DLSS and FSR are the future of PC gaming, whether you like it or not

Back when Nvidia first unveiled the GeForce RTX 2080 and showed the world what DLSS is and what it would do, it seemed like a good way to get more cost-effective systems capable of using the new ray tracing technology that it debuted at the same time. Especially because the first iteration of Nvidia’s AI scaling technology wasn’t exactly phenomenal it seemed to play second fiddle to a lot of other technologies the company was pushing.

However, with the advent of the generation of games brought on by the PS5 and Xbox Series X, there is a greater demand for visually rich games laden with ray tracing and otherwise complicated visuals. There’s nothing I love more than a beautiful, beautiful video game, but games have gotten a lot harder to run over the past couple of years.

Even the RTX 2080 Ti, a graphics card that was an unstoppable 4K juggernaut a few years ago, has become a 1080p GPU in most modern games that support ray tracing. And as the best PC games continue to get more complicated, it’s becoming more and more essential for them to include DLSS or AMD’s alternative – FidelityFX Super Resolution, or FSR.

Nvidia RTX 3090

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Remember the 8K graphics card?

Every time a high-profile AAA game like the recent Dying Light 2 comes out, I can’t help but think back to the original Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 sales pitch and how Nvidia swore it it was an 8K graphics card.

And while that’s still technically true, you need to dial down all the settings and switch DLSS to performance mode to hit 60 fps at 8K. That’s no way to live your life when you’re spending thousands of dollars – especially at current graphics card prices – on a GPU.

But even in other games, this remains true. Cyberpunk 2077, for example, even with the RTX 3090, cannot be maxed out at 4K without relying on DLSS to achieve a playable frame rate. It’s just a blessing that at the same time, Nvidia was able to improve DLSS technology so much that I usually enable it by default in all games that offer it these days.

Even the most powerful graphics card on the market therefore needs DLSS to achieve a solid frame rate at the resolution for which it is marketed in the most demanding games.

Nvidia DLSS AI Scaling

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Upgrade for all

I’ve been primarily a PC gamer for most of my life, and I still remember when Sony announced the PS4 Pro and showed off its checkerboard upscaling to hit 4K. In general, it worked pretty well, but like any other PC gamer with access to a PC capable of 4K gaming, I scoffed. These consoles advertised 4K games, but didn’t actually play native 4K games.

But guess what? Now that’s most games, even on PC. Upscaling has gotten so good that it doesn’t matter what base resolution the game is rendered at, because you really won’t notice it most of the time – especially if you’re using FSR or DLSS at a “balanced” level or “quality” preset.

This really hit me when I first started playing Dying Light 2 as I tried running it at 4K max with ray tracing effects enabled with the RTX 3090 and an Intel Core i9-12900K and it only got 40 fps. It’s technically “playable” I suppose, but I’ve been playing games at 60fps for too long to settle for 40fps in anything.

It’s actually crazy to me when I sit down and think about it too, because the solid 60fps standard that we PC gamers have all subscribed to hasn’t always been there, and that It’s only recently that I’ve at least started to expect every game to hit it.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080Ti

(Image credit: future)

About 10 years ago, when we were trying to get our PCs to play Crysis, Metro 2033 or The Witcher 2, there were so many times that I settled for 40fps – and that was 1080p. Playing at a tough frame rate was just something you accepted, because even to theoretically get 60fps at high settings you had to start playing with multiple GPU configurations or lower the resolution and deal with a blurry image.

Even then, when you had the resources for a sick Crossfire or SLI setup and could hit a solid 60 fps, you were at the mercy of choppy frame times because the connection between the two graphics cards didn’t have enough bandwidth to play games seamlessly and smoothly without a ton of work from the developers and graphics card manufacturers themselves.

Back when many games were released as PC exclusives and could truly reach the sky in terms of graphics without having to worry about console compatibility, settling for subpar performance was just a reality. . And try to push as close to 60 frames per second as possible and brag to your friends about how well you managed to run a game with the new graphics card you just bought.

And, with how hard it is to run games right now, we could be in for another era like this. Especially with the toughness of the 4K gaming market right now – even though a lot of people haven’t topped 1080p – there are so many games out there right now that nobody could max out until the next generation of cards graphics so.

But now that scaling has exploded so dramatically, no one has to suffer from the low frame rates and weird jittery frame times we had to deal with in the early 2000s and 2010s. This has made PC gaming much more manageable in general. It’s just a shame that this generation’s increased affordability has been met by inflated hardware prices.

watch back to the future online

(Image credit: Universal)

Will this continue?

The GeForce RTX 3000 and Radeon RX 6000 series of graphics cards are the first generations to be released in this “next generation” of games. It’s natural for these cards to start to struggle as games are designed to support more advanced hardware, and it’s likely that the next generation of PC hardware will be able to achieve high frame rates at high resolutions. without necessarily needing any scaling to do this.

This is probably why Nvidia started promoting technologies such as DLDSR as well as DLSS. DLDSR, or Deep Learning Dynamic Super Resolution, is the tensor-core powered version of DSR, something that already exists in the Nvidia Control Panel, where you can render a game at a higher resolution and then put it on. ladder down at your native resolution. It makes your game prettier and smoother, but will absolutely decimate performance.

The deep learning version of this is more efficient than brute-forcing it through your regular shaders, but it will still impact performance. So that doesn’t make much sense now, in a couple of years once say the RTX 4080 or the RTX 5080 comes out, playing with technology that makes games harder to run but prettier might start to get a lot of sense.

This is the scenario I hope for. The last thing I want is for game developers or GPU manufacturers themselves to rely on oversampling technology as a crutch to push expensive and decadent graphics effects at all costs. That’s the feeling I’ve had recently, but we’re still at the start of this generation of players, so there’s still time to prove me wrong.

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