The main new feature in AMD’s major driver release is Radeon Super Resolution. This upscaling technique brings “all the good of FSR to the driver”, according to AMD, allowing thousands of games to immediately take advantage of “free performance”. Does it work as well in practice as it sounds on paper?
RSR vs. FSR
Let’s start at the beginning: what exactly is RSR? In fact, it’s the same upscaling technique as FidelityFX Super Resolution, but without the required in-game integration. While FSR managed to gather more than 60 supported games in the three-quarters of the year after its release , and 20 more are to be added ‘soon’, RSR works in one fell swoop with almost every game that can run exclusive fullscreen . This effectively involves thousands of games.
However, the driver-level implementation is not without its drawbacks; otherwise AMD would of course have opted for that. The game is not aware of the applied upscaling. This means that not only the in-game images are rendered at a lower resolution, but also the interface elements. While those remain nicely sharp with a game with built-in FSR support, with RSR they are treated just like the rest of the image.
|Games with built-in support
|(Almost) every game with exclusive fullscreen
|Any slightly modern video card
|AMD Radeon RX 5000 & 6000
|What is being upscaled?
|In-game image only. Hud
Due to the driver implementation, RSR obviously requires an AMD video card, while FSR can theoretically run on any GPU. For RSR, that must also be a fairly recent model from the Radeon RX 5000 or 6000 series. Upscaling techniques are especially interesting for those who use an older, slower card and still want to achieve somewhat higher frame rates, so this requirement limits the practicality of RSR a bit.
Enabling RSR works as follows:
- Enable Radeon Super Resolution through the AMD Software drivers. This can be ‘global’ or per game.
- Start a game and lower the resolution. Keep the aspect ratio the same as your native screen resolution and make sure the game is in fullscreen mode, not windowed or borderless.
- RSR is now automatically active. You can check the status in Radeon Software (Alt+R), or turn RSR on and off directly via the Alt+U hotkey.
We got started with the games F1 2021, GTA V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We did that on an AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT, a somewhat older midrange card that could use some extra performance in some games. The screenshots always show the difference in quality between native rendering and upscaling via RSR. In addition, the native resolution is 3440×1440 pixels, and we set RSR to upscale from 2560×1080 pixels to the native resolution.
The image quality with RSR is very similar to what we were used to from FSR when it comes to the in-game images. For many objects in the screenshot, there is practically no difference between native rendering and RSR. Only with fine lines does RSR sometimes fall short of pixels, as you can see, for example, with the cables that run on the left side between the tent points. The profile on the tires on RSR is more emphatically present than intended, which leads to sharp edges. It’s really a matter of taste whether you like that or not, but this is what AMD means by ‘sometimes even sharper than native’.
The interface elements and especially the text don’t look as sharply sharp as with native rendering, or FSR, where such things are rendered natively in contrast to the in-game images. This is especially noticeable when you navigate through menus, for example. It looks a bit like the result if you first apply smoothing to a text and then sharpen it again: for example, letters become a bit rounder.
In our test run, RSR leads to a performance gain of 20fps, or almost a third. That’s only 5fps less than native rendering at the lower resolution of 2560×1080 pixels. F1 2021 is also one of the games that FSR supports and with that we see lower performance. However, neither RSR nor FSR (in this particular game) has an adjustable quality level, and we suspect that the built-in FSR option aims for a slightly higher image quality than RSR. In addition, native interface rendering and postprocessing, as is done with FSR, but not with RSR, will cost some of the performance.
Also in GTA V, the difference in image quality is generally limited. We do see that RSR is once again choking on a few straight lines. For example, the record player in Franklin’s bedroom has suddenly become bulged. Some details make RSR a bit sharper than it is natively, such as the books on the hall cupboard.
RSR in GTA V only costs a few frames compared to rendering at the lower resolution, but makes the game much more playable than at native 3440×1440 pixels.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
In Shadow of the Tomb Raider we find the difference in image quality the least. With long-range objects, such as the towers to the right of center, RSR brings in some extra sharpness that the native image does not have. The stone wall in the scaled-up version is missing a small shadow detail here and there.
The performance gain of RSR is large in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We measured 70fps with RSR upscaling from 2560×1080 to 3440×1440 pixels, only 3fps less than when rendering at 2560×1080 pixels and a whopping 24fps more than at native resolution.
Our experience while testing RSR was largely smooth. Occasionally, after closing the game, the Windows desktop hung at the lower resolution, which we had to increase back to the native resolution in the settings screen. It also happened once that we had to restart the gpu driver, before AMD Software ‘understood’ that a game was running at a lower resolution: the driver kept insisting that the in-game resolution had to be lowered first.
Finally, be aware that RSR will not work in games running in borderless mode. During our quick test, we ran into this in Cities: Skylines, for example, which does not have an exclusive full-screen mode by default and therefore does not work with RSR.
Radeon Super Resolution is the big-step-fast-home version of FSR. RSR works in many more games than FSR, but less refined, because it does not exclude elements that lend themselves poorly to upscaling from the process. Text in particular therefore looks less good than with a good FSR implementation. The in-game image is comparable in quality to FSR: generally quite good, but with the same tricky points, such as oversharpening of patterns and artifacts with fine, straight lines. You’ll have to weigh up whether you’d rather buy it than other methods of improving your performance, such as lowering the in-game quality settings.
An obvious downside of RSR is the limited compatibility with hardware. It only works from the RX 5000 series, in other words a generation back. Upscaling can also be interesting if you have an even older card, which you can use a little longer in new games, especially with the still high video card prices . However, with an RX 580, for example, you fall outside the RSR boat. That’s a shame, because FSR does work on such cards, but then you’re limited to the select games that support it.
Bottom line, RSR is mostly a compromise, which still offers many of the benefits of FSR in games that don’t support it. It doesn’t get any easier for the average user. He can also wet his chest for another alternative from the AMD stable, namely FSR 2.0 , which will be released next quarter. We are already dipping our quill in ink for an overview article of all upscaling techniques that you can choose from, because we are ready for that.