Intel XeSS preview renders promising results on par with Nvidia DLSS

The battle of upscaling technologies.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Intel XeSS is the new kid on the block when it comes to advanced temporal upscaling technology. A new preview reveals that the company’s initial iteration of the tech is miles ahead of its competitors first attempts, and even on par with AMD’s latest FSR 2.0 and Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0.

Our friends at Digital Foundry had early access to an Arc A770 graphics card, and an updated version of video game Shadow of the Tomb Raider that features XeSS alongside Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0.

Though the game is of an age – Shadow of the Tomb Raider released way back in 2018 – a direct comparison of Arc A770 with XeSS vs. GeForce RTX 3070 with DLSS found image quality and performance results were largely the same if not better in some circumstances.

Resolutions tested include 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions. Naturally, the tech scales better at higher resolutions, seeing that it puts more load on your GPU and the results are as follows; Digital Foundry saw an 88 per cent frame rate improvement with the A770 at 4K resolution in Performance mode, Balanced sees a 66 per cent performance improvement, Quality mode 47 per cent, and Ultra Quality seeing a nifty 23 per cent increase.

A frame-by-frame image comparison showed image quality to be seemingly identical between the two. Even in motion there was no serious ghosting or as I like to call it “fuzziness,” and DLSS only won out when images were zoomed in to reveal finer details.

XeSS’ upscaling technique is quite similar to Nvidia’s Tensor Core implementation in that it uses separate hardware-based acceleration Intel calls XMX Cores, alongside a temporal AI algorithm that reconstructs a lower resolution image and adds detail based on previously recorded image data.

With that being said, super sampling techniques have been used for many a generation to reduce jagged pixel edges and produce a much cleaner, crisper image. We’ve seen them in many a game settings menu, SSAA, MSAA, FXAA, TAA, all post-processing techniques used to sharpen images, though each technique is variably taxing on hardware.

Nvidia took this idea a step further with the advent of RTX 20 Series GPUs, introducing a hardware-based, spatial image upscaler using a blend of artificial intelligence and deep learning image enhancement to effectively allow a game to run at a lower resolution for increased performance while upscaling the image for sharpness and clarity.

It was a technology built out of necessity to alleviate the taxing nature of real-time ray tracing implementation on GPU hardware at the time, and to be honest the results were middling at first. Yet the seed had been planted, birthing the likes of Nvidia’s very own DLSS 2.0, AMD’s FSR and now Intel’s XeSS.

Though we’ve seen the release of a couple Arc A380’s on western shores, Intel’s flagship Arc A770 remains sorely missing from store shelves. The window of opportunity to capitalise on GPU shortages appears to have passed, and it begs the question, if few folk own Arc GPUs, will Intel’s iteration of this promising tech remain lost in the annals of history? Only time can tell.