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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 Rust, Rainbow Six: Siege and Overwatch.

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Refresh rates and visual settings impact

But we can test more stuff. Those Fortnite and Valorant metrics were taken on a blistering 360Hz panel. Latency improves with higher refresh rates. Most people have a 60Hz display. How does using that more common refresh rate affect Reflex’s capabilities? We locked the Asus ROG Swift PG259QNR’s refresh rate to 60Hz using Nvidia Control Panel to find out. (We consulted with Nvidia to confirm that doing so wouldn’t affect the Reflex Latency Analyzer’s reliability.)

fortnite 60hz Brad Chacos/IDG
valorant 60hz Brad Chacos/IDG

There are a handful of takeaways here. First, note how much less responsive these games become moving from a 360Hz to a 60Hz panel—there’s a marked downgrade across the board compared to previous results. (We’ll dive into that more later.) Reflex continues to help significantly for the GTX 1660 in Fortnite, as well as the RTX 3080 with ray tracing enabled. Valorant’s responsiveness remains largely unaffected with Reflex active at 1080p.

Let’s keep that train of thought choo-chooing. We also tested Fortnite and Valorant with the monitor locked at 60Hz, 144Hz, and 360Hz refresh rates to illustrate the advantage that faster displays provide. We also threw in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive because it’s massively popular—and to drive home the fact that Nvidia Reflex and Reflex Latency Analyzer are mutually exclusive. CSGO doesn’t support the Nvidia Reflex Low Latency Mode APIs, but you can still measure its latency (and the latency of any game) with Nvidia’s tools. We tested all three games with the highest visual settings possible, with Reflex off and ray tracing disabled in Fortnite.

fortnite refresh rates Brad Chacos/IDG
valorant refresh rates Brad Chacos/IDG
csgo refresh rates Brad Chacos/IDG

Latency scales down as refresh rates go up, as you’d expect. While upgrading to a 360Hz monitor definitely provides more responsiveness, 144Hz seems like the sweet spot, with diminishing returns thereafter—especially if you’re playing esports games with an ultra-potent GPU like the RTX 3080.

Now let’s do something completely different. We’ve been testing these titles with maxed-out graphics settings to test the effectiveness of Nvidia Reflex, which kicks in harder the heavier your GPU is being utilized. But many competitive esports players play the exact opposite way, cranking down all the visuals to improve frame rates and response times. How does Nvidia Reflex hold up versus that standard? We tuned back Fortnite (with ray tracing off) and Valorant to find out, using the panel’s full 360Hz speeds.

fortnite low 360 Brad Chacos/IDG
valorant low 360 Brad Chacos/IDG

As you can see, playing with low visual settings remains the most responsive option. With the CPU being the bottleneck at that point, Nvidia Reflex’s benefits are essentially null in standard circumstances. It even seemingly adds a bit of latency with the GTX 1660 on a 360Hz panel in Fortnite—though 18.8ms remains firmly in the “competitive-grade esports” category.

There are two considerations to keep in mind, though. First, the bottom-rung visuals are ugly: jagged edges, low-res textures, you name it. Boosting the visuals up higher to get rid of that is worthwhile for everyone but the most competitive gamers, and Nvidia Reflex helps you claw most of the responsiveness back.

Second, even when you drop all visuals to low to make the CPU your bottleneck, some scenes in some games can still become GPU-bound. Nvidia’s Seth Schneider highlighted a close circle toward the end of an Apex Legends map. When people start chucking thermite grenades, the game can suddenly flip to being GPU-bound, and having Nvidia Reflex on can greatly help with responsiveness in that scenario, he says.

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