YouTube channel Digital Foundry published a new exclusive video with an in-depth review of Intel's new XeSS AI image reconstruction upscaler. In the review, XeSS was a surprisingly potent competitor to slightly older versions of DLSS version 2, featuring similar or better gaming performance and image quality than the Nvidia counterpart.
For a deep-dive explanation of XeSS, check out our previous coverage here. But to briefly explain: XeSS is Intel's answer to Nvidia's DLSS and AMD's FSR intelligent upscaling technologies. XeSS upscales images from a lower native resolution to a higher resolution with as little degradation as possible to image detail.
Internally, XeSS functions very similarly to Nvidia DLSS; upscaling relies on the help of a temporal AI algorithm that intelligently adds detail into the upscaled image, where there is none, with the help of previously recorded image data. However, unlike DLSS, Intel's counterpart has three different variations to support all types of GPUs. These include Arc Alchemist Intel GPUs, Intel integrated graphics, and non-Intel GPUs (yes, this means XeSS will work on Nvidia and AMD GPUs).
For testing, Digital Foundry uses an Arc Alchemist A770 GPU running a specialized Shadow of the Tomb Raider build that supports Intel's new AI upscaler. Resolutions tested include 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions.
Performance was very good with XeSS with its implementation in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. In a best-case scenario, Digital Foundry saw a 88% frame rate improvement with the A770 at 4K resolution in XeSS' performance mode. The gains weren't as significant in other modes, but they were still very good. Balanced sees a 66% performance improvement, Quality mode 47%, and Ultra Quality 23%.
But it's worth noting that these tremendous gains mainly apply to higher resolution targets such as 4K, which puts more load on the GPU. For example, when testing a less demanding resolution such as 1440P, the maximum performance benefit Digital Foundry saw was 52% in XeSS' performance mode. Nonetheless, a 52% performance boost still deserves attention.
Image quality was just as impressive as the performance metrics. Compared to DLSS version 2.3.2, which ships with Shadow of the Tomb Raider right now, XeSS can go toe to toe with the Nvidia counterpart in all aspects. XeSS outperformed Shadow of the Tomb Raider's TAA implementation in some scenarios, despite the TAA test running at native resolution.
If you were to put XeSS and DLSS side by side without zooming in, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. You can only notice the differences in image quality when zooming into the images. But even then, both AI upscalers look identical, with DLSS winning out only in a couple of situations. Images with motion also share an excellent quality with XeSS, with no actual ghosting or artifacting.
The only exceptions to XeSS's excellent image quality revolve around a couple of bugs that need to be ironed out by Intel. First, it includes unusual flickering with vegetation and clothing, which can sometimes be intense. Some areas with water and mud can also be problematic with intense jittering that is very distracting.
Besides these apparent bugs, Digital Foundry's review shows that Intel is now a serious contender in the AI upscaling market. But Intel is not out of the woods just yet; it will need to garner as much adoption as possible if it hopes to compete against DLSS and FSR, both widely adopted in the video game industry today.