Nvidia DLSS vs AMD FSR: Which GPU Upscaling Software is Better?

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Nvidia DLSS vs AMD FSR: Which GPU Upscaling Software is Better?

As a computer store owner, I sometimes get asked technical questions about graphics cards. One question I have heard from customers when shopping around for a new graphics card is which is a better upscaling tech: Nvidia DLSS vs AMD FSR?. With all the terminology that comes along with GPUs, it can get a little bit confusing to figure out what all of it means, and if you should really care. Both Nvidia DLSS and AMD FSR are forms of upscaling, a very helpful ingredient in making your games look better, without a reduction in performance. The big question is who does it better: Nvidia or AMD?

How Does DLSS Work?

One incredible innovation from Nvidia’s latest graphics cards is the application of a new technology known as Deep Learning Super Sampling, or DLSS for short. DLSS is basically a rendering technology that uses artificial intelligence to upscale your resolution in order to boost FPS.

Imagine you are playing a game using one of Nvidia’s 2000-series or 3000-series GPUS. Perhaps you are pushing your graphics card to the absolute limit with a demanding game, high resolution, maximum settings, and lots of effects. What you will start to notice is that your frame rate is going to suffer, leading to more “choppy” graphics and a less immersive gaming experience.

One way to improve performance is to simply run your games at a lower resolution, but you didn’t spend your hard-earned money on a high-end GPU to settle for a low-res experience. That’s where DLSS comes in. DLSS works by rendering your game at a lower resolution and upscaling it using deep learning, with no reduction in frame rate. This improves your game’s performance drastically. 

If you are on the fence about buying a new graphics card you may be wondering if there are any disadvantages. Is it really worth it to buy a new GPU for this technology or should you stick with your current card for a while longer?

Are there any drawbacks or disadvantages to DLSS?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first, because there isn’t much of it. The only real drawbacks to DLSS are that it isn’t supported on all games, and it typically will require you to have one of Nvidia’s newer graphics cards. 

What games have DLSS support?

The earliest games to support DLSS are titles such as Wolfenstein and Final Fantasy XV, and more games are being added to the list of supported titles all the time. The only thing you will be missing out on are indie classics and older games, but you typically won’t need DLSS to max out games like this anyway. As of June 2022, DLSS supports some of the most popular titles such as:

  • Apocalypse: 2.0 Edition
  • Aron’s Adventure
  • Back 4 Blood
  • Battlefield 2042
  • Battlefield V
  • Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
  • Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • Call Of Duty: Warzone
  • Crysis Remastered
  • Crysis Remastered Trilogy
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Doom Eternal
  • Dying Light 2
  • Edge Of Eternity
  • Farming Simulator 22
  • Fortnite
  • God of War
  • Helios
  • Hitman 3
  • Lego: Builder’s Journey
  • Minecraft
  • Monster Hunter: World
  • Myst
  • Naraka: Bladepoint
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • The Persistence
  • The Riftbreaker
  • Warstride Challenges
  • Watch Dogs Legion
  • Wolfenstein Youngblood
  • Wrench
  • Xuan-Yuan Sword VII
  • Yag

A more comprehensive list of games and applications that support DLSS can be found on Nvidia’s website here.

Why are certain games DLSS compatible while others are not?

DLSS works for certain games and not for others because the game developers need to have Nvidia’s AI trained on how to upscale it. This is quite a unique process where the DLSS team extracts many aliased frames from the game and then generates a “perfect frame” using super sampling or accumulation rendering. 

Nvidia’s supercomputer trains the DLSS model to recognize these perfect frames and generate them using artificial intelligence to increase the pixel count. In this way, Nvidia is able to work its magic and upscale the resolution with no loss in frame rate.

What about the ghosting issues?

You may have heard rumors of some games being plagued by “ghosting” issues when DLSS is enabled. This can make your games less visually appealing and ruin the immersive feeling of your game. According to Nvidia forums and many other forums across the internet, many gamers were experiencing this ghosting issue. The problem was that moving objects not tied to motion vectors, something DLSS relied on, would cause artifacts while in motion.

The good news is that Nvidia seems to have cleared this problem up with the latest DLSS update. Ghosting issues are still reported on some games such as Rainbow Six Seige, but for the majority of gamers, this is no longer a problem. If you are concerned about the reports of ghosting and artifacts, don’t let that hold you back from checking out the new and improved DLSS.

So what GPU do I need to run DLSS?

If you have an older graphics card, you might not be able to take advantage of the wonders of DLSS. As far as supported graphics cards, typically anything with “RTX” in the name will work. These graphics cards contain dedicated AI processors known as Tensor Cores, which are vital for DLSS.

Tensor Cores are a necessary part of the AI recipe because they accelerate the process of matrix multiplication. Tensor Cores take the load off the CPU by processing matrices much faster, unlike a regular CPU, which would get bogged down pretty easily if it had to do these calculations alone.

