AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution: What it is and how to use it

After a lot of anticipation, AMD finally pulled the curtain back on FidelityFX Super Resolution at Computex 2021. Its upscaling feature is positioned to challenge Nvidia’s deep learning super sampling (DLSS), improving frame rates by over 200% in some games at 4K with ray tracing turned on.

Super Resolution is a big step for AMD, offering the RX 6000 graphics cards a much-needed boost with ray tracing and giving gamers with older cards a helping hand at a time when buying new GPUs is so difficult. That said, Super Resolution isn’t just a copy of DLSS. In addition to supporting hardware from AMD and Nvidia, Super Resolution uses a different upscaling technique that could dethrone DLSS as the go-to upscaling option.

Now that FidelityFX Super Resolution is widely available, here’s everything you need to know about what FSR is and how to use it.

What is AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution?

A depiction of AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution.

FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) is AMD’s answer to Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS). Like DLSS, FSR is an image-upscaling feature that makes a game look like it’s rendering at a higher resolution than it really is. So, the engine may render the game at 1080p, and then FSR steps in to fill in the missing pixels to make it look like a 1440p output.

FSR isn’t just a copy of DLSS, though. Nvidia’s tech works by training an artificial intelligence (A.I.) model with high-quality scans offline (say, a 16K still frame). DLSS can then fill in the extra information in a frame using the A.I. model. FSR works a little differently, using no machine learning, and it doesn’t require any per-game training. Developers can implement it independently of AMD, with no specialized drivers or hardware required.

Also unlike DLSS, AMD is taking an open approach to FSR. The entire FidelityFX suite works across many generations of GPUs from AMD and Nvidia, including FSR. At launch, the feature is supported on RX 6000, RX 5000, RX 500, and 400 GPUs, as well as Nvidia GTX 10-series and 16-series and RTX 2000 and 3000 cards. Ryzen processors with Radeon graphics are supported, too.

In addition, the source code is available for free to developers on AMD’s GPUOpen platform, and it’s available through the Unreal Engine 4 and Unity game engines. Basically, any developer, regardless of their budget or connections, can get FSR working in their games.

FSR offers four quality modes: Ultra Quality, Quality, Balanced, and Performance. Ultra quality boosts frame rates while retaining as much detail as possible. Further down, each performance mode offers a higher frame rate at the cost of image quality by rendering at lower resolutions and using more extreme sharpening to compensate.

How does FidelityFX Super Resolution work?

The AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution rendering pipeline.

FidelityFX Super Resolution is a “shadow-based” upscaling technique that takes place toward the end of the rendering pipeline. It takes an image rendered at a lower resolution than the native resolution set by the gamer and performs two passes to improve its visual quality so it’s more akin to the native resolution. The first is an edge-reconstruction upscaling algorithm, which attempts to recreate the image as if it were a higher resolution than it is. A secondary sharpening pass then adds extra clarity to the image.

The input resolution for the algorithm to work with depends on the FSR quality mode chosen by the user. For a 4K output, where native is 3840 x 2160, FSR Ultra Quality would render at 2954 x 1662. It uses 2560 x 1440 for Quality mode, 2259 x 1270 for Balanced mode, and 1920 x 1080 for Performance mode.

FidelityFX Super Resolution input resolutions at different quality modes.

In lower-quality modes, developers may opt to use more aggressive sharpening to compensate for the lower input resolution. This can result in the appearance of sharpening artifacts, as we noted in our testing.

Like DLSS, the technique is most effective when the upscaling algorithm has more information to work with at higher native resolutions. However, FSR can work well at 1080p, or even lower resolutions, potentially enabling some of those older GPUs it supports to play games that would otherwise have been impossible to get working.

When can you use FidelityFX Super Resolution?

AMD Radeon RX 6000.

AMD debuted FSR during its Computex 2021 keynote and followed through with a general release on June 22. All you need to take advantage of it is one of the many supporting GPUs, the latest Radeon driver, and one of the games that has an FSR setting.

Currently, the feature is only available on PC, though we expect AMD to introduce it to the RDNA 2-based PlayStation 5 at some point. Shortly after Microsoft’s Windows 11 announcement, the company announced that FSR is coming to Xbox, too. Developers can access a preview version of FSR in the Microsoft Game Development Kit (GDK) for use on Windows, Xbox Series X, and even Xbox One.

When it comes to consoles, FSR will become an important part of the game development pipeline. Console games are already stretching the performance limits of their machines, so a powerful upscaling technique will become essential as the consoles begin to age. Hopefully, that means wide adoption, which is good news for PC gamers, too.

What games support FidelityFX Super Resolution?

A scene from Godfall.

The current list of FidelityFX Super Resolution games includes:

  • Anno 1800
  • Evil Genius 2
  • Godfall
  • Kingshunt
  • Terminator Resistance
  • The Riftbreaker
  • 22 Racing Series
  • Necromunda: Hired Gun
  • Arcadeggedon 

More games are coming soon, though, some of which we have a release window for. Though they have no firm release date, upcoming confirmed FSR games include:

  • Asterigos
  • Baldur’s Gate III
  • DOTA 2
  • Edge of Eternity (July 2021)
  • FarCry 6
  • Farming Simulator 22
  • Forspoken
  • Myst
  • Resident Evil: Village (July 2021)
  • Swordsman Remake
  • Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodhunt

AMD has reportedly partnered with over 40 major studios to adopt FSR in the future, including EA Frostbite, Obsidian Entertainment, Focus Home Interactive, Capcom, Larian Studios, and Turtle Rock, among many others.

If you want to see FSR in your favorite game, you can request it through the AMD FSR wishlist.

A DLSS killer?

Dr. Lisa Su holding AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT.

Between DLSS and FSR, there are already stark differences in quality and support. DLSS 2.0 is by far the more impressive upscaling technology, delivering amazing performance enhancement with limited visual artifacts. It also has a wide range of supporting games, with over 55 existing titles supporting DLSS 1.0 or 2.0 in some guise and a further 10 planned in the coming year.

DLSS is limited to Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards, though, which are incredibly expensive and in short supply. FSR is supported by just about every graphics card released in the last five years, and its upscaling is both effective and has limited visual impact at higher-quality settings. That could be a huge game-changer for those using older or weaker graphics cards and gives AMD fans with high-end GPUs improved performance when using ray tracing.

The only problem is the limited games it’s available on right now. With its more open stance and wider hardware support base, however, that seems likely to change. Consider too that FSR is coming to home consoles, and it has all the potential in the world to be the more popular — if not quite as effective — upscaling technology.

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