As new AAA titles push the limits of graphical fidelity, upscaling technologies have become increasingly important to achieve a smoother and better-looking gameplay experience. We had two popular upscaling technologies, Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), taking the gaming world by storm. Now, there is a new kid on the block — Intel XeSS. In this guide, let’s compare Nvidia DLSS vs AMD FSR vs Intel XeSS to determine which upscaling option offers the best performance and image quality.
All three technologies use AI algorithms to upscale lower-resolution images to higher resolutions, enhancing the visual quality of games while maintaining a high frame rate. However, they function in drastically different ways. Let’s see what each technology has to offer.
Nvidia DLSS vs AMD FSR vs Intel XeSS: Overview
What Is Nvidia DLSS?
Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) is arguably the most advanced upscaling technology today. It renders games at lower-than-native resolutions to boost performance. Then, it uses artificial intelligence (AI) and neural networks to upscale the low-resolution images to native quality.
DLSS uses a neural network trained on high-resolution images to predict what the missing pixels in the lower-resolution image would look like. Using this data, it creates a higher-resolution version of that image. This results in smoother and more detailed visuals with improved texture quality.
DLSS relies on Tensor cores to function, which makes it exclusive to Nvidia’s RTX series graphics cards. Its exclusivity is a double-edged sword. It is not available for everyone, which is a catch. However, since it’s designed to work specifically with Nvidia cards, it’s more optimized and offers better performance, which is a definite plus. While all RTX cards support DLSS, the latest iteration (DLSS 3) is only available on RTX 4000 series GPUs.
What is AMD FSR?
FidelityFX Super Resolution, or FSR, is AMD’s answer to Nvidia DLSS. While it too uses AI algorithms to upscale lower-resolution images, it takes a different approach altogether. FSR uses a spatial upscaling algorithm to analyze a low-resolution image and create a higher-resolution version of that image.
Additionally, it applies a sharpening filter to make visuals more detailed and crisp. FSR works on a wide range of GPUs, including those from Nvidia and Intel, making it a more versatile option for gamers. Check out our detailed explanation of AMD FSR here to learn more.
What Is Intel XeSS?
Xe Super Sampling, or XeSS, is a relatively new upscaling technology developed by Intel. XeSS has two versions, and we have detailed them both right here:
The open-source version of XeSS works on any GPU that supports DP4a instruction set, which helps accelerate AI calculations. All Nvidia cards since the GTX 10 series and all AMD cards since the RX 5000 series should work with XeSS. The open-source version works similarly to AMD’s FSR — rendering frames at lower resolutions and then upscaling them to a higher resolution.
XeSS on Intel Arc
On Intel Arc GPUs, XeSS takes advantage of the dedicated XMX cores (AI cores similar to Nvidia’s Tensor cores) included in Intel Arc A770 and A750 GPUs to achieve better results. Contrary to the first version, this one is exclusive to Intel GPUs due to the proprietary hardware. However, XeSS performance on Intel Arc GPUs is vastly better compared to its open-source version that runs on other GPUs.
XeSS is still new, and few games support it at this time. However, more game developers will likely implement XeSS support in their games as the technology matures.
Nvidia DLSS vs AMD FSR vs Intel XeSS: Performance
All three upscaling technologies sound great on paper. Let’s see how these three upscaling technologies compare in real-world tests. We tested DLSS 3, FSR 2, and XeSS on our test bench with the following specs:
CPU Intel Core i7-13700K Cooler Lian Li Galahad 360 AIO Motherboard ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WiFi RAM 32GB (16GB x 2) HyperX FURY DDR5 5200MHz Graphics ROG STRIX RTX 3070 Ti Gaming OC Edition Storage 500GB WD Black SN770 Gen 4 NVMe Storage Power Supply 1000W Deepcool PQ1000M 80 Plus Gold Power Supply
With the Quality mode selected, all three upscaling technologies produce similar results. XeSS does a slightly better job at rendering the railings. However, DLSS and FSR do better at rendering shadows.
