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Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060: DLSS and Variable Rate Shading performance analysis

Game-changing tech for a mainstream GPU?

Ray tracing is the top-billing feature of the new RTX line of Nvidia graphics cards, but the Turing architecture actually features a wealth of potentially game-changing features that could come to the fore in the future. We're going to take a closer look at two of those features on this page - deep-learning super-sampling (DLSS) and variable rate shading (VRS). Both promise to deliver improvements to performance and in theory, they can be stacked one on top of the other as well.

Deep-learning super-sampling essentially sees the GPU render each frame at a lower resolution, before using a deep-learning algorithm deployed on Turing's tensor cores to intelligently upscale the image. If you skip ahead to the end of this review, you'll see some quality comparisons there, but to put it simply - we're impressed with this technology. The RTX 2060 is an accomplished performer at 1440p resolution and that's the base resolution used for DLSS rendering at 4K. As the numbers on this page suggest, DLSS with 2060 effectively delivers similar performance to RTX 2080 and GTX 1080 Ti without DLSS. That's pretty impressive.

Variable rate shading essentially reduces complexity in areas unlikely to be picked up by the human eye. Only one game supports it at the moment - Wolfenstein: The New Colossus - but the performance metrics on this page should demonstrate how valuable this can be, with a maximum increase in the area of 15 per cent noted in our analysis. Further Turing technologies - like mesh shading, for example - are also integrated into the silicon and we'll be interested to see whether these get the kind of take-up we expect for VRS and especially DLSS.

Having taken a look at a brace of compelling demos, the Digital Foundry team sits down to discuss DLSS in depth.Watch on YouTube

Final Fantasy 15

First up, a word of warning about this demo. It's based on the standalone benchmark Square-Enix released prior to the game shipping, and overall performance is jerky and sub-optimal - possibly because a ton of GameWorks technologies are layered one on top of the other. We've chosen three excerpts from the benchmark that are mostly stutter-free for our testing. The RTX cards deliver a 37 per cent to 39 per cent performance improvements when comparing the same content between standard TAA and Turing's DLSS. The RTX 2060 provides just as much of a boost to frame-rate in percentage terms as the RTX 2080 Ti, suggesting that the pared back tensor core allocation in the baby Turing GPU has little to no impact on the potency of the DLSS technology. The results here suggest that the RTX 2060 with DLSS active can offer ballpark GTX 1080 Ti performance - which has obvious implications for pairing this GPU with a 4K display.

Final Fantasy 15 Demo: TAA vs DLSS

Epic Infiltrator Demo

The Epic Infiltrator demo is essentially a showcase for the features of Unreal Engine 4 - a technology that is deployed in many modern games. Its anti-aliasing solution is one of the better TAA implementations we've seen, and so DLSS quality isn't quite as impressive in comparison to Final Fantasy 15, where DLSS actually manages to look better in many cases. RTX 2060, 2070 and 2080 all deliver an improvement to performance here over 40 per cent, so this is well worth the very small impact to overall visual quality. Again, the lower allocation of tensor cores in the TU106 chip found in RTX 2060 and RTX 2070 has zero impact on DLSS performance. Indeed, RTX 2060 with DLSS enabled is only 1.5 per cent slower than the RTX 2080 running with standard TAA, while also delivering a 39.7 per cent lead over GTX 1080 - its nearest Pascal competitor.

Epic Infiltrator Demo: TAA vs DLSS

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus Variable Rate Shading

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is a fascinating example of the potential strength of the Turing architecture found in the RTX 2060. Variable rate shading - VRS - essentially pares back computational complexity in areas of the image unlikely to be noticed by the human eye. For example, darkened areas, or areas in fast motion. Wolfenstein is already very, very fast on Turing even without this technology - the RTX 2060 is a touch faster than the powerful GTX 1080 here. However, VRS on its various presets delivers even more performance and all modes look pretty impressive in motion. With VRS active, at best it delivers a 14.7 increase in frame-rate compared to the GTX 1080. This is a technology coveted by developers for many years, so we hope to see its implementation in many titles to come.

Wolfenstein 2 Vulkan: Uber, TSSAA 8X

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Analysis