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One of the Steam Deck’s best features just came to an AMD GPU near you

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Radeon Super Resolution now, FSR 2.0 in Q2

Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Valve’s Steam Deck has a lot of cool tricks up its sleeves — but one of them wasn’t exclusive to the gaming handheld PC for long. You know how the Steam Deck can turn on FidelityFX Super Resolution upscaling for any game of your choice, no need for the game’s developers to formally offer support? As promised, AMD just brought that same driver-level version of the framerate-boosting tech to every Radeon RX 5000-series or newer graphics card as “Radeon Super Resolution.”

Image: AMD

Today, you’ll be able to download the new AMD Adrenalin drivers, turn on the in-game overlay with Alt + R, and lower your game’s render resolution to theoretically get a big framerate boost in most games — at the expense of some quality, of course. (It makes a lot more sense when your GPU isn’t potent enough on its own, which is why the Steam Deck is such a good example.)

My own close-up of Elden Ring, with and without RSR, upscaled to 1440p on the Steam Deck.

But even if your GPU is plenty powerful, AMD might have something to keep your attention; the company’s teasing a new version of FSR today that might actually trade blows with Nvidia. FSR 2.0 now uses temporal upscaling (like Nvidia’s superior DLSS) to provide more quality at higher framerates than ever before — and the surprise is that unlike Nvidia DLSS, AMD isn’t requiring a new chip with dedicated machine learning cores to make it work.

AMD says FSR 2.0 will even work on competitors’ graphics chips.

Image: AMD

The company isn’t saying exactly how that’s possible quite yet, but here’s a statement from AMD software product management director Glen Matthews to The Verge:

While machine learning (ML) is one vehicle to solve a number of problems, it is not a requisite to achieve good quality upscaling and FSR 2.0 does not use ML. Therefore, FSR 2.0 does not require dedicated ML hardware — so that more gamers can benefit from it.

FSR 2.0’s temporal upscaling uses previous frame color, depth and motion vectors in the rendering pipeline to create very high-quality upscaled output with optimized anti-aliasing across all image quality presets and output resolutions.

“More details will be available on 3/23,” adds AMD, hinting that you might want to watch the company’s session on “Next-Generation Image Upscaling for Games” at the 2022 Game Developers Conference for more.

I’m skeptical of FSR 2.0 for two reasons. First, because AMD — like Nvidia — is claiming it can deliver better than native 4K image quality at the same time it’s offering higher framerate, and even Nvidia’s highest-quality DLSS settings haven’t convinced me of that. Second, because AMD only provided a single still scene (not even video) for us to compare today, and motion is one place these techniques can break down.

You could try to blow this up, but I’d recommend downloading original images from my links below.
Image: AMD

But AMD’s claims do sound impressive — the company says Deathloop can run at nearly twice the framerate at maximum settings, 101 fps vs. 53 fps — and so are the actual still images of Deathloop that AMD provided today. They’re seriously worth a look. (Download them here, here, here, here, and here, then try pixel peeping them with Nvidia’s excellent ICAT tool.)

In those still images, FSR 2.0 looks like a world of difference compared to the original FSR — and I could genuinely see some people preferring the enhanced sharpness of FSR 2.0 mode to a native image. But we won’t know for sure until we see lots of games in motion. Plus, AMD is hinting that it’ll require game developers to integrate FSR 2.0 instead of being a global feature.

At a time you can’t easily buy a new GPU, it’s great to see AMD pushing hard to get more of out of older, weaker ones. Speaking of which: AMD says it’s working to bring the weaker-but global Radeon Super Resolution upscaling technique to its APUs with integrated graphics as well — with the Ryzen 6000-series processors adding support in the second quarter of this year.

Update, 9:35AM ET: AMD does now provide a tiny sliver of FSR 2.0 in action in a video here.