Does Nvidia ultra performance DLSS make 8K gaming viable?

Is 8K gaming actually viable with Nvidia’s latest Ampere-based GPUs? While a small selection of triple-A titles stand a good chance of hitting decent frame-rates at native 8K, Nvidia has released a new ultra performance mode for its DLSS AI upscaling technology – and its ambition is extraordinary. It aims to boost detail with a 9x multiplier, meaning that a core 1440p image is reconstructed to full 7680×4320 resolution: that’s a final render output of 33 million pixels, reconstructed from just 3.7m. There’s a whole discussion about whether 8K gaming is actually needed in the here and now – and it’s a situation that can only be ascertained by actually giving it a go on a consumer screen, something we still don’t have right now. Even so, the tools and techniques are certainly available to get a close-up look at image quality and performance and to draw some initial conclusions.

Before we go on, our contention remains that chasing resolution probably isn’t the best use of GPU resources – even at 4K, let alone 8K. Ultra HD rendering is demanding enough, and pushing to 8K actually increases core resolution by 4x – an almost insane workload. We’d rather see higher quality pixels as opposed to more of them, especially as technologies like hardware-accelerated ray tracing are starting to produce some brilliant results. And it’s certainly the case that native 8K rendering with RT is a bit of a disaster, even with the RTX 3090 – where Control renders a relatively simple ray traced scene at just nine frames per second. However, engage DLSS’s new ultra performance mode and that leaps up to 50fps – a 455 per cent increase. The real question is whether you retain image quality as well and I think that from my perspective, there are promising beginnings here, but the technology isn’t quite there yet.

There is still some impressive stuff on display though: 8K ultra performance DLSS renders at a native 1440p. Compare the image quality to native 1440p blown up to 8K and the difference is stark: Nvidia’s AI upscaler is definitely doing a job here in resolving more detail, though the performance impact of 14 per cent is not insignificant. However, while initially promising, clarity is lost with the new technique when the game is in motion. It doesn’t quite hold up, and certainly up against a native 8K image, it’s simply not as good. With ray tracing in particular, the 9x multiplier in rays traced makes a big difference and the sheer detail isn’t replicated. Put simply, in Control at least, the new DLSS can give a ‘better than 4K’ level of image quality – but it’s not a match for the look of native rendering at ‘full fat’ 8K.

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