NVIDIA DLSS 3 vs 2 Image Quality Comparison: Thrice the Performance, Double the Delusion

NVIDIA has announced the third iteration of its highly acclaimed DLSS upscaling technology. DLSS 2 added temporal feedback alongside motion vectors and jitter offsets to improve the accuracy of the reconstructed image. DLSS 3 takes a step further in this direction by creating an entire frame along with the upscaled one. To do this, the data inputs into the convolution neural network are more than doubled. Instead of one, two consecutive frames are fed along with motion vectors and optical flow data, thereby constructing an entire intermediate frame.

NVIDIA claims that Ada’s optical flow processor makes the whole thing possible. An intermediate frame is constructed by supplementing the neural network with a more precise directional velocity of the pixels. Unlike usual upscaling methods, one additional frame (per two) is constructed using temporal frame data without involving the CPU. No increase in draw calls or overhead, significantly improving overhead.

With that said, let me direct you to our performance analysis of DLSS 3 and the GeForce RTX 4090 required for the same:

Let’s move on to the image quality comparisons. We’ll place the frames reconstructed by DLSS 3 and DLSS 2 side-by-side and see how they stack up to the natively rendered ones:

We’ll look at the DLSS 3 implementation in A Plague Tale and Cyberpunk 2077. At first sight, all three look identical, but upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the 3x performance boost comes at a cost:

Native vs. DLSS 3

As usually with upscalers, vegetation loses a fair bit of detail. In addition to the stems/twigs/leaves failing to materialize fully (due to the increased complexity and the limitations of pixel-based rendering), lighting is also affected. DLSS 2 loses a smidge of the shadow and AO detail around vegetation, and DLSS 3 further adds to that shortcoming. As a result, patches of grass, bushes, and trees appear a little washed out.

DLSS 2 vs. DLSS 3

It’s not easily noticeable, but it might bug you if you know what this stuff is supposed to look like.

Native vs DLSS 3
DLSS 2 vs DLSS 3

Overall, the image reconstruction with DLSS 3 remains impressive. It’s way ahead of DLSS 1, which suffered from severe ghosting, hallucinations, and loss of detail. You have minor artifacts and some ghosting, but nothing too disrupting.

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Computer hardware enthusiast, PC gamer, and almost an engineer. Former co-founder of Techquila (2017-2019), a fairly successful tech outlet. Been working on Hardware Times since 2019, an outlet dedicated to computer hardware and its applications.