Mouse Latency: This is where it all starts. Mouse latency in this case is the amount of time it takes for your system to detect that you’ve clicked your mouse. It should be less than 1ms with a high-end mouse.
PC + Display Latency: This starts when your mouse click is received by the operating system. That data then goes through your CPU, to the GPU, and finally out to your display so you can see the result. This was the measurement displayed on our monitor with the built-in Reflex Latency Analyzer and a more thorough breakdown included this statistic on the Nvidia Performance tool.System Latency: This overall stat adds Mouse Latency + PC Latency + Display Latency and gives you the total amount of time from mouse click to output in a game. A good rule of thumb here is that 10ms is outstanding, 20ms is great, 30ms is okay, and anything over 40ms means you probably need to start tweaking to get that closer to the “outstanding” range. This would be especially true if you plan on playing at a pro level, where a few milliseconds separates victory and defeat.
To help you do that, Nvidia has built in Reflex Low-Latency Mode: This is a new feature offered by games like Valorant, Fortnite, Call of Duty, and others that take advantage of Nvidia tech to reduce your overall latency.
Nvidia’s claim is that this tech should make latency testing simple, fast, and accessible, and compared to how things were done in the past, I’d have to agree. If you’re interested in lowering your latency this certainly makes it easy to analyze what your machine is doing, and know how to fix it. I could imagine it becoming standardized in pro-circuit esports tournaments someday. However, if you’re a novice when it comes to this stuff, it’s a bit of a harder sell because it’s not going to be a night-and-day difference if you don’t know what to look for.
As someone I’d consider a novice when it comes to latency, I’ve been in that “hard sell” boat for the last week or so as I played on a Reflex-enabled setup. For full context, this 360hz monitor was paired with my personal PC build which contains an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 GPU, AMD Ryzen 7 3700X CPU, and 32GB DDR4-2666 RAM, all fit into an ASRock X370 Taichi motherboard. All games were installed on a 3,500/3,300 MB/s Samsung 960 Pro NVMe M.2.
When I heard I would have to move from my trusty BenQ 1440p 144hz monitor to a 1080p 360hz display for this assignment, I was worried the increase in refresh rate wouldn’t be worth the loss in resolution. Would 360hz and this new tech make that much of a difference?
Whoa! The answer is yes. Yes it would – at least on the refresh rate front. Jumping to this 360hz monitor from 144hz reminded me of the first time I played on a high-refresh-rate monitor. It took some time to get used to all those glorious new frames, but even as an amateur sniper, I was hitting shots that would have eluded me in the past. In every scenario it felt like I was getting more information from the games I was playing, and frankly just winning more. And with the Reflex tool I could dive into the metrics and clearly see why that was happening.
Obviously I had a higher refresh rate than what I was used to, but the input was also extra snappy – I didn’t know what I’d been missing. With a monitor that could keep up with any framerate my PC could spit out, I was getting more information into my eyeballs at all times, and could react to it faster. With the built in PC + Display Latency on the monitor, I was able to hone in on what settings I could tweak for each game in order to eke out a few more frames, lower latency, and the best experience across the board.
According to Nvidia, the new low latency technology dramatically reduces the time something takes to render on screen when clicking the mouse. The trick is that it keeps the CPU and GPU in sync, eliminating render time between the two. This proved out to be marginally true as I could see the result first-hand via the on-screen analysis tool – every shot I fired gave me a readout of my PC + Display latency.
To break it down: with the in-game Reflex options and the Nvidia Global Low-Latency Mode both set to off, I was getting an average of around 20ms of System latency across games like Fortnite, Warzone, Apex, and Valorant, with Warzone being an outlier showing a bit higher latency of about 36ms PC + Display. Even without the Nvidia Reflex Low-Latency options, Destiny 2 clocked in at a snappy 25ms, putting it about 5ms slower than Fortnite and Apex. Valorant was the most impressive, averaging 13ms. For mouse latency, I saw numbers from 0.1ms to 1.0ms of input delay, with the average being on the lowest end of that spectrum.
