Home Software Testing AMD's new Radeon Image Sharpening: Is It Better than Nvidia's DLSS?

Testing AMD’s new Radeon Image Sharpening: Is It Better than Nvidia’s DLSS?

Today we’re taking a deeper look into one of many new options that shipped with AMD’s newest Navi GPUs, the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT. You have in all probability learn our overview by now and that primarily handled efficiency and total worth, however we didn’t go into element into a number of the further options AMD is offering.

One of these options is Radeon Image Sharpening and there is even have Radeon Anti-Lag — that will probably be topic to investigation in a future article. Both are fascinating applied sciences, they weren’t marketed as must-haves or key promoting factors for these new GPUs, however only a good bonus for patrons and we imagine anti-lag really helps older GPUs, too.

So, what’s Radeon Image Sharpening? In primary phrases, it’s a post-processing sharpening function for video games that AMD says carries practically no efficiency penalty. In idea you flip it on, total sharpness is improved in recreation’s visuals and everybody walks away completely satisfied. But as we noticed with GeForce’s DLSS, producer’s claims don’t at all times replicate actuality.

Our take is that there are two key use instances for Image Sharpening: the primary is for video games which might be ‘delicate’ to start with. Lots of titles nowadays are utilizing temporal anti-aliasing or TAA, and that may typically result in a blurry presentation. Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS) is a option to sharpen these video games and get a crisper picture.

The second use case is for decision downsampling. For instance, when you’ve got a 4K show however need higher efficiency, you’ll be able to run video games at 1800p or an 80% decision scale. This will inevitably make the picture softer because it’s not being rendered on the native decision. Radeon Image Sharpening might put up course of that picture, add a little bit of sharpness again and get near the native picture for just about no efficiency loss. In a way it’s just like what Nvidia is trying with DLSS, and we’ll examine the 2 in a while.

Radeon Image Sharpening isn’t merely a sharpening filter, it makes use of a distinction adaptive sharpening or CAS algorithm that AMD lately launched of their FidelityFX suite. While recreation builders can take FidelityFX and implement that of their video games as they see match, Radeon Image Sharpening is a broad impact that doesn’t require per-game implementation. It’s a easy change in Radeon Settings.

To dive deeper into what CAS does, we’ll quote AMD straight: “because RIS is based on an algorithm that modulates the degree of sharpening depending on contrast, it clarifies interior object details while leaving high-contrast edges largely untouched.” They go on to say this prevents a variety of artifacts you get with conventional sharpening.

There is a reasonably large catch, although. While Radeon Image Sharpening doesn’t require per-game implementation or any developer intervention, it at the moment solely helps DirectX 12, Vulkan and DirectX 9 video games. Crucially, this implies DirectX 11 titles usually are not supported.

AMD informed us they determined to deal with newer APIs, whereas DirectX 9 was included as a result of it was straightforward to do. AMD acknowledges that DX11 is the subsequent step they usually’ll contemplate including that in a future software program replace if there’s “demand from the community for that feature.” Hopefully they do, as a result of even in the present day there are tons of video games that both solely help DX11, or carry out higher on DX11 whereas supporting DX12.

Enabling Radeon Image Sharpening is easy. Install the newest drivers, head over to the Display part, and allow each GPU scaling and Radeon Image Sharpening. The function is just out there on new Navi GPUs (5700 and 5700 XT), there isn’t a help for Vega or earlier generations as RIS depends on the {hardware} to ship CAS with subsequent to no efficiency loss.

We must also point out RIS is being handled as a worldwide setting proper now. You can’t set RIS to be enabled in sure video games solely utilizing the sport profile part of Radeon Settings. That’s one thing AMD ought to look into, as a result of players won’t need the function enabled in each recreation they play. You additionally must restart the sport between turning RIS on and off, should you alt-tab out for a fast change it gained’t work. Just one thing to remember.

Image Quality

For visible high quality comparisons we’ll spend most of our time Metro Exodus. It’s a DX12 title that additionally gives DLSS help for Nvidia playing cards (DLSS does require video games to help the function), plus it gives extremely detailed environments. In addition to the picture high quality pictures supplied right here you’ll be able to try Hardware Unboxed’s video (embedded under) utilizing YouTube’s 4K high quality for the absolute best illustration of the sport’s graphics. For all screenshots, you’ll be able to click on on them to see a bigger 4K model of the identical picture.

RIS vs native 4K

Starting by evaluating the distinction between RIS on and off at native 4K. Metro isn’t the sharpest recreation going round at native resolutions, it’s a tad delicate and there aren’t any anti-aliasing within the recreation, however there’s actually nonetheless plenty of element within the native 4K presentation.

