NVIDIA’s DLSS 2.0 tech could make your £300 graphics card perform like a £700 one

It makes high performance more accessible for PC players across the board

I was recently offered access to Death Stranding on PC, one of my favourite games of this console generation. It looked gorgeous when I reviewed it on PlayStation 4 late last year, but I’m now rediscovering just how detailed its dystopian world is due to the benefits of the desktop port.

One of the most revolutionary upgrades is DLSS 2.0, a new technology baked into NVIDIA’s RTX graphics cards. This underrated feature – present in games like Metro Exodus, Control and now Death Stranding – makes high performance more accessible for PC players across the board, which is music to my ears as a consumer on a budget.

Metro Exodus
Metro Exodus. Credit: 4A Games

DLSS stands for Deep Learning Super Sampling. It’s a neural network AI rendering system that you can turn on in Death Stranding’s options menu in order to “achieve the best possible frame rate while maintaining graphics settings at their highest levels”. Plenty of big scary words there, but the basic thing to understand is that it harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to upscale a game’s visuals to max settings without the conventional performance hit to your graphics card.

Every PC gamer has bumped a game’s graphics to Ultra settings to “see what it’s like” only to observe the depressing damage it does to their FPS. DLSS 2.0 turns that notion on its head, letting players achieve a high frame rate on max settings, even if your graphics card usually would not be able to manage it.

The clip below from NVIDIA shows the technology in action. You’ll notice that without DLSS, the game runs at a fairly standard 30 FPS in 4K on NVIDIA’s budget RTX card, the 2060. But if you flick DLSS on, the frame rate jumps to 60 FPS and the visuals massively improve in quality. This goes against everything I’ve learned in my years of tinkering with graphics settings, and it completely broke my brain last night when I started my second Death Stranding playthrough on PC.

The good news is that DLSS 2.0 is coming to other AAA games like Watch Dogs: Legion and Cyberpunk 2077 later this year. But the better news is that it is available to all RTX graphics card owners, despite the range in price between an RTX 2060 (roughly £300) and an RTX 2080 TI (roughly £1,200).

Say you’re looking to buy a gaming PC – your graphics card is notorious for being the part that you spend the most money on. NVIDIA’s testing with Death Stranding found that the RTX 2060 with DLSS enabled averaged 125.8 FPS with DLSS turned on at 1080p, which is higher than the average FPS of an RTX 2080 Super used in the same test, without DLSS enabled.

Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077. Credit: CD Projekt Red.

With this one tweak in the options menu, your £300 graphics card can perform like a £700 graphics card. This standardisation is what excites me the most. It’s always been the case that consumers with more money to spare can achieve higher performance, but DLSS is trying to level the playing field.

If adopted by more developers, DLSS will make high-performance PC gaming far more accessible to the average consumer. To that end, it has my utmost respect!

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