LAN tournament.
Still, those things I mentioned ultimately works against NVIDIA Reflex and Reflex Analyzer as a product. Its a niche feature that will fit into the 1% of the 1%, so to speak. Reflex is readily accessible and that’s nice but Reflex Analyzer is perhaps a little extra on top of the first wave of 360hz monitors, something we can live without. So depending on how you’re venturing into the 360Hz monitor market if you need it or not, but for now, its certainly not a top-of-mind feature: NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer is a lab tool, and not the benchmark kind, its an AimLab or KovaaK assist tool for going against the numbers and that’s not a bad thing.
As it stands right now, NVIDIA Reflex integration in games is a nice feature, particularly for people on more GPU-restricted situations. The majority of NVIDIA iCafe have a certain spec prescription and that usually will be the key market for Reflex. Many always see branded efforts from both AMD and NVIDIA or Intel to be proprietary features to lock-in devs onto their ecosytem but in this situation or in some cases, push more expensive products to the user. The latter will almost
Its always good to have something that can help improve gaming performance whether its FPS or system latency, and as more and more eyes shift to system latency, we hope development into the system latency aspect grows and we move from millisecond response times to nanoseconds.
This is esports. Anything is possible.