Setting the upscaling mode to Balanced tells a similar story. Intel XeSS retains the most details out of the three. However, you can only differentiate when you pixel peep.
In Performance mode, XeSS again takes the lead, with DLSS following up a close second. FSR botched the textures in the railings (in the left corner). It also produced blurrier shadows compared to DLSS and XeSS.
Ultra Performance Mode
XeSS, unfortunately, doesn’t have an Ultra Performance mode. While one can argue that its Performance mode is equivalent to DLSS and FSR’s Ultra Performance mode, it seems unlikely both from an image quality and performance standpoint. XeSS’s Performance mode results are more in-line with DLSS and FSR’s Performance mode.
Comparing the Ultra Performance mode on DLSS and FSR indicates that DLSS does a better job than FSR at retaining textures while smoothing out jagged edges. Like in the previous case, FSR missed rendering elements of the railings and produced blurry shadows.
Overall, XeSS offers the best image quality. DLSS does a fantastic job, too. On the other hand, FSR does a decent job but is comparatively worse than its rivals. Click here to view the full-sized high resolution images.
Performance & FPS
While XeSS takes the lead in visuals, it loses out in performance, with both DLSS and FSR beating it by a significant margin.
We tested Hitman 3 and Hogwarts Legacy at 4K high settings with Ray Tracing on and VSync off. Here are the results:
Hitman 3 — Balanced Mode
FSR and XeSS produce similar results and are considerably better than native rendering results. However, DLSS takes the cake here, outperforming its competitors.
Hitman 3 — Performance Mode
In performance mode, FSR seems to struggle, which was unexpected. DLSS and XeSS do a better job of improving frame rates. However, XeSS was prone to artifacting and glitching in some areas of the game.
Hitman 3 — Ultra Performance Mode
Ultra Performance mode is where FSR kicks into full speed and shines bright. It performed slightly better than Nvidia’s DLSS. However, the gameplay experience was top-notch with either. We didn’t notice much degradation in image quality during scenes and fast movements, and the frame rate was smooth and consistent enough throughout. XeSS doesn’t have an Ultra Performance mode, so it misses out here.
Hogwarts Legacy — Balanced Mode
DLSS takes the lead, with FSR coming in close at second position and XeSS in third place. The gaming experience was fantastic with all three.
Hogwarts Legacy — Performance Mode
We see a similar trend with the Performance mode. Nvidia DLSS is the clear winner, with FSR slightly behind. XeSS does a fine job, but struggles to compare with its beefier rivals.
Hogwarts Legacy — Ultra Performance Mode
The performance improvements here are fantastic! From a 48 FPS average at native, we jump to 112 FPS and 101 FPS with DLSS and FSR, respectively. That’s a massive jump! The gameplay experience with both was super smooth, and it felt like we were running the game on a much beefier GPU than our 3070 Ti.
Should You Use Nvidia DLSS, AMD FSR, or Intel XeSS?
Absolutely! There’s no reason not to use them. It’s a free upgrade. There’s minimal loss in image quality, and games run 2 to 3 times faster, depending on which settings you have enabled. In the past, there have been reports of blurry visuals and missing textures when using AI upscaling technologies. However, these technologies have matured considerably since then. Graphical glitches are not as big a problem as you might expect. They’re few and far between. The performance benefits that AI upscaling methods like DLSS, FSR, and XeSS offer are significant, and you should capitalize on them!
Each upscaling technology has its own strengths and weaknesses. DLSS produces the highest quality images with the least blue and jagged edges. However, it only works with Nvidia GPUs. On the other hand, AMD’s FSR technology offers fantastic performance uplifts and decent image quality. However, it’s not as visually impressive as DLSS (and XeSS in some cases). XeSS delivers a jump in FPS numbers and does a solid job of upscaling textures, but it’s not as good as its competitors in the performance department. At least not yet. With time, XeSS will undoubtedly get better. For now, I would recommend sticking with DLSS (if you have an Nvidia RTX card) and FSR.