Digital Foundry Specialists analyzed XeSS image scaling technology and compared it to competing NVIDIA DLSS technology. Intel Arc A770 and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 discrete graphics cards were used for testing.The test environment was the adventure action game Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Digital Foundry expert Alex Battaglia sees XeSS version 1.187 as the second generation of scaling processes on par with NVIDIA DLSS 2.0 and AMD FSR 2.0. All three use temporal scaling algorithms when taking data for image processing not only from the current frame, but also from several previous ones, on the basis of which the final higher-resolution image is formed.
XeSS is a machine learning algorithm that uses the XMX hardware cores from Arc Alchemist GPUs. Intel is also developing a software analogue of XeSS that uses DP4a algorithms to work and is supported by third-party graphics cards without the same XMX cores. In this case, the efficiency of XeSS is worse, and the application ecosystem is broader.
Digital Foundry notes that using XeSS to upscale an image from native 720p to 1440p increases frame time by 2 ms. However, the end result of the image transformation is worth it.
When scaling an image from 1080p to 4K in XeSS performance mode, the frame time increases from 8.8 to 12.2 ms (+3.4 ms). For comparison, the DLSS 2.3 technology on the GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card increases the frame time by 3.8 ms under the same conditions.
According to reviewers, XeSS gets “Ultra Quality” mode, which FSR 2.0 and DLSS 2.0 don’t have. This mode uses the original image with a higher resolution than Quality mode, but at the same time allows you to increase performance in Shadow of the Tomb Raider by upscaling the image to 4K and 1440p by 16 and 23%, respectively. Using XeSS in performance mode in Shadow of the Tomb Raider shows a 52% to 88% increase in game performance over native resolution.
The effectiveness of XeSS with ray tracing was also tested in the synthetic 3DMark test, where, taking into account different quality modes, it was possible to increase the frame rate to 177% of the original.
In its current form, XeSS is certainly more efficient than the same FSR 1.0 and DLSS 1.0, and in many cases delivers higher quality than the original image. The most striking example is the image of the fishing net below. On the right frame – a native resolution image with in-game anti-aliased TAA. The middle image shows running XeSS and the left shows DLSS 2.3.2.
On the other hand, the use of XeSS during the test led to the appearance of image artifacts in some cases. The character’s shirt below is an example.
For an in-depth look at XeSS technology, watch this 28-minute video produced by Digital Foundry.
Since XeSS is not yet available to casual gamers (like other members of the media), it’s likely that many of its shortcomings that the Digital Foundry team pointed out in their review will be fixed by release.