With Nvidia Reflex Low-Latency Mode turned on, I got some significantly lower readings of 15ms and lower on some titles, with readings often coming in under 10ms for Apex and Valorant. However, the gains were marginal because my PC seems to be optimized, meaning the reduction in latency with the in-game Reflex Low-Latency mode was low when playing at 360hz.
Call of Duty Warzone was the hardest to dial in. When I had left HDR on initially, I was getting an Average System Latency of 42.1ms (danger zone!). That came from 1.0ms of mouse latency and 41.1ms of PC + Display Latency. This is a great example of what this tool can help you with, as it made it very clear that Warzone was running with almost double the latency of other games I had tested. Compare that reading to Destiny 2, a game with no reflex low-latency option, which could hit 25ms, and something was clearly up. Knowing that, I went into Warzone’s settings, turned HDR off and turned down the quality on a lot of items – even begrudgingly reducing my FOV slider a little bit to improve those numbers. With those tweaks, I was able to get my System Latency much closer to 30ms.
Nvidia told me that one should expect an average system latency of around 15ms with a 360hz monitor, and a range of 40-55ms of latency at 144hz. Except for Warzone, all the games I tested fell well within that range at 360hz, and with some tweaking were able to be improved. At 144fps locked, I still saw amazing response times though they were a tad higher.
To see if there were indeed any improvements to come from playing at 360hz, I also tried locking the refresh rate of the display to 144hz, and locking fps in Fortnite to 144fps. In this instance I saw an increase of 3ms delay on the low end, and 7ms of delay on the high end – a notable increase in delay over the 360hz display at the same settings.
There was one case with dramatic improvements originally discovered by Gamers Nexus. I was able to replicate what they had found in my own tests with Fortnite. With RTX On, and Reflex turned off I was seeing around 62.8ms of input delay. Turning Reflex on cut that nearly in half giving me 33.4ms of delay. An impressive reduction to say the least.
Putting the technical analysis aside for a moment, I also want to also discuss what it was like playing on a 360hz monitor, pushing as many frames as my PC can handle at my eyeballs. At first it felt like my eyes needed to calibrate to the high refresh rate. But after I adjusted, everything was so smooth and buttery that I felt like I had more time to line up a shot, fire it, and actually hit the enemy. I don’t claim to be a pro, but I can definitively say that I’ve felt a marked improvement in my performance across all games.
I not only played better, but was noticing things I hadn’t seen before. For example, a jump and mid-air snipe shot is a difficult move for me to pull off in Destiny 2; the scope will take a bit to settle for that shot, and on my 144hz display I always had a bit of a hard time landing these tricky maneuvers. After ramping up to 360hz, however, I started landing these much more consistently.
The long and the short of it is: if you want as much data as possible and to enable the fastest response time possible, these monitors and tools give you one more way to actively improve your game. In addition, I would have never thought that going from 144hz to a 360Hz monitor would help me improve my game, but I stand corrected. The addition of the Reflex Latency Analyzer tech helped me understand what was going on in the background and get the most out of my games. Admittedly, this may have been due to me thinking of this level of tweaking as a hobby in and of itself – it’s not for people who want things to work perfectly right out of the box. As the graph shows it seems that the gains are marginal, especially when you’re already on a high-end PC, a 360hz monitor, and optimized games, which deflates the excitement a little bit even though the results speak for themselves. Even so, I have to imagine that being able to readily see that data on screen is going to be a welcome addition to competitive FPS junkies everywhere. What do you think of the new Nvidia Reflex Latency Analyzer that will be built into select 360hz displays? Is that a selling point for you? Let me know in the comments.
Destin Legarie is a Director of Video Content Strategy at IGN and host of our Destiny show Fireteam Chat. You can follow him on Twitter or watch him stream regularly on Twitch when he’s not creating cool stuff at IGN.