NVIDIA Image Scaling Tested

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NVIDIA Image Scaling ( NIS ) is a driver-based feature that takes the in-game image from lower resolution then upscale it to native resolution using scaling algorithm and sharpening, making the output image look like it was rendered at native resolution. So why bother? Performance. Since the game was originally rendered at lower resolution, there are less pixels the graphics card has to work on, resulting to higher frames rendered. This technique is similar to DLSS ( Deep Learning Super Sampling ), the difference is that NIS doesn’t use Tensor Core to run Artificial Intelligence ( AI ) to detect how the upcoming frames/image will look like. And since it doesn’t use Tensor Cores that is present in GeForce RTX cards, NIS is available on both RTX and non-RTX cards down to GTX 745. You just need to update GeForce driver to 496.76 or newer.

This feature can be used in basically all games since it is a driver-based feature. Since this is a diver-based feature, Nvidia Image Scaling can be used on basically any game. You just need to enable it in Nvidia Control Panel or in GeForce Experience app.

 

Enabling NIS in Nvidia Control Panel

1. Right-click on GeForce Experience icon or right-click on desktop and select Nvidia Control Panel.

How to Enable NIS

 

How to Enable NIS

 

2. Click Manage 3D Settings then select Image Scaling and select On from the drop down menu.

How to Enable NIS

 

3. Adjust the sharpening level then press OK. The Overlay Indicator is optional but we suggest to enable it to know if Image Scaling is working.

How to Enable NIS

 

4. Finally, click the Apply button. Your screen will be blank for a second or two then comes back up, so don’t panic if this happens.

How to Enable NIS

 

Enabling in GeForce Experience App

1. Right-click on GeForce Experience icon then select Nvidia GeForce Experience.

How to Enable NIS

 

2. Click the Settings ( cog icon ) in the GeForce Experience app.

How to Enable NIS

 

3. You can now turn on Image Scaling from the Image Scaling section. Your screen will be blank for a second or two then comes back up.

How to Enable NIS

 

4. A pop-up notification will appear asking if you want to optimize all games and application with the selected resolution and sharpening. If you do so, all games will be optimized and the selected resolution will be the resolution of the game when it launched. You can ignore this notification and then manually optimize each game through GeForce Experience app, or in in-game settings.

How to Enable NIS

 

Using NIS

Now that Nvidia Image Scaling is enabled, there are few things that will show up in-game. First, the NIS indicator on the top-left of the screen. If it is green, that means the game is rendered at lower resolution and is being upscaled. If it is blue, that means game is not being upscaled. Sharpening is always applied whether the game is being upscaled or not.

NIS ON OFF

 

Another thing that will show up are the additional resolutions provided by the Image Scaling feature. These resolutions only show up when Image Scaling is enabled. You can select these resolutions in game’s video settings.

NIS RESOLUTIONS

 

On some games, 1130×635 or lower resolutions are not available.

NIS RESOLUTIONS

 

Here is the list of additional resolutions for different native resolutions.

ScalingInput Resolution
for 4K Output
Input Resolution
for 1440p Output
Input Resolution
for 1080p Output
85%3264 x 18362176 x 12241632 x 918
77%2954 x 16621970 x 11081477 x 831
67%2560 x 14401706 x 9601280 x 720
59%2259 x 12711506 x 8471130 x 635
50%1920 x 10801280 x 720Not supported by Windows

 

Selecting lower resolution means the game will be originally rendered at that resolution, then upscale with the details it has at that resolution to the native input resolution. Lower resolution is blurry and some details are not rendered properly compared to higher resolution wherein loss in image quality is minimal, that when upscaled, the image still looks like it has been rendered at input resolution.

 

F1 22

Render Resolution Performance

First we compare each resolutions added by NIS with 50% sharpening. We also include 1280×720 and/or 1920×1080 with NIS off to see how much improvement and loss did NIS do to image quality and performance.

