Why AMD’s Answer To DLSS Is Taking So Long

Why AMD’s Answer To DLSS Is Taking So Long
Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku Australia)
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Supply of next-gen anything gaming is basically impossible to grab, so it was hard to get excited about the announcement of a new graphics card from AMD this week. But what the new graphics card came with was information about FidelityFX Super Resolution, better known as AMD’s alternative to Nvidia’s DLSS black magic.

If you’re out of the loop, DLSS is a neural network-powered technique that’s designed to upscale your games from lower resolutions into higher ones. This gives you the benefit of a higher resolution (sort of) without the same cost to performance.

That’s the theory, although in this case the theory works out pretty damn well in practice. Cyberpunk 2077 is literally unplayable in 4K — especially with ray-tracing — without DLSS, and the game is absolutely something that should be played in 4K. Death Stranding is astonishingly good, with some (but not all) details looking better upscaled to 4K than at their native resolution. And Control‘s latest implementation of DLSS is excellent, even at 4K with all the ray-tracing bells and whistles maxed out.

And with the improvement to FPS, it’s no surprise that people have been waiting for AMD to catch up. After all, the next-gen consoles are built on AMD’s RDNA architecture, so any improvement in PCs might also help boost performance on the consoles, too.

AMD’s formal announcement of the Radeon RX 6700 XT, which you can rewatch above, mentioned FidelityFX Super Resolution but it didn’t offer any details as to when it’d be coming, or why. But Linus Tech Tips got a statement from the company as to what’s taken AMD so long, and it’s fairly logical.

“Rather than rushing it out the door on only one new top-end card, they want it to be cross-platform, so they want it running on all their GPUs — including the ones inside consoles,” Linus said.

Given that AMD’s working with DirectML, the machine learning component within Microsoft’s DirectX 12 framework. Leveraging that opens the door for any advancements to be brought to at least the Xbox Series X, although the architecture of the PS5 means it should theoretically work there too.

DirectML launched two years ago, but we’re yet to really see its wider adoption. And while there was talk that AMD might release FidelityFX via a driver update in the first quarter of the year, it’s pretty clear that the technology is tricky to implement.

Image: AMD

One of the biggest problems with DLSS’s early days was adoption. The neural network had to be trained on a game by game basis using a supercomputer, which meant very few games ended up with DLSS support at all. That was later changed to a more generalist approach last year. And with Nvidia publishing a DLSS plugin for Unreal Engine, we should see a lot more games incorporate the AI-powered super sampling in the months and years ahead.

AMD has always preferred solutions that can be enabled very simply, so the delays here make sense. If AMD can remove as many barriers as possible to its implementation, gamers will ultimately benefit. There’s little value in a technique that only one or two games use, as impressive as they might be. We’ve already seen how effective Nvidia’s neural network can be — and once AMD gets their alternative into gear, the whole industry will benefit.

Comments

  • As someone with a 3090, I’m not impressed with DLSS. From my own experience. I prefer the native resolution than the DLSS scaled. Tried in several titles…. it just looks blurry and smeared. I honestly can’t see what the purpose is of DLSS. Maybe for someone with a lower card trying to scale up to a better resolution, but yeah… touted as a feature on a 3k card is weird as to me because it is seriously not that great.

    • Have to agree, another 3090 here, IMO, the only reason people think DLSS 2.0 is good is because the TAA implementations in Death Stranding and Control are trash and actually improved by replacing it with DLSS, and Cyberpunk is so poorly optimised that its otherwise unplayable.

      Otherwise, DLSS, has its Achilles heel in that its always 1 frame behind, making image stability in motion terrible is absolutely awful, as it creates a tug of war effect, use DLSS to get more frames, but lessen the usefulness of your high refresh low latency monitor for good image persistence, and there really isn’t a good way around this with revamping how the tech works at a fundamental level.

      • I’m genuinely curious if there’s something going on with the 3090 or 3000 series then… Because basically every time I’ve seen DLSS 2.0 in action on my own system or others, it has been nearly indistinguishable from running at native res. Just with a noticeable improvement in framerate.

        I’m only using a 2080 Super myself, and sure if you spend any amount of time playing games you’ll always be able to tell the resolution isn’t actually native.

        But I’ve definitely never experienced any issues with blurry/smeared image, etc. And I’m absolutely one of those people that gets extremely irritated by blur or such in games in general. Such as any game with motion blur (fuck I’ll never understand why that’s a thing in games), or games that have issues of image stability in motion, etc. I’ll straight up stop playing them if motion blur can’t be disabled or the image stability can’t be fixed.

        Only other thing I can think of at the moment is that I also have a G-Sync monitor… So perhaps that plays into my personal experience with DLSS apparently also being a lot better here should you not be running something similar also.

        • I’ve also ran a 2080 Ti and same opinion.

          I daresay there might be something to do with resolution stepping here. DLSS Quality doesn’t have usually enough of a performance uplift to enable it whilst still also getting things like haloing, but Balanced and Especially Performance have far too low of a base resolution that when in motion, you are essentially seeing the base resolution interpolated with the upscaled resolution, giving a smeared effect.

          Also, I’m playing in ultrawide, there’s a lot more ‘data’ on screen when in motion so its a bit more obvious.

          My thoughts on the two anyway.

  • I always worry when it comes the software part of amd cards, haven’t had a PC in a few years now but my experience was their drivers were always weak compared to nvidia.

    • Drivers are fine, have been generally for years. Nvidia can still be slightly faster in some games based on driver optimisation (usually indie games), but considering you are usually buying a performance tier above an Nvidia card at the same price, unless you have a Halo Nvidia card, its mostly a wash.

      That being said, I would kill to have AMD’s Driver Software Panel. That thing is legitimately awesome with tonnes of features that because AMD implements things globally, you just can’t get on Nvidia.

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