Hardware

What is Nvidia DSR?

Screen resolution is a key factor for an immersive gaming experience. What could be more engaging than high-quality, vivid, smooth, and sharp visuals? However, the power of screen resolution is frequently limited by the native resolution that the display monitors can handle. For example, if you want to have the 4K (3840×2160 pixels) experience, but your monitor is only HD (1920×1080 pixels), the 4K visuals seem to be an elusive dream unless you have the budget to upgrade to a 4K display. Nvidia once again makes what appears to be impossible in the gaming world possible, with a visual feature that provides gamers a chance to upscale their screen resolution than what their monitors can offer.

Dynamic Screen Resolution (DSR)

DSR is a GeForce Experience feature that allows gamers to visually enhance games that support resolutions above 1920×1080. Included in the array of features that Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture offers, DSR renders a game at a higher resolution and then, shrinks the resolution back to the resolution of your monitor. The whole process is also commonly known as downsampling or supersampling. Nvidia further enhances the resulting image by applying a high-quality filter resulting in more detailed and sharper 4K graphics on any screen.

As part of the GeForce Experience software suite, DSR is compatible with almost all Nvidia GPUs. However, not all GPUs can handle the performance impact of this feature. Expectedly, DSR will intensify a game’s graphical content as you increase to a higher resolution. This will hit the GPU’s performance, especially if it’s not powerful enough to handle graphics enhancements. DSR is a great graphical feature, but it has its downsides. Before you get too exhilarated to turn on this feature, it is best to learn first its pros and cons and weigh your options.

Pros

Improved image quality. The goal of DSR is to provide gamers with better image quality by providing them screen resolution settings that are higher than that of their displays. Downsampling is the primary technique used in the DSR process. This technique, however, often renders aliasing on the images, which also distorts the image quality to some degree. To counter the effects of aliasing artifacts, DSR applies a customized 13-tap Gaussian filter as the image is scaled down to the display’s native resolution to fit the display. The customized filter dramatically reduces or, in some cases, completely eliminates aliasing artifacts. The result is a high-quality image with increased textures, shadows, effects, anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion shading, geometric detail, and model detail.

Cost-Effective. DSR provides you with the visual treats of a 4K display in an HD or lower monitor. DSR is free; there’s no need to spend a single buck to have a better visual experience. If you’re a gamer on a budget, you can put upgrading your display to 4K on hold since you can have the same 4K quality on your current monitor through DSR.

Cons

Performance impact. Increasing the screen resolution means more workload for the GPU. Nvidia recommends powerful GPUs like GTX 980/970 for DSR, but other high-end GPUs like RTX 2080i can also keep up with the increased workload and render the desired image without the noticeable effects on performance. Lower-end GPUs, however, may not be able to achieve the highest resolution as the higher-end GPUs without compromising the performance. Input lags and jagged edges during the game become more evident with each increase in screen resolution.

Image distortion. DSR is a great tool for enhancing graphics. However, not all games and Nvidia GPUs can handle the DSR effects efficiently. Older and newer games may not be able to adapt to DSR’s technology resulting in undesirable visual effects.

How to Enable DSR

Now that you have an idea of the benefits and drawbacks of DSR, you can decide whether it’s worth turning the feature on or not. If your system and games can keep up with DSR’s technology, then turning this feature on is visually worth it. Turning the feature on is a walk in the park. However, it’s good to understand the DSR’s settings before making adjustments. There are only two settings for DSR: DSR Factors and DSR Smoothness.

To access these settings, right-click on your desktop and select Nvidia Control Panel. Navigate to Manage 3D Settings → Global Settings. Scroll down to DSR Factors and click on the dropdown menu. On the dropdown, you will see numbers followed by an x and its native resolution. What do these exactly mean? Simply take your display’s native resolution and multiply it by the factor you chose in the dropdown menu. The result will be the resolution that DSR will apply in your games. Your 1440p display, for example, will be upgraded to 4k if you choose the 4.00x (native resolution) option:

Beneath DSR — Factors is the DSR — Smoothness. This setting will adjust the sharpness or smoothness of the image, especially if you see blurry spots or jagged edges on the image. The default setting is 33%, but you can adjust the slider until you reach that point where there is a significant reduction in aliasing or until the image is smoother and sharper.

After you’ve enabled the DSR in the Nvidia Control Panel, you also need to enable it within the GeForce Experience. Open the GeForce Experience panel and select the game you want to enable DSR on. Navigate through the available DSR resolutions and click Apply. The resolution will now be applied to the game you chose. Confirm the resolution within the game before you start playing:

Conclusion

DSR is a nifty tool for enhancing gaming visuals. The stunning visual effects rendered on a lower-resolution display are a hefty treat to the gamers’ eyes. However, it is still not the perfect tool for every monitor, game, or Nvidia GPU. Before turning the feature on, be aware that some performance sacrifices have to be made if you do not have the adequate GPU or if the game is too old or new to handle DSR. Experimentation with the two DSR settings is the key to achieving the desired results for a fully immersive gaming experience. We hope you found this article helpful. Check out Linux Hint for more tips and information.

About the author

Glynis Navarrete

A freelance blogger who loves to write about anything related to technology. Born and raised in the Philippines and worked in Singapore for eight years as Technical Support for a wide range of IT equipment. Took a dive into the world of freelancing and now enjoying doing what I’m passionate about while not losing touch with technology.