I don’t understand DLSS, but it is making PC gaming better

You don’t need to be good at tech to get the benefit from Nvidia’s snazzy new toy

I’ve been a PC gamer since university, when I scavenged a desktop together to play Brink. Brink didn’t last, but my love of PC gaming stuck, and now it’s my machine of choice for most games.

In recent years, I upgraded to Nvidia’s range of RTX cards – mostly for the raytracing and the faster performance. They also come with DLSS, one of the shiny features responsible for boosting said performance.

I don’t really know what DLSS does. No amount of fancy videos can really tell the picture, either.

Obviously, I understand the basics: DLSS actually stands for deep learning super sampling, and it’s a type of video rendering that renders frames at a lower resolution to boost your FPS, and then gets deep learning AI to upscale the frames so everything looks nice. I just… don’t really understand how that actually works.

But I know what it allows me to do: DLSS in Back 4 Blood lets me play the game in 4K and still get a high framerate, so performance isn’t impacted even when scores of zombies are running around and bullets, explosives and gore are filling the air.

In short, DLSS is taking on the hard work so that I can get a smooth framerate without having to turn down all of my graphics settings.

Back 4 Blood lighting
Back 4 Blood. Credit: Turtle Rock Studios

There is, unfortunately, a catch. DLSS is a rendering technique (think temporal anti-aliasing) that requires an RTX graphics card and game-level support to function. That being said, it’s growing massively in terms of which games will actually support it. Battlefield 2042 recently announced it’s going to be launching with DLSS while Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy will also have it at launch, guaranteeing I can run both games at high resolution and high frames – and if I can’t, at least it’s not my PCs fault.

As we’re getting closer and closer to graphics looking like real life, the leaps in fidelity that we see are less and less impressive each time: maybe it’s because I was a teenager, but the leap between the PS2 and the PS3 felt like more of a tectonic shift than the jump from the PS4 to the PS5. In exchange though, what we’re seeing on PCs at least is better architecture: ray-tracing is making lighting better than ever before, while DLSS is coming along to ensure that as graphics advance, we’re going to be able to play everything without compromises.

It’s great to be along for the ride, although it is surprising as a big gamer that DLSS is the best reason to own an RTX card.

Nvidia’s DLSS technology is available on all RTX cards for select games.

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