Here’s A Look At The PS4 Pro’s Upcoming Supersampling AA

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When it comes to getting rid of jaggies, nothing quite beats supersampling. No surprise then, it’s also the worst performance-wise and often requires some compromises. That hasn’t stopped Sony from adding SSAA to the PS4 Pro’s latest firmware, 5.5, for those on 1080p screens that would prefer the choice. So, how does it go? It goes good, for the most part.

Digital Foundry’s Tom Morgan put in the hard yards on testing the new feature, comparing games such as Metal Gear Solid 5, Rocket League and FIFA 18.

Thanks to the quirks of video compression, it’s hard to see the differences in the clip, but there is a still to show off the effect (click the image for an enlarged view).

It’s not all smooth sailing… so to speak.

As Morgan explains, some developers have to switch off certain visual niceties to make sure supersampling / 4K doesn’t tank the framerate. In the case of Rocket League, this means no ambient occlusion or depth-of-field. Which can be a good thing, if you’re not a fan of these in the first place.

The problem is, the disabling of these effects is undocumented. This might change in the future, but for now, it’s something to be aware of.

Even so, it’s a nice boost for anyone playing games on a 1080p display — while you don’t get the 4K resolution, you can look forward to a vastly smoother image.

PS4 Pro Firmware 5.5 Super-Sampling Mode Analysed: Big Boosts for 1080p Users! [YouTube]


  • So it just tricks the game into believing there is a 4K display and then downscales the result.

    If this produces better output than when the game knows it is outputting 1080p, then that sounds like a deficiency in the game. That said, having modes that can improve the appearance of imperfect games isn’t a bad thing.

    • If this produces better output than when the game knows it is outputting 1080p, then that sounds like a deficiency in the game.
      How? If the game renders at 4k or whatever, and then downsamples to 1080p, it’ll naturally produce an image with fewer jagged edges – it isn’t a deficiency in the game or the engine, it’s things operating as intended. It causes artefacts compared to running on native 4k but it acts like a kind of anti-aliasing if you want to think of it that way.

      The latest NVIDIA cards can do a similar trick by making the game render at a higher resolution and scaling it down for the display’s native resolution.

      • Right, but the game could already do that without this feature. The video even mentions that some games had already implemented SSAA, and that the results from the new mode were almost indistinguishable.

        And as the video makes clear, it results in less clear images for games that upscale in 4K mode. For example, with SSAA turned on MGS5 will render at 1440p and upscale to 4K, and the system will then scale it back down to 1080p. You’d get better results by scaling down from 1440p directly.

        It also mentions that text rendering suffers: what may be well hinted text at 4K may not be pixel aligned when reduced down to 1080p.

        • I’m referring to this specific technique of allowing a game to render at a higher resolution than the native display and using that for image quality improvement, not AA in general.

          • The specific feature is hardware accelerated rendering to offscreen buffers, which has been available in OpenGL and Direct3D for a long time. Once you’ve got that, it is trivial to render a scene at one resolution and then scale it to the screen size. It’s basically the same technique games use to upscale too.

            So it’s not doing anything the games couldn’t before. But it will help with games that didn’t bother improving their 1080p rendering. But taking the Rocket League example in the article, sometimes games dropped other features in order to hit 4K, so you might lose quality in other areas (e.g. shadows) when turning on the system level SSAA.

          • It’s a console, there’s going to be a trade off to meet performance targets. This OS-level implementation, much like “boost mode”, isn’t going to be ideal for every title.

            If a title’s devs chose not to work on their 1080p quality settings, then that’s their choice – they may have a reason for not doing so.

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