 

At default image size, we can see that texts become sharper as the resolution goes higher, but improvements on the car and surroundings is non-existent except for the fences that looks better at higher resolution. Turning off NIS make the image blurry but makes the edges smoother.

 

 

Zooming in at 200%, improvements are clearer with higher resolution. But the biggest difference is when you turn off NIS – edges are smoother, its like applying anti-aliasing, which is already turned on ( TXAA ). It’s like the NIS and sharpening negates the effect of anti-aliasing.

 

NIS F1 22 Benchmark

 

The frames per second goes down as the resolution goes higher, which is natural because the game is rendered with less pixels at lower resolution. What we did not expect is that turning off NIS still gives you extra fps at 1280×720 but not in higher resolution.

These lower resolutions provide extra fps while maintaining image quality is a good indication that NIS is a good feature.

 

Sharpening Performance

Now we will look at how sharpening improves the image quality at 1632×918 resolution.

 

 

At normal image size, the sharpening is a little noticeable when compared at next level. But when compared 2 levels higher, the difference is more visible as the image becomes clearer.

 

 

At 200%, the sharpening is more visible on each level. We felt that sharpening at 50% is already too much while 25% looks closer to 1920×1080 with NIS off.

 

NIS F1 22 Benchmark

Sharpening at any level didn’t really affect the performance. We suggest setting it to 25% as it improves the image quality just right.

 

The Division 2

Render Resolution Performance

 

The difference in image quality is almost non-existent, the improvement is only visible when you compared 1280×720 and 1920×1080 even when zoomed in.

 

NIS The Division 2 Benchmark

The performance keeps improving at lower resolution without losing much image quality. Turning off NIS gives you extra fps at 1280×720 but not much at 1920×1080.

 

Sharpening Performance

 

 

Over sharpening is noticeable at 75% while 25% is the closest to 1920×1080 with NIS off, on both normal and zoomed in.

 

NIS The Division 2 Benchmark

The performance is basically unaffected at any level of sharpening. We suggest setting sharpening to 25% or 50%.

 

DOTA 2

Render Resolution Performance

 

At default image size, the difference in image quality is not noticeable for each resolution except at 1920×1080 being over sharpened in our opinion, but still looks great. Turning off NIS makes the edges smoother. 1130×635 resolution is available and it looks similar to 1280×720 with 50% sharpening.

 

 

Even at 200% zoom in, the difference for each resolution is barely noticeable, though 1920×1080 with 50% sharpening looks best and details are clearly visible.

 

DOTA 2 NVIDIA IMAGE SCALING Benchmark

The performance at lower resolutions are the same with 150fps. At 1920×1080 with NIS on the performance dropped at 138 fps while turning NIS off it gained 4fps.

 

Sharpening Performance

 

Over sharpening is visible at 75% and 100%. Notice that shadow is broken in 100% and 25% sharpening. 25% sharpening looks closest to 1920×1080 with NIS off, but since the shadow is broken, the next closest is 50% sharpening. Also notice that health bar is thinner when NIS is turned on.

 

DOTA 2 NVIDIA IMAGE SCALING Benchmark

The performance in all levels of sharpening is basically the same. We recommend setting the sharpening at 50%.

 

Summary

Sharpening at any levels doesn’t affect the performance, but sometimes it causes some parts of the game not to be rendered correctly. 25% sharpening at 1362×918 resolution is the closest to 1920×1080 with NIS off. Turning off NIS gives you extra fps at 1280×720 but not much at 1920×1080.

 

Gaming Experience in DOTA 2

I played DOTA 2 with different combinations of resolutions and sharpening, but did not notice the improvement or degradation in image quality, even in performance. I didn’t get bothered if there are blurry textures or details here and there, in a fast-paced game like DOTA 2, you won’t be able to pay attention to those small details.

With that said, NVIDIA succeeded in implementing this new technology or feature to improve performance while maintaining image quality. Though not yet perfect, NIS is a welcome feature for non-RTX graphics card owners.

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