The sharpened picture is certainly noticeably sharper and cleans up that little little bit of softness within the unique picture. It’s notably efficient on foliage, it cleans up the grass and bushes on this run that are the softest ingredient of the native picture. On shut textures it has a minor impact and barely improves what’s already a crisp texture. The CAS algorithm additionally appears to do a superb job of ignoring issues that you just wouldn’t need sharpened, like movement blur or depth of subject results, and whereas it’s not excellent at ignoring these components in movement, it’s laborious to identify any points.

With that stated, there are some flaws that shouldn’t be ignored. Overall, the sharpened picture is brighter; on this scene if I zoom in on the skinny foliage, it’s fairly brighter when sharpened. Same goes for the practice tracks and another areas. It’s in all probability not one thing you’d discover if it weren’t for this side-by-side, but it surely does appear to be an artifact of the filter.

There are additionally some components that the CAS algorithm merely doesn’t know to disregard; it doesn’t actually know which components needs to be sharp and which shouldn’t. For instance when close to the water right here, Metro Exodus does have some display house reflection artifacts. They are extra noticeable with RIS enabled, because the artifacts are getting sharpened to be extra seen. A minor challenge, however one thing we noticed.

Overall although it might seem RIS does a superb job right here and customarily appears ‘better’ than the unique presentation even when it’s faked. When you cease and study the failings at occasions we felt it was too sharp, maybe unrealistically sharp, however throughout precise gameplay in movement we did not see this as a difficulty.

RIS on downsampled 1440p and 1800p output

Time to take a look at some outcomes when downsampling. We’ll begin with 1440p vs 4K and instantly the 1440p native picture is way softer and appears blurry when upscaled to 4K. Not a super option to play on a high-resolution show.

The sharpened 1440p picture is an enormous enchancment over native 1440p, however in the end simply doesn’t have the identical degree of element because the native 4K picture. Nearby textures get fairly shut, however with a number of the tremendous foliage element and different small components, there merely aren’t sufficient pixels and native element within the 1440p picture to simulate a 4K presentation by a post-processing filter.

However we see totally different outcomes when downsampling within the 1800p vary. In Metro Exodus we set a 0.7x shader scale which is roughly equal to 1800p. Without sharpening the 1800p picture is clearly softer than native 4K. It’s not as dangerous as 1440p, however you’re nonetheless getting a lack of readability and tremendous element in comparison with working at a local decision.

We turned on sharpening for the 1800p picture and… wow. We have been significantly impressed with the outcomes right here. It’s not an ideal recreation of 4K and nonetheless suffers from a number of the common points with put up course of sharpening, however in lots of scenes it’s extremely shut and just about indistinguishable from the native picture. True 4K has finer element in foliage and different small components, however you’d be laborious pressed to identify a distinction, particularly with out a aspect by aspect comparability.


Before we transfer on to take a look at efficiency, let’s throw up some DLSS footage captured utilizing an RTX 2070. At 4K with DLSS enabled, the picture is being upscaled from 1440p by Nvidia’s deep studying algorithms. DLSS in Metro is the perfect implementation we’ve seen and it’s significantly better than utilizing Radeon Image Sharpening on a 1440p picture, but it surely’s inferior to AMD’s sharpened 1800p.

In the perfect instances, DLSS is nearly as good as sharpened 1800p for big components and shut textures. But DLSS nonetheless suffers from the ‘oil painting’ impact we talked about in our preliminary investigation, which appears dangerous in some environments, and suffers from element loss particularly for rocks and foliage. The manner it ‘thickens’ actually tremendous particulars like tree branches or wires additionally degrades the DLSS picture in our opinion. Overall, sharpened 1800p will get lots nearer to native 4K than DLSS, not less than in Metro.


Across the three situations we examined inside Metro, we noticed efficiency drop by a mere 1 to 2 % with Radeon Image Sharpening enabled. That’s a negligible 1-2 fps distinction which suggests you should use the function at no actual efficiency value if it improves visuals in your recreation of selection.

For these focusing on sharpened 1800p as the next efficiency alternative for 4K, you’re round a 27 % uplift to common framerates in Metro for nearly no high quality loss.

We’ll additionally throw in DLSS numbers right here, clearly from a unique GPU so it will not match precisely to the RX 5700 XT’s outcomes. In the newest model of Metro Exodus, 4K DLSS nonetheless performs across the identical mark because the 1800p picture. Once once more, this reinforces our opinion {that a} easy sharpening filter will be nearly as good as, or on this case noticeably higher than DLSS, for the same efficiency uplift. We keep in mind saying this when testing DLSS (see our first take and take two) and regardless of there being hope that Nvidia would ‘train’ DLSS to be enhance over time, that hasn’t eventuated.

We additionally checked out Battlefield V and the observations are about the identical on this recreation. Sharpening a local picture does look higher, BFV is sharper basically than Metro Exodus however nonetheless a bit delicate from TAA. Much to our shock, regardless of protecting movie grain enabled for this check, the sharpening filter didn’t make the grain extra noticeable which might typically be a aspect impact of grain.

