Intel XeSS tested in Shadow of the Tomb Raider: what is the performance?

Intel XeSS tested in Shadow of the Tomb Raider: what is the performance?

Intel XeSS tested in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

XeSS, acronym for Xe Super Sampling, is the technology developed by Intel as an "alternative" to NVIDIA's DLSS: initially the first results were only visible on games like Hitman 3 and The Riftbreaker, on which we were able to appreciate how indeed the upscaling from 1080p to 4K of this technology is able to offer better quality than a simple rendering in Full HD. Currently, Intel XeSS offers three upscaling modes: Ultra Quality, Quality, and Balanced. In the tests you will see in this article, the Intel Arc GPUs are missing, which we do not yet have in our hands.

The XeSS DevMesh improvement program has also been made available to developers, which allows, precisely , to test the technology "in advance" on the games currently in development, so as to be able to add them to the list of compatible titles once they are released.

Shadow of The Tomb Raider with the latest update has finally received Intel XeSS support: the technology is already testable by users who have both NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards, but it is questionable how it actually affects the system. Let's take a closer look at how Intel's improvements work, in order to remove some of the fog on the XeSS issue.

| ); } The most appropriate description for the operation of this technology is certainly the one in which the fallback mode is described, where instructions of the DP4a type are used (ie vectors from 8 elements to 4-bit which substantially carry out multiplications). We realize that for many it may be difficult to understand how everything works, so let's try to explain it in a simple way, in order to understand also on which graphics cards the technology is actually appreciable.

According to the state of the art , all NVIDIA GPUs starting from the Pascal architecture, i.e. the GTX 10 series, support DP4a instructions, as well as Intel's 11th generation integrated graphics cards (Ice Lake architecture) and Intel Arc GPUs, namely those for which XeSS technology was developed. So there remains a big question mark regarding AMD's graphics cards, which in theory shouldn't give any problems about it: but in practice, then, what really happens?

The most reasonable solution is to think that the DP4a instructions are "emulated" on architectures that do not natively support them, thus reducing (obviously, you might say) performance effective. The problem did not occur on the more "modern" cards, such as those of the RX 6000 series, on which however the improvement was almost negligible.

Things get even stranger on low-end graphics cards: on the 4 GB GTX 1650 Super, almost certainly due to the amount of "reduced" memory, XeSS made the greatest contribution, but on the 4 GB RX 5600 XT, the exact opposite situation occurred, obtaining better performance without use Intel's upscaling, leaving the door open to a very large amount of doubts, which we hope will be promptly resolved in the near future.

Beyond these particular cases, most video cards draw Benefit from XeSS: The 12GB RTX 2070, RTX 3060 and RTX 3080 gain between 12% and 18% with XeSS in Quality mode, so the margin is even larger if you set the technology to Performance mode. The DLSS proves to be even superior, guaranteeing on these same cards a performance boost between 24% and 28%, however the debut of XeSS bodes well; It's a pity that Shadow of the Tomb Raider doesn't integrate FSR2 as well, it would have been interesting to compare it with XeSS.

It's still a good thing to see that the graphics enhancement sector doesn't stop updating, despite everything. In case you have installed the latest game update you can test XeSS yourself in order to evaluate the effects on your graphics card and see how they will possibly improve over time.

Intel XeSS upscaling looks as good as DLSS in Tomb Raider and is almost as quick

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Intel's entrance into the graphics card market has been a long time coming. It's taken so long, in fact, that you'd be forgiven for thinking it wasn't actually happening at all. Well, yesterday it announced the price and release date of the Arc A770 (opens in new tab). It also started the ball rolling on its XeSS upscaling tech. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (opens in new tab) is the first major title to get support for the tech, and thanks to its GPU-agnostic approach, you can try XeSS for yourself right now. Death Stranding Director's Cut (opens in new tab) also gets some XeSS love, although it doesn't seem to have been added to the standard game, which is a bit of a shame. 

I've looked at XeSS running in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and straight away it looks like a worthy alternative to Nvidia's DLSS 2.0. Slightly slower performance at the same visual settings, but not by much, and the fact that you can run this on non-Intel GPUs is certainly a boon. Like AMD FSR and Nvidia DLSS, you have a range of quality settings on offer—with the option to sacrifice image quality to hit smoother frame rates if needed. 

You will need a compatible graphics card to use XeSS (opens in new tab) though, that is one that supports DP4A or Intel's XMX as found in its Arc GPUs, but that's it. That covers AMD's RDNA 2 GPUs and the last three Nvidia architectures, although once again if you have an Nvidia GPU then that's probably your best option anyway.

To see how it looks I patched Lara's most recent outing to the 'Sept. 27th Update' and tried it on an Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti. The good news is it looks like a promising technology. The performance increase is notable compared to native and depending on your hardware, it could mean that you hit playable frame rates at your monitor's native resolution where before you would have struggled.

It's really hard to spot the difference when playing yourself. (Image credit: Square Enix)

(Image credit: Future)

As far as quality is concerned, I saw no notable artifacts while benchmarking. The Quality setting produced a good final image and enjoyed a 17% bump in performance at the highest settings. 

For comparison the DLSS Quality setting ups the performance by 25%, so that's still the better choice if you have an Nvidia GPU, and it's tough to see any difference between the final images. This also gives owners of AMD's RDNA 2 GPUs an option for higher performance too.

Of course, Nvidia has just announced DLSS 3 will launch with its RTX 40-series graphics cards, and that promises big things for frame rates. DLSS 3 only works with the new Ada Lovelace GPUs though, which limits its appeal somewhat.

Intel has also made the SDK for XeSS available on Github (opens in new tab). 

Overall, this is an encouraging start for Intel's XeSS. And with plenty more games set to support it (opens in new tab), it looks like Intel should be good in a good place come October 12 and the launch of its Arc A770 GPUs. 

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