Exploring AMD’s Virtual Super Resolution

4K rendering for your weak 1080P displays…

AMD Virtual Super Resolution

Today AMD is introducing its virtual super resolution (VSR) technology as a counter to Nvidia’s dynamic super resolution (DSR) technology. Both of these technologies accomplish the same goal of offering application independent super sampling. Traditionally super sampling had to be implemented by the video game you were playing otherwise it wouldn’t be an option. But with VSR and DSR owners of the latest and greatest video cards can spoof their games into believing that they are using a higher resolution monitor and then downscale that image to 1080P.

We tried out AMD’s VSR in three games Aliens Isolation, Civilization Beyond Earth, and Sniper Elite 3. After checking a box to enable VSR in AMD’s Catalyst control center we were off and additional resolution immediately became available in these games. Our graphics card was an R9 290X and performed well in these games. Save for Civilization where it was heavily handicapped by the game’s CPU limited nature which became an issue for the A10-7850K that was backing up our R9 290X.

Thanks to VSR we can choose from an additional four resolution options: 1920 by 1200, 2048 by 1536, 2560 by 1440, and 3800 by 1800. For the sake of clarity our monitors native resolution is 1920 by 1080. We of course opted for the highest option to gauge the performance and image quality of VSR. As far as image quality goes VSR is a winner, it goes a long way towards smoothing jaggies and while it doesn’t eliminate them there are also other benefits that MSAA, TXAA, and the like can’t offer like better looking textures. VSR isn’t going to make ugly games beautiful but if you can appreciate the benefits of anti-alising you’ll like having VSR as an option especially for games with limited in-engine anti-alising options.

VSR Performance

Performance is a bit of mixed bag. In CPU limited games there’s no difference in frame rates between the native resolution and VSR’s maximum resolution. In non-CPU limited games the performance hit seems to vary significantly depending on the application. Alien’s Isolation only took a modest hit, but Sniper Elite 3 took a playability breaking performance hit. We should note though that Sniper Elite’s in-engine 4x super sampling was enabled so we can only guess at what resolution it was really being rendered at. In any case its seems clear that just like with other forms of anti-alising there is a performance hit associated with VSR. We haven’t had a chance to play with DSR yet, but all indications point to the same being true of that technology.

AMD’s VSR is a great option to have and because it’s an application support independent feature you can use it on any video game that allows you to select the rendering resolution. (Not you Starcraft: Brood War) Outside of performance enhancements, driver-based super sampling is my favorite new feature that has come from both AMD and Nvidia this year.

The only question now is when will Intel be implementing its own super resolution technology?S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.