For decision downsampling we centered on a 78% decision scale which is round 1700p, as a result of this matches the efficiency uplift of DLSS on this title. Battlefield V handles upscaling very well and really appears solely barely worse at a 78% scale versus native 4K on this scene; it’s a bit softer, a bit much less detailed however total, not dangerous. This makes it an ideal candidate for sharpening, and certainly utilizing RIS the picture is, the truth is, sharper than native 4K regardless of coming from a decrease decision base. Impressive.

Throw DLSS into the combination and it appears considerably worse than the sharpened 1700p picture. Battlefield V nonetheless has a weak DLSS implementation and may’t maintain as much as the essential sharpening filter. In truth, even the native 1700p picture is best in our opinion, so this title reveals the weak spot of DLSS.

Sharpening isn’t fairly as efficient with this foliage dense scene from Battlefield V but it surely does a good job of getting shut sufficient to the native 4K picture. Of course, that small visible high quality loss comes with upwards of 30 % efficiency uplift.

Across all of the video games we examined Radeon Image Sharpening resulted in a 1-2% efficiency drop, no must chart each recreation.

Another recreation we examined that doesn’t help DLSS however can be utilized with Radeon Image Sharpening is the Division 2. This title performs properly with decision downsampling, its post-processing is phenomenal and you’ll typically run the sport at a 75% decision scale with little lack of high quality at 4K.

This recreation is an effective candidate for Radeon Image Sharpening. At a 75% scale with sharpening, the picture was typically crisper than native 4K, though there have been occasions the place jagged edges have been extra current within the downsampled picture, or for distant foliage, you get a number of branches with the native 4K picture that you just don’t get with a 75% scale. Still, contemplating the 75% sharpened output was typically 35% sooner than native 4K, that’s an enormous win basically.

Testing Resident Evil 2, we knew this recreation has notoriously dangerous temporal anti-aliasing which results in a delicate, typically blurry presentation. Using RIS on the native 4K presentation mainly mounted the delicate picture high quality with out introducing the jagged edges or shimmering you get with the sport’s SMAA implementation. This is one other nice, low value use case for RIS that’s value contemplating.

Bottom Line

Radeon Image Sharpening is genuinely spectacular. It doesn’t require any developer implementation and it really works effectively by sharpening the picture which will be helpful in a wide range of conditions.

After spending extra time with the function, we really feel the perfect use case is for picture downsampling with excessive decision shows. A sharpened 1800p picture was usually nearly as good as a local 4K picture in our testing, which suggests you’ll be able to fortunately use this configuration with Navi GPUs to realize ~30% extra efficiency for a minimal high quality loss. Downsampling all the best way to 1440p didn’t ship nearly as good outcomes, so the candy spot is round that 70 to 80 % decision scale.

RIS can also be good for sharpening up video games that may are left somewhat delicate after post-process anti-aliasing strategies like TAA. Given mainly all video games nowadays use this form of AA versus extra intensive strategies like MSAA or SSAA, combining that with sharpening can ship an improved picture.

It’s additionally clear that Radeon Image Sharpening is a superior equal to Nvidia’s DLSS, typically by a substantial margin. With each strategies performing on the identical body fee, RIS delivered a clearer, sharper picture with fewer artifacts. In our earlier DLSS evaluation we had said a easy picture sharpening filter would in all probability work higher than DLSS with a decrease efficiency value, and it seems AMD has confirmed us proper by implementing precisely that.

To be honest to Nvidia, when evaluating photos from the identical base decision – 1440p – the DLSS upscaled model is superior to AMD’s sharpened model. But the important thing right here is the efficiency value when enabling DLSS: if that efficiency value was zero, DLSS could be superior; however as an alternative it’s a big drop, and that makes it kinda nugatory up towards this easier sharpening implementation.

Plus, Radeon Image Sharpening is vastly extra suitable with in the present day’s video games even with DX11 help lacking, the library of supported video games is way bigger than the small assortment for DLSS. It additionally works in any respect resolutions, whereas DLSS is restricted to sure resolutions, GPUs, and infrequently high quality ranges.

Radeon Image Sharpening isn’t excellent although. In conditions the place the picture is already sharp at a local decision, sharpening can result in an ‘artificial’ sharpened look, so in these instances it’s not value turning on the function. It additionally doesn’t get every little thing proper and in some edge instances can sharpen issues it shouldn’t. But contemplating that is simply faking it for subsequent to no efficiency value, it’s laborious to complain about a number of minor inconsistencies.

Our take is RIS delivers what DLSS could not: a easy, low efficiency value method that makes decision downsampling viable. As extra players get their palms on Navi GPUs, it is going to be fascinating to see how broadly Radeon Image Sharpening is adopted and really useful based mostly on good outcomes.

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