Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 Founders Edition Review

Nvidia Reflex and DLSS 3.0 Latency

What is Nvidia Reflex

With their RTX 40 series launch, Nvidia has been pushing their Reflex technology hard, not only because Reflex is an integral part of DLSS 3.0, but also because they see latency as one of gaming’s most important performance metrics. 

Nvidia’s Reflex technology is not new, and competitive gamers may have already seen Reflex as an option within the PC settings menus of most popular online shooters. Reflex is an Nvidia technology that is supported by GTX 900 series and newer graphics cards, making it a technology that almost all GeForce users can enjoy today.

So what is Nvidia Reflex? Simply put it is a latency reduction technology from Nvidia that is designed to reduce the input latency of games, IE the reduce click-to-display” latency of games. With Reflex, it takes less time for your in-game actions to appear on screen, making your games feel more responsive. 

What is Latency, and why does it matter?

In gaming timings matters. If you respond to late to on-screen actions you can be beaten by your opponents online or risk losing a major boss fight. By reducing input latency, Nvidia Reflex effectively gives gamers more time to act by reducing the time it takes for your clicks/actions to have an in-game effect.

By directly integrating Reflex into games, Nvidia can allow games to operate in a low latency “just-in-time” rendering mode in supported games. This enables reduced system latency on Nvidia hardware, giving their users a competitive advantage in games that feature Reflex support. 

Competitive games that support Nvidia Reflex include Fortnite, Valorant, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Destiny 2.

Below is a graph of how Nvidia Reflex impacts the system latency of four games with a GTX 1660 Super graphics card that’s running on a 60Hz display. 

Nvidia Reflex and DLSS 3.0 Latency

DLSS 3.0 and its impact on system latency

Nvidia’s DLSS 3.0 technology introduces a new AI technique called “Frame Generation” to supported games. It takes information from a game’s currently rendered frame and prior frames to create a new AI-generated frame that can be displayed before the game’s current frame. 

In effect, DLSS 3.0’s FrameGen technology can create additional frames to increase the displayed framerate of games and increase their visual smoothness. However, the fact that it needs current-frame data to create a intermediate frame has a latency penalty, as Nvidia’s AI frame needs to be displayed before the game’s newly rendered frame. Nvidia’s AI cannot see into the future and display their AI frames after a game’s current frame.

With DLSS 3.0, Nvidia can dramatically increase the framerates of games using a combination of AI Upscaling (DLSS 2.0), and AI Frame Generation. In supported games, both of these technologies can be enabled independently, allowing gamers to choose which AI technologies they want to enable. 

Nvidia Reflex is a mandatory aspect of Nvidia’s DLSS 3.0 Frame Generation technology, acting as a hard counter to the latency penalties of their AI Frame Generation technique. Where DLSS 3.0 Frame Generation adds latency, Nvidia Reflex will task it away. In effect, this technologies cancel each other out, giving Nvidia’s AI Frame Generation technology no negative consequences. 

With this in mind, gamers should not expect DLSS Frame Generation to be featured in competitive online games. Here, the latency penalties of DLSS 3.0 are unwanted, and gamers should simply enable Nvidia Reflex without DLSS Frame Generation to have minimal system latency. 

DLSS 3.0 and Reflex Tested

To test the latency impact of Nvidia’s Reflex and DLSS 3.0 technology, we utilised a pre-release build of Cyberpunk 2077. Here, we found that Nvidia’s Reflex technology had a significant impact on the click-to-screen latency of the game. 

With Nvidia’s DLSS 3.0 technology (DLSS 2.0 in Balanced Mode + FrameGen), system latency is similar to the same settings when DLSS 2.0 is enabled in Balanced Mode without Nvidia Reflex. In this regard, Nvidia’s FrameGen technology has a minimal impact on system latency. However, DLSS 2.0 with Nvidia Reflex on has lower levels of system latency. 

What’s worth noting below is that Cyberpunk 2077 without DLSS, FrameGen, or Reflex ran at 39.39 FPS with a an average system latency of 66.3 ms. With DLSS set to balanced mode with DLSS Frame Generation on and Nvidia Reflex, system latency was 47.8ms with a framerate of 115.5 FPS. With DLSS, out average framerate was around three times higher and system latency was significantly reduced.

Using AI, Nvidia can make games run more smoothly and with less latency.  

Nvidia Reflex and DLSS 3.0 Latency