Introduction: FSR's Announcement & A Few Surprises
On May 31, AMD held its press conference at Computex 2021. Some interesting announcements included AMD's discrete mobile GPUs in laptops, the desktop Zen 3 Cézanne APUs, and its 3D V-Cache chiplet design. However, the YouTube live chat really went active when AMD announced the release of FidelityFX Super Resolution or FSR.
If you're wondering why people went absolutely bonkers, well here is the FSR recap below:
Yes, you heard it right. Not only will FSR be available on the modern RDNA2 cards, but also AMD's older hardware. That includes the RDNA1 cards, Vega cards, the RX 500 series (Polaris), and any Ryzen APU. I absolutely did not expect my RX 580 to get some love.
However, the biggest news was FSR supporting Nvidia's GPUs, too. If you followed my post from last month, Coreteks got the inside scoop on FSR including Nvidia GPU compatibility:
But even though I knew this heading into AMD's press conference, I was pretty shocked that FSR is even compatible with Nvidia's old Pascal GPUs. So if you're still hanging onto your 1080Ti, well great news! You'll be able to get some more mileage out of it thanks to FSR. When AMD showed a tech demo of FSR running on a GTX 1060, the live chat went crazy.
But Does It Look Good?
Based on the framerates, it's pretty clear that FSR will provide a large performance boost. AMD claims that at 4K resolution, FSR will provide an average of twice the performance, but mileage will vary from title to title.
You will also have 4 quality settings: ultra quality, quality, balanced, and performance. If you want some more frames at the cost of image quality, then you can switch to performance mode.
So FSR is supported on a wide variety of hardware, the performance numbers look good, and you have the choice to prioritize image quality or performance. But does FSR actually look good?
It's really hard to tell considering YouTube's horrible compression, but I was able to see some differences with my untrained eye. At first glance, there didn't seem to be much difference when comparing native 4K versus "ultra quality" FSR on the 6800XT. I think the edges along the alien tulip thingies from Godfall look softer and blurrier than in the native 4K image.
With a 59% performance uplift, I would gladly sacrifice a little bit of image quality for that large of a framerate boost. But what if you're running at lower resolutions on older hardware?
Yeah, unfortunately, the reduction in image quality is pretty noticeable on the GTX 1060 tech demo.
As you can see in the image above, the ivy looks more blurry on the right half where FSR is turned on. Even more noticeable is the purple foliage of the tree in the background. The purple leaves look obviously blurrier under FSR than when they're under native 1440p. Too bad AMD did not provide a 1440p FSR vs "native 1080p stretched to 1440p" comparison so we could see if there were any improvements over native 1080p.
Closing Thoughts: Support is King
For AMD's first time, it's not bad. At high resolutions like 4K, it looks pretty impressive. However, FSR needs some work at lower resolutions especially if AMD. I guess you can improve the sharpness with Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS) as the performance penalty is negligible. Hardware Unboxed did an analysis video of RIS back in 2019 when it first launched and it worked quite well. I would imagine RIS looks better 2 years later:
I believe like with DLSS, with time, FSR will look much better a year later than it does currently. In fact, AMD may be able to improve FSR faster than Nvidia improved DLSS for one main reason: support.
When I checked the Steam hardware survey, I understood why AMD decided to provide support to cards as old as Polaris and Pascal.
7 of the Top 20 cards are Pascal. The RX 580 is #10 and the RX 570 is #15.
Pascal and Polaris are 3 generations behind at this point, but they remain the most commonly used cards according to Steam. In addition to that, RDNA2 already has a fairly large userbase courtesy of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S. The PS5 has sold past 7.8 million units and I would imagine the Series X|S selling over half that amount by now.
FSR clearly does not look as good as DLSS. However, image quality isn't everything as ease of development and userbase also play a large role on a product's longevity. Just look at the PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 battle as a rough example. As mentioned by Coreteks, developer intervention is minimal so FSR passes the ease of development test. And thanks to the large console userbase plus support for Pascal & Polaris, FSR has a massive userbase advantage over the proprietary DLSS which is limited to Turing and Ampere.
I do wonder if AMD will also bring support to Intel's integrated GPUs, too. While they are pretty weak in gaming performance, the userbase is extremely large and FSR can help boost performance quite a bit (provided that the image quality doesn't look like ass). It would also be awesome if Intel's upcoming Xe DG2 has FSR compatibility out of the box.
FidelityFX Super Resolution will be available on June 22.