Written by Jon Martindale
FideltiyFX Super Resolution, or FSR, is AMD’s dynamic upscaling algorithm. Introduced in 2021, it is open source, widely available on all graphics cards, and currently supported by well over 200 popular games. It’s a fast-growing, effective solution for boosting frame rates in games without having a major impact on image quality. It’s one of the best ways to improve the performance in demanding games at 4K resolution or when raytracing is enabled, and it’s only getting better.
Interested in using it to boost your frames per second? Here’s everything you need to know about AMD FSR.
FidelityFX Super Resolution is a technique used to improve the displayed resolution of a game, without actually rendering it. That improves performance while maintaining a comparable detail level to native resolution, or lets you play the game at a higher display resolution than your hardware would otherwise allow.
For example, a game could be rendered at 2,560 x 1,440, but upscaled to a simulacrum of 4K (3,840 x 2,160). The lower render resolution means that the graphics card doesn’t have to work as hard, and your frame rate will go up. You can use this to improve the fluidity of your game, make really taxing games playable at all, or use the additional headroom to improve visual quality by enabling features like ray tracing.
FSR is a similar technology to Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (here’s how that works) and Intel’s XeSS (guide coming soon!). FSR has its own features and advantages, however, and its own list of supporting games.
FSR has gone through several iterations since its original release, with FSR 2.2 most recent available version, although most games are still using the earlier FSR 1 and FSR 2.1 versions of the technology. AMD has also teased a third version of FSR that would offer some form of dynamic frame generation, potentially improving frame rates by a considerable margin even over existing FSR upscaling.
FSR works in a wide range of games and game engines and supports DirectX12 and Vulkan APIs. The most recent changes in FSR 2.2 reduced ghosting on high velocity game objects and improved tone mapping in HDR games, among other fixes.
The precise mechanism of how FSR improves image quality whilst retaining or even improving performance has changed dramatically over the generations. However, the core principle is the same: The game is rendered at a lower resolution, then FSR upsamples that image with extra details provided by AMD’s algorithm. In FSR 1, the game’s anti-aliasing would then smooth out the edges, before a sharpening filter made all the edges look more obvious, improving the perceived resolution.
In FSR 2, the algorithm also uses depth and color information from previous frames in the upsampling process and only applies anti-aliasing at the end of the pipeline. Instead of using the game’s anti-aliasing solution, it uses temporal anti-aliasing, which typically offers a more effective AA solution and one that leads to far fewer upscaling artifacts or lost detail.
As it stands, FSR 1 and 2 and their iterations do not use any form of artificial intelligence and require no dedicated hardware to run. That may affect its quality compared to some upscaling solutions, but it does make FSR easier to implement and improves compatibility with older graphics cards.
However, that may change in the future. AMD announced in 2022 that it was working on FSR 3.0, which would leverage the new AI accelerators on its RX 7000-series graphics cards for a new frame generation feature. This would allow the bespoke hardware to generate new frames to slot between the real renders to improve performance without putting additional strain on the main GPU. It’s not yet clear how this technology will work, but it will likely operate in a similar manner to NVIDIA’s DLSS 3 frame generation introduced alongside its RTX 4000 series graphics cards.
In all versions, FSR comes with different quality mode options for the gamer to pick from. At one end of the scale, they offer the best image quality and the least performance uplift, while at the other end the visual impact from the use of FSR is more obvious, but the performance improvement is far greater. The four quality modes available at the time of writing, are: Quality, Balanced, Performance, and Ultra Performance.
The main difference between the modes and the reason for their various outputs is the input resolution. Quality mode scales the game up 1.3 times, rendering it at 77% of its output resolution. For a game outputting at 4K (3,840 x 2,160) it would only render it at 2,957 x 1,663. In Balanced, the game scales at 1.5 times the input resolution, Performance 1.7 times, and Ultra Performance two times.
Most gamers utilize Quality and Balanced modes when using FSR, as they provide a big uplift in performance without any overly-obvious degradation of the eventual image. There are artifacts there if you look for them, like loss of information in fine detail textures, or with over-sharpening effects around straight edges. But they’re far less apparent in Balanced, and in particular, Quality mode, making FSR well worth using if you need to improve performance in a supporting game.