So does your graphics card have what it takes to run DLSS? Or will you need to upgrade? Have a look at the following list to figure out which GPU you need. All of these graphics cards support DLSS:

  • GeForce RTX 2060
  • GeForce RTX 2060 Super
  • GeForce RTX 2070
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super
  • GeForce RTX 2080
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Super
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
  • Nvidia TITAN RTX
  • GeForce RTX 3060
  • GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
  • GeForce RTX 3070
  • GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
  • GeForce RTX 3080
  • GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
  • GeForce RTX 3090

If you are using something older such as a GTX graphics card then you won’t be able to take advantage of DLSS. If you don’t own an Nvidia GPU at all, and instead find yourself with an AMD graphics card, then you won’t be able to use DLSS. However, there is an answer for AMD graphics card owners out there: AMD FSR.

What is AMD FSR?

If you are a proud owner of an AMD GPU then it may take a lot of convincing to get you to switch. But if you are considering buying an Nvidia graphics card, then you may be wondering which is really better: Nvidia DLSS or AMD FSR?

FSR stands for FidelityFX Super Resolution, and it was released by AMD shortly after DLSS as a response to Nvidia’s new technology. There are a few key differences between Nvidia DLSS and AMD FSR, most notably how they go about the task of upscaling low-resolution frames.

AMD Uses Open Source Technology

The first key difference between DLSS and FSR is that FSR does not use artificial intelligence or deep learning to perform the calculations responsible for upscaling graphics. Instead, they use their own open-source special algorithm. Whereas Nvidia DLSS requires the use of Tensor Cores and RTX architecture, the simple nature of AMD FSR means it can run on a larger variety of GPUs. 

Even though it was released nearly two years after DLSS, FSR works on a wider variety of hardware, such as older AMD GPUs, Playstation 5, Xbox, and even Nvidia GPUs–That’s right, AMD FSR will work on the competitor’s GPUs! 

If you have a GPU from some time within the past five years, there is a good chance it is FSR-capable. Depending on what GPU you are currently using, you may not need to upgrade at all to take advantage of this technology.

With this wider range of hardware compatibility, comes a wider array of game titles that are compatible with FSR. Even older games like Dota 2 are compatible with FSR. However, this doesn’t mean all games will look better with FSR. God of War, for example, is reportedly one of many games that just doesn’t look as good with FSR enabled.

Luckily, some of the most popular titles are supported by FSR such as:

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • Assetto Corsa Competizione
  • Back 4 Blood
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Black Desert
  • Call of Duty: Vanguard
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Death Stranding
  • Dota 2
  • Edge of Eternity
  • Edge of the Abyss: Awaken
  • Elite Dangerous: Odyssey
  • Far Cry 6
  • Ghostrunner
  • Hitman 3
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Hot Wheels Unleashed
  • Icarus
  • Kingshunt
  • Lego Builder’s Journey
  • Marvel’s Avengers
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Myst
  • Myth of Empires
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Quake II RTX
  • Resident Evil Village
  • Sniper Elite 5
  • Terminator: Resistance
  • World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

A more comprehensive list of games that come with AMD FSR support can be found here.

How Good is AMD FSR?

With DLSS relying on closed-source AI and requiring the use of Tensor Cores, a tech that is only available on Nvidia’s 2000-series and 3000-series GPUs, FSR can seem like a more attractive, lower-cost option. Since FSR works on older hardware, this is great news if you are looking to improve your gaming performance without breaking the bank.

According to some recent benchmarks, FSR generally tends to increase performance quite similarly to DLSS. 

Older games, especially, tended to get both a performance boost and an increase in image quality. However, it is typically found that this performance increase comes with a somewhat noticeable decrease in image quality on newer titles. For the discerning gamer, this could be a deal-breaker.

AMD FSR can run in several different modes: performance, balanced, quality, and ultra-quality. As the names imply, different modes equal different levels of performance. Whereas ultra-quality unsurprisingly gets the best benchmark results, performance mode tends to look rather unappealing in the majority of games.

Who Has Better Upscaling Tech: Nvidia or AMD?

The question of which is better between AMD FSR and Nvidia DLSS basically comes down to how much you are willing to spend. Due to AMD’s open-source technology and use of a more basic spacial algorithm as opposed to artificial intelligence, FSR can be easier to obtain. The fact that it works on more hardware means there is a pretty good chance that you already have an FSR-capable graphics card. For the price, FSR certainly provides a better value than DLSS.

However, if you are willing to shell out the extra money for a top-end graphics card from Nvidia to get Tensor Cores and Deep Learning, the performance benefits and better image quality could be moderately noticeable. Whether it is worth it, is up to you to decide.