Image quality matters. When you’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on a gaming rig, you expect performance. The more money you spend, the better performance you expect.
Unfortunately, everyone can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on a system. People often go years without upgrading their builds, and over time, your shiny graphics card isn’t as powerful, and you can’t run games at ultra settings anymore.
Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) comes in as a middle ground between high-cost gaming and affordable gaming by taking a lower resolution image and upscaling it to a higher visual quality.
What Is DLSS?
Running games at a high resolution requires a powerful computer. That kind of computer can often cost $2000 if not more to buy or build.
Deep Learning Super Sampling is an Nvidia designed feature with budget gamers in mind. The basic idea of DLSS is to take an image that’s at a low resolution then upscale it and make it look better.
For instance, a game could be rendered at 1080p resolution, and take advantage of DLSS to upscale its image to 1440p or 4K resolution. DLSS can do this by exposing its software to gameplay.
Over time, the software builds up a base of information to draw from that lets it piece together how the image on the screen will look at a higher resolution.
Gamers with an Nvidia 2000 or 3000 series graphics card will be able to take full advantage of DLSS. One of the biggest selling points of DLSS is its ability to help gamers save money.
Gamers on a budget can buy a mid-tier graphics card intending to leverage DLSS for higher image quality and higher frame rates. You can have a 1080p image displayed at 4K resolution while maintaining reasonable framerates.
60 frames per second is the sweet spot gamers aim for. As resolution increases, performance tends to decrease. However, because the image is upscaled instead of being rendered natively at a high resolution, frame rates remain high and sometimes improve. Over the past year, Nvidia has added a new rendering solution that has seen FPS improvements of over 50%.
DLSS vs. Other Image Sharpening Techniques
There are various image sharpening techniques used in gaming. Anti-aliasing and ray tracing being two of the most common. Anti-aliasing is essentially a method designed to remove jagged edges in games and produce smoother images. There are two types of AA, spatial and post-process.
Spatial anti-aliasing essentially removes jagged edges and increases image quality by using color sampling. Similar to DLSS, games are displayed at a higher resolution.
The AA solution will then find pixels that didn’t exist when the image was at a lower resolution, and apply them to the original image. After these new pixels are added to the original image, the previously jagged edges have been smoothed out.
Post-process anti-aliasing works by comparing pixels. Two pixels are compared by the algorithm; if the algorithm determines they’re part of the same object, it blurs those pixels. Blurring identical pixels cuts down on jagged edges, but it also reduces image quality.
Anti-aliasing can also be taxing on your computer. Most games will allow you to choose the level of anti-aliasing you employ, going from 2x AA to 32x AA. The higher the level of AA you choose, the more power it requires from your GPU. A higher amount of anti-aliasing can also lead to a decrease in frame rate.
Ray tracing focuses on realism by creating an image in-game that’s based around virtual light. The basic idea is to simulate light interacting with virtual objects in realistic ways to create realistic visual effects. Ray tracing greatly enhances image quality to almost photorealistic levels at the cost of your frame rate.
While anti-aliasing and ray tracing are both powerful methods of image sharpening, DLSS has a performance advantage. DLSS is more efficient because it’s less hardware intensive.
Artificial intelligence does the majority of the work instead of relying on the graphics card. DLSS increases performance instead of decreasing it. Further, it provides a more consistent gaming experience, especially on lower-end hardware.
Is DLSS Worth Investing In?
DLSS is worth investing in, especially if you’re a gamer on a budget. Being able to play at the highest resolution possible is something every gamer dreams of. Finances can get in the way of that but DLSS makes it affordable for budget gamers.
DLSS isn’t just useful for budget gamers though. 8K displays will start becoming readily available soon. Being able to play at a native 8K 60FPS won’t be possible for quite a while, but DLSS could make it possible to play at upscaled 8K.
What Do You Need to Take Advantage of DLSS?
The only graphics card manufacturer that uses Deep Learning Super Sampling is Nvidia. DLSS was a flagship feature in 2018 when Nvidia’s 2000s series cards launched. Every graphics card from Nvidia’s 2000 series and now 3000 series graphics cards will be able to run DLSS.
DLSS is only available in certain games, and support for the feature is up to individual game developers. So while DLSS is a powerful tool for budget-minded gamers, you need to understand DLSS is still in the early stages of industry support.
A high-quality display will allow gamers to take advantage of DLSS. Because you can render games at a higher resolution, you could buy a 4K display and play games in upscaled 4K!
You could also choose to purchase a high refresh rate monitor because of the FPS improvements DLSS gives. Instead of playing at 30FPS, it’s possible to play at 60 or higher with DLSS enabled.
Getting to Know DLSS
DLSS is one of the rare software innovations that does what it promises to do out of the box. Instead of requiring the user to perform a complicated setup, the software just works. Image sharpening is done quickly and easily with little to no input from the user being necessary.
Frame rates are dramatically increased, leading to better gaming performance. DLSS is a powerful, cost-effective tool that allows gamers to enjoy high-quality experiences without having to spend thousands of dollars.
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