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Upscaling Explained: DLSS vs FSR vs XeSS

DLSS vs FSR vs XeSSImage: Keith May/Foundry

There’s been a lot of news about GPU upscaling recently. Which graphics cards use which tech? Which game supports which standard? Can some of them be used on GPUs from different manufacturers? It’s a bit of a mess. Fortunately, we’ve got Keith May to explain it all on the latest PCWorld YouTube video.

To make upscaling as simple as possible, what tech like Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD Fidelity Super Resolution (FSR) do is this: They render the gameplay frames at a smaller size than your monitor’s native resolution, pile on some advanced image processing, then scale it back up to native. It sounds complicated, but the end result is that the GPU is working a lot less hard to render those lower-res image frames and do some extra processing than it would be doing conventional processing at full scale. This means you can enable more advanced graphics and preserve faster framerates for smoother gameplay.

That “advanced image processing” comes in a lot of different flavors, and each GPU maker uses different tools to achieve it. Sharpening the image, spatial upscaling, using machine learning-trained algorithms that are customized for each game — there are some truly awesome techniques being developed to boost graphics fidelity while maintaining playable framerates. Nvidia’s most advanced techniques require the custom hardware inside its RTX GPUs, while AMD’s FSR and Intel’s XeSS technology can be used across different graphics card brands if the game supports them.

All this tech is cool, but if you have enough graphical power to hit your monitor’s maximum resolution and refresh rate (1080p, 60Hz for most monitors, but up to 4K or 500Hz in some gaming monitors), you should stick to native rendering without any add-on tricks. That’s especially true for fast-paced multiplayer games. But if you find your hardware struggling to keep up with the latest titles, give these upscaling tools a try.

For in-depth guides on graphics tech, be sure to subscribe to PCWorld on YouTube!

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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