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AMD FSR vs. Nvidia DLSS: Which upscaler is best?

AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) and Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) are quickly becoming must-have features in the latest PC games. They help the best graphics cards along by rendering the game at a lower resolution to boost performance. But between them, which one reigns supreme?

DLSS may be the older of the two, but some clever tech helps it to keep an edge. That said, AMD has been improved FSR with a new version that delivers similar image quality to DLSS, and without requiring an AMD GPU. From performance to image quality to game support, here’s how FSR and DLSS stack up.

FSR vs. DLSS: What’s the difference?

Side by side comparison of FSR 2.0 against DLSS.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

FSR and DLSS, despite accomplishing the same goal, are very different technologies. At a high level, both tools render your game at a lower resolution to improve performance. After, the algorithms upscale the image to fit your monitor and fill in missing information based on various inputs. The specifics are where things get messy.

DLSS is a supersampling algorithm that’s bolstered by AI. The dedicated Tensor cores on RTX graphics cards run an AI model that assists in upscaling, which helps fill in the missing information from the lower internal resolution. The model is fed with temporal, or time-based, data, which show the motion of objects from one frame to the next. This helps the algorithm spot new details that it wouldn’t be able to achieve with a still frame.

Despite AI, DLSS is similar to Temporal Super Resolution (TSR), which we saw for the first time in Ghostwire TokyoFSR uses a similar approach, but only in the second version.

As if the differences between FSR and DLSS weren’t confusing enough, there are two versions of FSR. FSR 1.0 is fairly basic. It uses an established algorithm to upscale the image and fill in the missing details before applying a sharpening filter. Critically, it happens after anti-aliasing, so it’s trying to reconstruct an image that has already had some cleanup done. That generally leads to much worse image quality.

FSR 2.0 uses the same algorithm and sharpening filter, but it happens before anti-aliasing and takes more inputs from the game. It’s basically TSR with AMD’s branding. It incorporates temporal data for more information, and it works with a clean render before anti-aliasing. That leads to much better image quality than the first version.

FSR vs. DLSS: Performance

The whole point of FSR and DLSS is to improve your gaming performance, so it only makes sense to start there. AMD has two version so FSR at the moment, and there are a lot of differences between them. Deathloop is one of the few games that has both versions of FSR and DLSS, so we used it to gauge performance.

Quality benchmarks for FSR 2.0 in Deathloop.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Using the Quality mode for both, which applies a 1.5x scaling factor, FSR 1.0 provided the largest benefit. Although every game is different, our FidelityFX Super Resolution review showed that FSR 1.0 generally provides higher performance than DLSS — though, at the cost of image quality. This is especially true in the more aggressive quality modes.

Moving to the Performance mode, which applies a 2x scaling factor, the same stack is present: FSR 1.0 leads in performance, DLSS is second, and FSR 2.0 trails just barely behind. It’s important to keep in mind the performance of native resolution, though. DLSS is around 2% faster than FSR 2.0, but both are offering nearly double the frame rate of native resolution.

Performance benchmarks for FSR 2.0 in Deathloop.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Although FSR 1.0 leads in performance, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option. Both FSR 2.0 and DLSS are much better at preserving image quality, which is important to keep in mind. FSR 1.0 may boost your performance more, but turning down your resolution will boost performance even more — it’s about balancing performance with image quality.

FSR vs. DLSS: Image quality

Although performance is the purpose of FSR and DLSS, you can’t consider it apart from image quality. We’re using Deathloop again as an example, but we’ve tested FSR and DLSS in a wide range of games, including God of War and Rainbow Six ExtractionWe recommend clicking or tapping on the images below to see the full visual differences.

Quality mode comparison for FSR 2.0.
FSR 1.0 (Left), FSR 2.0 (Center), DLSS (Right) Image used with permission by copyright holder

Even with one screenshot, you can see that there are two camps here: FSR 2.0 and DLSS, and FSR 1.0. FSR 1.0 is based on a dated supersampling algorithm and a sharpening filter. It’s less sophisticated under the hood, and that comes out in the image quality with messy objects in the distance and a softer look to the image overall.

