NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER graphics card
NVIDIA

NVIDIA’s graphics drivers now offer a “Ultra-Low Latency mode” intended for competitive gamers and anyone else who wants the fastest input response times in their games. This feature is available for all NVIDIA GeForce GPUs in the NVIDIA Control Panel.

What Is Ultra-Low Latency Mode?

NVIDIA ultra-low latency response time testing benchmark results
NVIDIA

Graphics engines queue frames to be rendered by the GPU, the GPU renders them, and then they’re displayed on your PC.  As NVIDIA explains, this feature builds on the “Maximum Pre-Rendered Frames” feature that’s been found in the NVIDIA Control Panel for over a decade. That allowed you to keep the number of frames in the render queue down.

With “Ultra-Low Latency” mode, frames are submitted into the render queue just before the GPU needs them. This is “just in time frame scheduling,” as NVIDIA calls it. NVIDIA says it will “further [reduce] latency by up to 33%” over just using the Maximum Pre-Rendered Frames option.

NVIDIA render queue diagram
NVIDIA

This works with all GPUs. However, it only works with DirectX 9 and DirectX 11 games. In DirectX 12 and Vulkan games, “the game decides when to queue the frame” and the NVIDIA graphics drivers have no control over this.

Here’s when NVIDIA says you might want to use this setting:

“Low Latency modes have the most impact when your game is GPU bound, and framerates are between 60 and 100 FPS, enabling you to get the responsiveness of high-framerate gaming without having to decrease graphical fidelity. “

In other words, if a game is CPU bound (limited by your CPU resources instead of your GPU) or you have very high or very low FPS, this won’t help too much. If you have input latency in games—mouse lag, for example—that’s often simply a result of low frames per second (FPS) and this setting won’t solve that problem.

Warning: This will potentially reduce your FPS. This mode is off by default, which NVIDIA says leads to “maximum render throughput.” For most people most of the time, that’s a better option. But, for competitive multiplayer gaming, you’ll want all the tiny edges you can get—and that includes lower latency.

How to Enable Ultra-Low Latency Mode

You’ll need version 436.02 or newer of the NVIDIA graphics driver to take advantage of this. You can update your graphics driver through the GeForce Experience application or download the latest graphics driver directly from NVIDIA’s website.

Once you have, launch the NVIDIA Control Panel. To do so, right-click your Windows desktop and select “NVIDIA Control Panel.”

Launching the NVIDIA Control Panel

Click “Manage 3D Settings” under 3D Settings in the left sidebar.

Select how you want to enable Ultra-Low Latency Mode. To enable it for all games on your system, select “Global Settings.” To enable it for one or more specific games, select “Program Settings” and choose the game you want to enable it for.

Managing 3D settings in the NVIDIA Control Panel

Locate “Low Latency Mode” in the list of settings. Click the setting box to the right of the setting and select “Ultra” in the list.

With the default settings of “Off,” the game’s engine will queue one to three frames at a time. The “On” setting will force the game to only queue a single frame, which is the same as setting Max_Prerendered_Frames to 1 in older NVIDIA drivers. The Ultra setting submits the frame “just in time” for the GPU to pick it up—there will be no frame sitting in the queue and waiting.

Enabling Ultra Low Latency Mode for NVIDIA graphics

Click the “Apply” button to save your settings. You can now close the NVIDIA Control Panel.

Activating Ultra Low Latency Mode in NVIDIA's GeForce graphics drivers

Remember, as we pointed out above, this option can actually hurt performance in many situations! We recommend enabling it only for specific games and testing your settings to see how well it actually works.

If you want to undo your changes and use the NVIDIA graphics driver’s default settings, return here and click the “Restore” button.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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