The GPU market has been dominated by two companies for a long time. Nvidia on the one hand and AMD on the other (after the acquisition of ATI in 2006). Intel’s foray into this area was long rumored, and finally, proper plans for the company to go all-in on graphics were recently announced.

Plans to launch proper gaming GPUs with Intel Arc Alchemist graphics cards began as beefier integrated graphics. And they’re coming with a whole set of competing features — right down to an upscaling system similar to Nvidia DLSS. This is called Intel XeSS, or Xe Super Sampling.

How does it work exactly? And does it really hold a candle against Nvidia?

XeSS is closer to DLSS than to FSR

To give a fair comparison here, we need to clarify how Nvidia’s DLSS works and how AMD’s competitor FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) compares. We’ve already written a fair comparison between the two technologies, but we still need a quick explanation to explain where Intel’s alternative is right now.

DLSS was first introduced in 2019 but got much better in 2020 with the launch of DLSS 2.0. The way it works is that it uses Nvidia’s Tensor cores, which are present in RTX chips, to take lower resolution graphics and upgrade them to higher resolutions. ,

Essentially, you can have your GPU render a game at 720p or 1080p and show it at 1440p or 4K, with minimal (and not even noticeable in most cases) differences to native rendering. It’s basically a free way to get more frames per second in your game, especially at higher resolutions.

It’s a powerful technology, but by design, it only works on newer Nvidia GPUs—the GTX 1000 series and lower graphics cards can’t take advantage of it, and AMD GPUs certainly can’t. For this reason, AMD came up with its own competition in the form of FSR.

It does not depend on any specific hardware, but only on algorithms and machine learning shenanigans. For this reason, not only does it work on any generation of AMD graphics cards, the technology can also be used on Nvidia GPUs, both old and new. It’s not as accurate and detailed as DLSS, but it’s compatible with pretty much any GPU.

That being said, where does Intel’s XeSS stand here? Answer: Somewhere between the two. You can say that it brings the best of both DLSS and FSR to the table in a single package. The thing here is that there are really two modes of XeSS.

The first is how DLSS works – it takes advantage of dedicated hardware (in this case, XMX, or Xe Matrix Extension Unit) to process and up-scale the game using AI magic. The second one uses DP4a instructions and doesn’t require dedicated hardware at all, which means it can theoretically be used on any GPU.

By supporting both approaches, Intel can keep the same wide compatibility FSR on its own GPUs while seeing improvements like DLSS.

How well does it work? Unfortunately, we can’t really tell yet, as we don’t actually have an Intel GPU on the market at the time of writing. But this video demo released by Intel shows promising results.

It’s hardly conclusive — of course, Intel is going to make things amazing in its marketing materials — but it looks promising. To make a fair comparison we’ll have to see what it actually looks like once it’s in the game, and see how big a difference there is between the two XeSS modes. If it has the potential to make both FSR and DLSS money in their respective games, then Nvidia has a winner here.

Which one should I use?

As we mentioned in the previous section, we don’t have any data on what XeSS looks like, so we can only speculate for now. However, if Intel does things right, it has great potential.

Right now, DLSS stands out as the superior technology. By taking advantage of its own dedicated hardware, Nvidia can achieve far more powerful upscaling than it can achieve FSR using only algorithms. Both deliver similar FPS and performance gains, but FSR can’t hold a candle to DLSS in terms of actual quality. This is expected, and clearly, AMD knows it very well. What FSR can do, however, is work on a much wider range of systems, as it requires no dedicated hardware. So all gamers can take advantage of FSR as long as it is supported in a game.

XeSS wants to take the cake of both Nvidia and AMD and eat it here.

It can take advantage of dedicated hardware and operate in a similar way to DLSS on Intel Arch Alchemist GPUs – and possibly, be able to bring up your frames per second with minimal noticeable impact in actual quality. It also has a more normal mode that can operate on GPUs without Intel XMX hardware.

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