Late last year, when AMD launched its Radeon RX 6000 series PC gaming graphics cards, the company finally brought back a competitive high-end GPU threat versus its arch rival NVIDIA. Among the performance comparisons, various technology feature checkbox items were introduced including support for DirectX Ray Tracing, and an image quality and performance boosting technology AMD referred to simply as “Super Resolution.” Similar to NVIDIA’s AI-infused DLSS (Deep Learning Super-Sampling) technology, AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) was finally just this month fully unveiled, with claims to offer similar image quality and big performance gains but with a seemingly major key advantage of being open source and not requiring specialized hardware to run. In fact, soon to be available through AMD’s GPUOpen MIT license, FSR can also run on competitive GPUs from NVIDIA and even potentially Intel GPUs, when they arrive later this year. As you might imagine, out of the gate this cross-GPU platform functionality offers game developers significant incentive for adoption of FSR, with a rather large potential install base of gaming hardware (and gamers) that can benefit from the technology.
How AMD FSR Works Without Specialty Hardware
As I mentioned, AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution is vendor-agnostic and doesn’t require specialized hardware to function, whereas NVIDIA DLSS relies on Tensor core resources on-board NVIDIA Turing or Ampere GPUs, to accelerate neural network models that have been specifically trained on the game engines it’s enabled for. DLSS utilizes temporal super-sampling (upscaling) across multiple frames of a game engine at a time, along with motion vectors that enable the AI to track movement in the frame for better stability of the image, so you don’t see prominent “swimming” artifacts. In contrast, AMD FSR utilizes a more traditional spatial upscaling alone to create a “super resolution” image from a single input frame, not multiple frames. AMD also claims FSR utilizes a library of special algorithms that work on sharpening both image edge and texture detail.
The end result with FSR is that, at high resolution in-game settings of 4K or 1440p, for example, an input resolution workload of one-third less to as little as one-half of the target game resolution is required, to render an output image that very closely approximates the native 4K or 1440p high resolution image. The above table shows the resulting input resolution at FSR Ultra Quality, Quality, Balanced and Performance modes. After the image is rendered at its lower input resolution and upscaled, the GPU-accelerated-algorithms then enhance the edges of objects in a scene, as well as add some texture sharpening, and outputs the frame, with what the company calls an “advanced edge reconstruction algorithm” at the game’s preset resolution and image quality settings.
AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution Image Quality And Performance
It all sounds pretty complicated (and it is) but the net-net is that AMD claims gamers can realize a huge up-to 2.4X lift in performance at FSR’s max Performance setting, though there are some image quality trade-offs there. If you’re pixel-peeping, somewhere in between Ultra, Quality and Balanced modes is where most gamers may land. That said, if the image quality comparisons at HotHardware are any indication, FSR is the real deal. For example, in the action role playing game Godfall, I’m hard-pressed to tell the difference in image quality between 4K native resolution game play and 4K with AMD FSR Quality mode enabled.
In addition, as Ben at HotHardware discovered in the benchmarks, frame rates jump a massive 63% on a Radeon RX 6800 XT and 57% on a GeForce RTX 3070 at the Quality preset, taking the game north of 100 FPS on the Radeon GPU, again at 4K max image quality in-game settings.
Also, on lower-end hardware, this can mean the difference between playable and unplayable frame rates, as you can see at HotHardware, with a GeForce RTX 1650 Super in the action RPG title The Riftbreaker, going from about 34 FPS at native 4K settings, to 67 FPS with the Quality FidelityFX Super Resolution setting enabled. In short, FSR has the potential to bring old graphics cards new life for many gamers, and that’s a welcomed opportunity I’m sure for many, in the ongoing GPU shortage we’re experiencing.
Beyond these performance gains and image quality results, the one question running around in enthusiast’s heads is probably, “what’s better DLSS or FSR?” In that regard, I think it’s too early to tell which technology looks and performs better. At the outset, it would seem that AMD has the upper-hand in terms of potential performance lift, while NVIDIA DLSS may have an edge in image quality. However, until we get a game title that supports both DLSS and FSR, we won’t have any truly reliable A/B comparisons.
What About Game Developer Adoption Of FSR?
Which bring us to the supporting game title question. As of today, there are 7 game titles out of the gate that will support AMD FSR: Godfall, The Rift Breaker, Anno 1800, Terminator Resistance and a few others, as you can see above, with some big-name titles like Far Cry 6, DOTA 2, and Myst incoming. There are currently 19 games in total that we’re line-of-sight on, that will offer support for FidelityFX Super Resolution. That’s a more than NVIDIA had for DLSS out of the gate when it first launched, but well behind NVIDIA’s 50+ DLSS-supported game title library currently, with more big names like Doom Eternal, Rainbow Six Siege and Red Dead Redemption 2 on the way.
Regardless, due to the open nature of the technology, along with the fact that it runs even on older GPU architectures dating back to Radeon RX 400 and GeForce RTX 10 series, I see a good chance for strong game developer adoption moving forward with AMD FSR. It’ll be interesting to watch in the weeks and months ahead as AMD FSR studio partners like EA, Unity, Valve and Ubisoft hopefully roll out the tech to their biggest game engines currently on the market. Gamers on both the green and red teams could be in for a nice little gift of speed, courtesy of AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution.