AMD FSR has the potential to breathe new life into aging graphics cards, and make the balance between game performance and visual quality easier to achieve. But what exactly is FSR, and how does it work?
What Is FSR?
FSR, which stands for FidelityFX Super Resolution, is one of the latest additions to AMD’s FidelityFX image toolkit. It is an upscaling technology, designed to improve the performance of games without loss of image quality and graphical detail.
Playing a game in high resolution such as 4K will often result in a noticeable frame rate drop, even if using a decent graphics card. This is especially true if the game uses demanding effects like Ray Tracing. FSR can reduce the input resolution to as low as 1080p and then upscale the output to appear close to 4K. You get the performance of the lower resolution but with the visual detail of a much higher resolution.
It works by lowering the render quality of a game and then analyzing the image, detecting edges, and reconstructing them at the higher target resolution using a spatial upscaling algorithm. A sharpening process is also performed to smooth out details further. All of this is done in a single pass during the rendering process, with GUI elements and text added to the frame afterward.
FSR is similar to NVIDIA’s DLSS or Deep Learning Super-Sampling. Although they are not strictly comparable, the same end result is achieved: a higher resolution image for a lower performance cost. One important difference is that FSR is open source, and potentially available on any graphics card. Whereas DLSS is dependent on using an NVIDIA GPU.
Which FSR Scaling Mode Should I Use?
FSR has four different quality modes to choose from. Performance mode applies the most scaling at 2x the input resolution, and Ultra Quality mode the least at 1.3x the input. The four modes and their scaling levels are:
- Performance Mode = 2x scaling
- Balanced Mode = 1.7x scaling
- Quality Mode = 1.5x scaling
- Ultra Quality Mode = 1.3x scaling
So for example, to achieve close to 4K using Quality mode, the graphics card only needs to render 2650×1440 pixels rather than 3840×2160. FSR then scales up the image by 1.5x.
Upscaling, even the intelligent spatial upscaling that FSR uses, isn’t a perfect process. The more scaling applied to a frame, the more likely graphical errors will occur on screen. AMD itself states that “Performance mode visibly impacts image quality and should only be selected in situations where the need for the ultimate in performance is critical.”
This is an issue that AMD has at least partially addressed with the release of FSR 2.0.
What Is FSR 2.0 and How Is It Different?
The first version of FidelityFX Super Resolution was released in mid-2021, supported by several high-profile games, including Cyberpunk 2077 and Godfall. FSR 2.0 was released in May 2022, not as a replacement for 1.0, but in addition to it. That means game developers can offer users a choice between the two, potentially making FSR available for a wider range of hardware.
The main difference between version 1.0 and 2.0 is the switch from spatial upscaling to temporal upscaling. Spatial upscaling uses data from the current frame to upscale the frame itself. Temporal upscaling can use data from both the current frame and previous frames, resulting in improved image quality and fewer unexpected visual artifacts.
FSR 2.0 also allows game developers to tweak the different scaling modes. This means that games that use 2.0 might have only three modes available, or include Ultra Performance mode rather than Ultra Quality mode.
One of the downsides to this improved upscaling quality is that FSR 2.0 is more demanding on the graphics card. Because of this, the number of graphics cards AMD recommends using to achieve some resolutions, particularly 4K, has shrunk.
How Do I Use FSR?
If the game and your graphics card support FSR, there is usually little you need to do beyond choosing between the four FSR modes. If your card and the game supports multiple scaling technologies, you may have to select FSR before setting the mode.
The FSR modes can be found in the graphics settings for each game that supports it, usually in the resolution section but sometimes in a separate upscaling section. Exactly how well the different modes work will depend on several factors, including the graphics card you are using and the game being played.
You may need to update your graphics drivers to the latest version before you can apply FSR to your game. If the setting is still unavailable after updating, it means that your card is not capable of using it.
RELATED: How to Update Your Graphics Drivers for Maximum Gaming Performance
Games That Support AMD FSR
There are over 110 games that support FSR at the time of writing, with more being added all the time. Support for FSR 2.0 is still fairly restricted, but the list is sure to expand quickly, either through patches for existing games or as new games are released.
FidelityFX Super Resolution was made available to developers of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S games in mid-2021. Few games currently support it, Arcademageddon being one, but you can expect more to come.
Here are just some of the games that support one or more of the FSR versions:
- Anno 1800
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
- Black Desert
- Call of Duty: Vanguard
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Century: Age of Ashes
- DEATH STRANDING DIRECTOR’S CUT
- Dota 2
- Dying Light 2 Stay Human
- Far Cry 6
- God of War
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- No Man’s Sky
- Resident Evil 7
- Resident Evil Village
- Sniper Elite 5
- Terminator: Resistance
- The Riftbreaker
- World War Z: Aftermath
- Resident Evil 2
- Resident Evil 3
- Tiny Tina’s Wonderland
- V Rising
- War Mongrels
- World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
You can find a full list of FSR-enabled games on the AMD website. If your favorite game isn’t listed, you can even tell AMD which games you’d like to see added.
RELATED: AMD FreeSync, FreeSync Premium, and FreeSync Premium Pro: What's the Difference?
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