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 evaluate 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 can 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 consumers and we imagine anti-lag truly helps older GPUs, too.

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

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

Our take is that there are two key use circumstances for Image Sharpening: the primary is for video games which can be ‘gentle’ to start with. Lots of titles lately are utilizing temporal anti-aliasing or TAA, and that may usually result in a blurry presentation. Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS) is a technique 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 may 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 may publish course of that picture, add a little bit of sharpness again and get near the native picture for nearly no efficiency loss. In a way it’s just like what Nvidia is making an attempt with DLSS, and we’ll examine the 2 afterward.

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 swap 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 quite a lot of artifacts you get with conventional sharpening.

There is a fairly 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 are usually not supported.

AMD advised us they determined to deal with newer APIs, whereas DirectX 9 was included as a result of it was simple to do. AMD acknowledges that DX11 is the following step they usually’ll think about 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 right this moment there are tons of video games that both solely assist DX11, or carry out higher on DX11 whereas supporting DX12.

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

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 characteristic is just obtainable on new Navi GPUs (5700 and 5700 XT), there isn’t a assist for Vega or earlier generations as RIS depends on the {hardware} to ship CAS with subsequent to no efficiency loss.

We also needs to point out RIS is being handled as a world 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 may not need the characteristic 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 bear in mind.

Image Quality

For visible high quality comparisons we’ll spend most of our time Metro Exodus. It’s a DX12 title that additionally provides DLSS assist for Nvidia playing cards (DLSS does require video games to assist the characteristic), plus it provides extremely detailed environments. In addition to the picture high quality pictures supplied right here you may take a look at Hardware Unboxed’s video (embedded under) utilizing YouTube’s 4K high quality for the very best illustration of the sport’s graphics. For all screenshots, you may 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 gentle and there aren’t any anti-aliasing within the recreation, however there’s definitely nonetheless a number of element within the native 4K presentation.

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?

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

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 timber on this run that are the softest factor 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 an excellent job of ignoring issues that you just wouldn’t need sharpened, like movement blur or depth of discipline results, and whereas it’s not excellent at ignoring these components in movement, it’s onerous 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 prepare tracks and another areas. It’s in all probability not one thing you’d discover if it weren’t for this side-by-side, however it does appear to be an artifact of the filter.

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?

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?

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

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

Overall although it might seem RIS does an excellent job right here and usually appears ‘better’ than the unique presentation even when it’s faked. When you cease and look at the issues 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 have a look at some outcomes when downsampling. We’ll begin with 1440p vs 4K and straight away the 1440p native picture is far softer and appears blurry when upscaled to 4K. Not an excellent technique to play on a high-resolution show.

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

The sharpened 1440p picture is a giant enchancment over native 1440p, however finally 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 superb 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.

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?

However we see completely 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 unhealthy as 1440p, however you’re nonetheless getting a lack of readability and superb element in comparison with working at a local decision.

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?

We turned on sharpening for the 1800p picture and… wow. We have been critically impressed with the outcomes right here. It’s not an ideal recreation of 4K and nonetheless suffers from a number of the basic points with publish course of sharpening, however in lots of scenes it’s extremely shut and nearly indistinguishable from the native picture. True 4K has finer element in foliage and different small components, however you’d be onerous pressed to identify a distinction, particularly with no facet by facet comparability.

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?

RIS vs DLSS

Before we transfer on to have 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 one of the best implementation we’ve seen and it’s significantly better than utilizing Radeon Image Sharpening on a 1440p picture, however it’s not so good as AMD’s sharpened 1800p.

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?

In one of the best circumstances, DLSS is nearly as good as sharpened 1800p for giant components and shut textures. But DLSS nonetheless suffers from the ‘oil painting’ impact we talked about in our preliminary investigation, which appears unhealthy in some environments, and suffers from element loss particularly for rocks and foliage. The method it ‘thickens’ actually superb 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, at the least in Metro.

Performance

Across the three circumstances 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 implies you should use the characteristic at no actual efficiency price if it improves visuals in your recreation of alternative.

For these concentrating on sharpened 1800p as a better efficiency substitute 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 could be nearly as good as, or on this case noticeably higher than DLSS, for the same efficiency uplift. We bear 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.

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

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 on the whole than Metro Exodus however nonetheless a bit gentle from TAA. Much to our shock, regardless of retaining movie grain enabled for this take a look at, the sharpening filter didn’t make the grain extra noticeable which may usually be a facet impact of grain.

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

For decision downsampling we targeted 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 truly 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 unhealthy. This makes it an ideal candidate for sharpening, and certainly utilizing RIS the picture is, actually, sharper than native 4K regardless of coming from a decrease decision base. Impressive.

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?

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

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

Sharpening isn’t fairly as efficient with this foliage dense scene from Battlefield V however it 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.

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?

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 assist 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 may usually run the sport at a 75% decision scale with little lack of high quality at 4K.

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?

This recreation is an efficient candidate for Radeon Image Sharpening. At a 75% scale with sharpening, the picture was usually 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 just a few branches with the native 4K picture that you just don’t get with a 75% scale. Still, contemplating the 75% sharpened output was usually 35% quicker than native 4K, that’s an enormous win on the whole.

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

Testing Resident Evil 2, we knew this recreation has notoriously unhealthy temporal anti-aliasing which ends up in a gentle, usually blurry presentation. Using RIS on the native 4K presentation mainly fastened the gentle 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 price use case for RIS that’s price contemplating.

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?

Bottom Line

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

After spending extra time with the characteristic, we really feel one of the best use case is for picture downsampling with excessive decision shows. A sharpened 1800p picture was sometimes nearly as good as a local 4K picture in our testing, which implies you may fortunately use this configuration with Navi GPUs to achieve ~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 just a little gentle after post-process anti-aliasing strategies like TAA. Given mainly all video games lately use this form of AA versus extra intensive strategies like MSAA or SSAA, combining that with sharpening can ship an improved picture.

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

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

To be honest to Nvidia, when evaluating pictures 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 price when enabling DLSS: if that efficiency price was zero, DLSS can be superior; however as an alternative it’s a major drop, and that makes it kinda nugatory up in opposition to this less complicated sharpening implementation.

Plus, Radeon Image Sharpening is vastly extra appropriate with right this moment’s video games even with DX11 assist lacking, the library of supported video games is far 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 circumstances it’s not price turning on the characteristic. It additionally doesn’t get all the pieces proper and in some edge circumstances can sharpen issues it shouldn’t. But contemplating that is simply faking it for subsequent to no efficiency price, it’s onerous to complain about just a few minor inconsistencies.

Our take is RIS delivers what DLSS could not: a easy, low efficiency price approach that makes decision downsampling viable. As extra players get their arms on Navi GPUs, will probably be fascinating to see how broadly Radeon Image Sharpening is adopted and really helpful primarily based on good outcomes.

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