One of the greatest strengths of FSR is that you needn’t worry about your graphics card. FidelityFX Super Resolution is a completely open-source standard (For now. FSR 3.0 may be proprietary), and since it requires no specific hardware to run, it can work on just about any graphics card.
You can use FSR on AMD graphics cards, NVIDIA graphics cards, or Intel graphics cards. It works on laptop and desktop graphics cards, and even onboard GPUs on Intel and AMD CPUs. It works better on newer graphics cards, but it’s been tested to work just fine on cards that were many generations old, like Nvidia’s popular GTX 1060.
The only caveat to this is what may be coming down the pipe with AMD’s FSR 3.0, which it has been said will leverage AI to help generate the new frame data. In that case it’s possible that the technology will only work on its new RX 7000-series graphics cards, since they have dedicated AI accelerators. That said, AMD has been very inclusive with its technologies in the past, so it may be that we see FSR 3.0 work best on the newer AMD GPUs, but still works well enough on older and non-AMD cards.
The list of games that support FSR is over 250 strong at the time of writing and growing all the time. AMD maintains an extensive list of FSR games, here.
FSR is supported on Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S games consoles, though not the PlayStation 5, despite the fact that it uses the same graphics chip as the latest Xbox consoles. The list of supporting console games is extremely limited compared to PC, however. Big games like Scorn, Dying Light 2, and Cyberpunk 2077 use FSR on Xbox.
FSR might work on just about every graphics card, but it (unfortunately) doesn’t work on every game. At least not yet. As it stands, a developer has to implement FSR in its game in order for it to work. There are mods and post processing effects that can add FSR-like functionality to games, but it’s not officially supported and is not AMD’s FSR.
That means that you can’t just enable FSR in any game, but it does make enabling it in compatible games super easy. All you need to do is navigate to the video or graphics settings page (sometimes it’s hidden within its own section of the advanced graphics settings) and turn it on. You’ll often be given an option of which quality mode to use, the choice of which will be up to you.
Some games also give you the option of tweaking the sharpness of the upscaled image to either further enhance clarity, or smooth out the edges of the upscaled elements on screen.
If you think your game does have FSR support but you don’t see the option in the menu, or it’s greyed out, you may need to update your drivers. If you’re running older drivers that were released before FSR, you won’t have that option. Download and install the latest drivers from AMD’s driver website, and you should be able to enable FSR in your chosen game(s).
One of the most exciting developments for FSR over the past year has been FSR 3. AMD originally announced it alongside the launch of its RX 7000 graphics cards at the end of 2022, promising a launch in 2023 and more details in the Spring. Although it has yet to launch and AMD is still being quite hush about it, we have learned a little more about how it might work thanks to a recent presentation at GDC 2023.
FSR 3 may improve the standard FSR algorithm, but its flagship feature is interpolated frame generation. In the same way that some TVs use black frame insertion to reduce stutter in some video, AMD’s FSR will use the insertion of AI generated frames to increase FPS and improve the smoothness of in-game visuals. It will reportedly be based on AMD Fluid Motion technology and will leverage vectors passed on by the game engine for accuracy.
AMD claims that in the final version this will allow for up to a two times improvement in frame rate, though it is said to be still working on challenges surrounding user interfaces and other 2D on-screen elements.
It’s not yet clear when FSR is planned for launch but look out for more information in the coming months. We’ll update this guide when we hear more.
FidelityFX Super Resolution is an incredibly useful tool for improving performance and visuals in games. Although it has its biggest impact with more powerful graphics cards, it is arguably most important for those running older GPUs who otherwise wouldn’t be able to play some of the new supporting games. With FSR, gamers with any graphics card can make their games run smoother and play better, helping everyone enjoy their games more and make their graphics card last longer before needing an upgrade.
FSR 3 however, offers a tantalizing glimpse of a future where in non-competitive games, AI will be able to make our games far smoother and play better than ever before. Look out for more information on FSR 3 as it approaches release later this year.
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