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 most likely learn our evaluation by now and that primarily handled efficiency and general worth, however we didn’t go into element into a few 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 fundamental phrases, it’s a post-processing sharpening characteristic for video games that AMD says carries practically no efficiency penalty. In idea you flip it on, general sharpness is improved in recreation’s visuals and everybody walks away blissful. But as we noticed with GeForce’s DLSS, producer’s claims don’t all the time replicate 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 today are utilizing temporal anti-aliasing or TAA, and that may typically result in a blurry presentation. Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS) is a strategy to sharpen these video games and get a crisper picture.

The second use case is for decision downsampling. For instance, in case you have a 4K show however need higher efficiency, you possibly can 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 submit 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 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 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 few 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 should not supported.

AMD instructed us they determined to concentrate on newer APIs, whereas DirectX 9 was included as a result of it was simple 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 as we speak there are tons of video games that both solely help 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 simple. Install the most recent drivers, head over to the Display part, and allow each GPU scaling and Radeon Image Sharpening. The characteristic is simply obtainable on new Navi GPUs (5700 and 5700 XT), there isn’t any help 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 not 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 have to restart the sport between turning RIS on and off, in case 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 will spend most of our time taking a look at Metro Exodus. It’s a DX12 title that additionally gives DLSS help for Nvidia playing cards (DLSS does require video games to help the characteristic), plus it gives extremely detailed environments. In addition to the picture high quality photographs provided right here you possibly can 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 possibly can 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 actually nonetheless numerous 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 authentic picture. It’s significantly efficient on foliage, it cleans up the grass and timber on this run that are the softest component 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 subject results, and whereas it’s not excellent at ignoring these parts in movement, it’s arduous 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 most likely 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.

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 parts that the CAS algorithm merely doesn’t know to disregard; it doesn’t really know which parts must 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 problem, 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 seems ‘better’ than the unique presentation even when it’s faked. When you cease and look at the issues at instances we felt it was too sharp, maybe unrealistically sharp, however throughout precise gameplay in movement we did not see this as a problem.

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 immediately the 1440p native picture is way softer and appears blurry when upscaled to 4K. Not an excellent strategy 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 in the end simply doesn’t have the identical stage of element because the native 4K picture. Nearby textures get fairly shut, however with a few of the positive foliage element and different small parts, 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 positive 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 significantly impressed with the outcomes right here. It’s not an ideal recreation of 4K and nonetheless suffers from a few of the basic points with submit 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 parts, however you’d be arduous pressed to identify a distinction, particularly with no aspect by aspect 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 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 most effective implementation we’ve seen and it’s a lot better than utilizing Radeon Image Sharpening on a 1440p picture, but it surely’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 the most effective circumstances, DLSS is nearly as good as sharpened 1800p for giant parts and shut textures. But DLSS nonetheless suffers from the ‘oil painting’ impact we talked about in our preliminary investigation, which seems unhealthy in some environments, and suffers from element loss particularly for rocks and foliage. The method it ‘thickens’ actually positive particulars like tree branches or wires additionally degrades the DLSS picture in our opinion. Overall, sharpened 1800p will get loads nearer to native 4K than DLSS, at the least in Metro.

Performance

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 implies you need to use the characteristic at no actual efficiency value if it improves visuals in your recreation of alternative.

For these concentrating on sharpened 1800p as the next efficiency alternative for 4K, you’re taking a look at 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 special GPU so it will not match precisely to the RX 5700 XT’s outcomes. In the most recent model of Metro Exodus, 4K DLSS nonetheless performs across the similar mark because the 1800p picture. Once once more, this reinforces our opinion {that a} easy sharpening filter may 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.

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

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

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 rather well and truly seems solely barely worse at a 78% scale versus native 4K on this scene; it’s a bit softer, a bit much less detailed however general, not unhealthy. This makes it an ideal candidate for sharpening, and certainly utilizing RIS the picture is, in truth, 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 combo and it seems considerably worse than the sharpened 1700p picture. Battlefield V nonetheless has a weak DLSS implementation and may’t maintain as much as the fundamental sharpening filter. In truth, even the native 1700p picture is best in our opinion, so this title reveals the weak point 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 but it surely does an honest 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 have to 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 may typically 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 effective candidate for Radeon Image Sharpening. At a 75% scale with sharpening, the picture was typically crisper than native 4K, though there have been instances 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 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 results in a gentle, typically 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 value use case for RIS that’s value 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 properly by sharpening the picture which may be helpful in a wide range of conditions.

After spending extra time with the characteristic, we really feel the most effective 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 possibly can 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 slightly gentle after post-process anti-aliasing methods like TAA. Given mainly all video games today use this kind of AA versus extra intensive methods 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, typically by a substantial margin. With each methods performing on the similar 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 most likely 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 a substitute it’s a major drop, and that makes it kinda nugatory up towards this less complicated sharpening implementation.

Plus, Radeon Image Sharpening is vastly extra appropriate with as we speak’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 circumstances it’s not value 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 value, it’s arduous to complain about a number of minor inconsistencies.

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

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