For specifics, look at the sign and wires in the distant background. FSR 1.0 shows a mess of pixels, while FSR 2.0 and DLSS render these details clearly. Between DLSS and FSR 2.0, it’s hard to tell the difference. These screenshots were taken with the Quality preset, and DLSS and FSR 2.0 are largely the same.

FSR 2.0 comparison in Deathloop, zoomed in.
FSR 1.0 (Left), FSR 2.0 (Center), DLSS (Right) Image used with permission by copyright holder

Moving onto the more aggressive Performance mode, the gap widens between FSR 1.0 and the other two. We’re zoomed in 267% here to really see the differences, and it’s clear how far FSR 1.0 is behind with image quality. Still, though, FSR 2.0 and DLSS are shockingly close. If it’s tough to see differences here, it’s impossible to see them while playing.

Outside of still image quality, supersampling is prone to visual artifacts. For DLSS, especially earlier versions, the problem is ghosting. Nvidia has worked to update DLSS to remove these artifacts, but they still show up in games from time to time. FSR 2.0 has a similar issue, though we’ve only had a chance to look at it in Deathloop. 

Upscaling comparison on God of War PC.
DLSS (right), FSR 1.0 (left) Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s easier to call a loser here than a winner. FSR 1.0 is so far behind FSR 2.0 and DLSS that the extra performance becomes a moot point. FSR 2.0 and DLSS are too similar to declare a winner, so it’s going to largely come down to which upscaler you have access to.

FSR vs. DLSS: Compatibility

AMD's RX 6900 XT

One of the biggest differences between FSR and DLSS is compatibility. DLSS is an RTX feature, so it’s only available on RTX 20- and 30-series graphics cards. FSR, on the other hand, works with GPUs from AMD and Nvidia, as it doesn’t require the dedicated Tensor cores.

AMD has recommended hardware for FSR, but it should work on most graphics — including integrated GPUs in many cases. FSR is also available on Xbox Series X, and because it doesn’t require specific hardware, it can work on platforms like PlayStation 5, as well (though, it’s not officially supported).

FSR is available for free for developers, and it’s built on open-source code. For a while, DLSS was locked behind Nvidia’s walled garden. But mounting pressure from FSR caused Team Green to go the open-source route, as well. This is a stark change from DLSS 1.0, which required developers to work closely with Nvidia and train the A.I. model on a per-game basis.

Still, there’s a clear winner here. Although DLSS is easier for developers to access now, the fact that it only works on recent Nvidia GPUs is a major hindrance.

FSR vs. DLSS: Game support

Image used with permission by copyright holder

DLSS is available in far more games than FSR. At the time of publication, we counted around 180 titles that support DLSS, but the number is growing each month. FSR is available in around 60 games, but that list grows month over month, as well.

Outside of raw numbers, DLSS is available in many more popular games that FSR — Rainbow Six Siege and Fortnite are two prime examples. Large AAA games with ray tracing usually favor DLSS, as well, with the RTX branding carrying both ray tracing and DLSS together.

FSR doesn’t have the numbers, but AMD is making inroads. Many titles now have support for DLSS and FSR, not just one or the other. Recent examples include God of War, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Cyberpunk 2077. Older games, such as Marvel’s Avengers, have received FSR support alongside DLSS through patches, as well.

DLSS has the edge here simply because it has been around longer. The general trend we’re seeing from developers is that DLSS and FSR are both included, usually not one or the other. It’s hard to say if that trend will continue, but developers want to appease as wide of an audience as possible. And not everyone owns Nvidia GPUs.

FSR vs. DLSS: The verdict

AMD RX 6600 among other graphics cards.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Overall, DLSS is the best option against FSR. That was especially true with the first version of FSR, which still makes up the lion’s share of supported games. FSR 2.0 is a serious challenger, though, and it should become the default option for developers moving forward.

If you have access to DLSS, you should use it. The days of buying an Nvidia GPU specifically for DLSS are over, though. With FSR 2.0’s impressive image quality, you can still access high-quality supersampling regardless of which brand you have in your gaming PC.

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Jacob Roach
Senior Staff Writer, Computing
Jacob Roach is a writer covering computing and gaming at Digital Trends. After realizing Crysis wouldn't run on a laptop, he…
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