DLSS Tested – Call of Duty: Warzone
Nvidia’s DLSS technology has been added to Call of Duty: Warzone, enabling higher framerates on PCs with Geforce RTX graphics cards. Given the lack of dedicated testing of this new feature, we have decided to conduct an in-depth analysis of Nvidia’s DLSS technology within Warzone, looking at the performance and image quality impacts of the technology within the game.
Why Nvidia needed to bring DLSS to Warzone
In our original performance analysis for Call of Duty: Warzone, it was clear to us that the game’s engine has a strong preference for Radeon hardware. AMD graphics cards often outperformed their Nvidia Geforce counterparts, making Radeon GPUs preferable from a pure framerate perspective. This is one of the main reasons why Nvidia needed to bring DLSS to Warzone and why Nvidia marketed DLSS’ planned inclusion in Warzone over three months before the feature was added to the game.
Nvidia’s marketing strategy with their RTX lineup is clear; add DLSS to as many games as possible, securing a performance advantage over Radeon using its proprietary technology while also pushing ray tracing into as many games as possible. With DLSS, Nvidia can gain a performance advantage in most modern games, even those that would otherwise prefer Radeon hardware. Nvidia’s DLSS marketing could be equated to a “This game plays best on Geforce” sticker, which is a powerful message to send to PC gamers.
DLSS Quality and Performance
This article will be looking at DLSS’s image quality and performance levels within Call of Duty Warzone. As part of this analysis, we will be highlighting some surprising results. While DLSS does deliver major performance improvements for Geforce RTX graphics cards, it does not deliver the same imager quality targets as other DLSS-enabled games.
– DLSS Quality – It s better than Native Resolution Rendering, or Worse?
– DLSS Performance Scaling – DLSS’ Quality Modes Tested
– 1080p Performance Impact – Why Nvidia needed DLSS in Warzone,– 1440p Performance Impact
– 4K Performance Impact
– Conclusion – DLSS is a great addition, but…
Testing Methodology – Our New Test System
,With NieR Replicant’s PC version, we will be using our new Games and Graphics Card test system, which is powered by AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X processor and PCIe 4.0 storage.
More information about this system is available here, where we have detailed why we have moved to Ryzen for our GPU and games testing.
CPU & Motherboard – AMD Ryzen 9 3950X and ASUS ROG Crosshair VII Formula
There is a lot to consider when building a new games testing system. Will this system stand up to the test of time. Does this system contain the features that new games will require, and are we choosing the right CPU platform for the job?
With the next generation of consoles coming with Zen 2 processors and support for PCIe 4.0 storage, it was logical to choose a Ryzen-based test platform. Intel’s current offerings do not offer PCIe 4.0 support, and we cannot build a new test system knowing that it will be outdated as soon as games start to utilise faster storage mediums.
With ASUS’ ROG X570 Crosshair VII Formula, we know that we have a motherboard that has capable VRMs to withstand the punishments that a hardware test system must face. With X570, we also know that we can upgrade to Zen 3/Ryzen 4000 should we ever need to.
Memory – Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB Series DDR4 @ 3600MHz
Having chosen a Ryzen processor for our new test systems, we needed capable memory modules which offered clock speed that would allow us to get the most out of our Ryzen processor.
3600MHz memory is the “sweet spot” for Ryzen 3000 series processors, offering high levels of memory bandwidth while settings AMD’s Infinity Fabric speeds to optimal levels. With this speed in mind, we decided to opt for Corsair’s Dominator Platinum RGB series of DDR4 modules, as it offers us a great aesthetic, has modules that offer our optimal memory speeds and has relatively tight timings given its clock speeds.
SSD Storage – Corsair MP600 2TB PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe SSD
As we mentioned previously, future games are going to require fast NVMe storage. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will make fast SSD storage a baseline feature of new gaming systems.
PCIe 4.0 devices are an obvious choice for those who want SSDs with the most potential throughput, making Corsair’s MP600 SSD a great option for us. With 2TB of storage available to it, it offers us more than enough storage for even the largest of PC games. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare/Warzone will need a lot more 50GB upgrades before we would even dream of filling this SSD.
Case – Corsair Obsidian 500D RGB SE
When it comes to PC cases, we require two things, a large case (to accommodate large GPUs) that’s easy to access and looks good on camera. When new graphics cards start to flood in, we need a case that can look good on video. Beyond that, when testing new graphics cards, we need an enclosure with a side panel that’s easy to take on and off, speeding up our testing procedures.
With these requirements in mind, Corsair’s Obsidian 500D RGB SE was a perfect fit. It is large enough to accommodate any graphics card without interfering with a front-mounted AIO liquid cooler, and it has a hinged side panel to make component switching fast and straightforward. For our use case, this chassis is perfect.
Power Supply – Corsair RM1000i
Your power supply is the most important part of any test system. There’s a reason why rule number 1 for PC building is no never cheap out on your power supply.
Over the years, we have used many test systems which have been powered by Corsair’s RMi series of power supplies, and the reasons behind that are simple. They are 80+ Gold rated, making them very power efficient, and we have never had an RMi power supply fail on us. If you read our PSU reviews, you will know that these units are solid performers.
Corsair Link is also a useful component of Corsair RMi series power supplies, as they allow us to see how much power the unit is using at any given time digitally.
We have also paired this unit with Corsair’s premium braided cables, which gives our test system a more premium look.
Cooling – Corsair iCUE H150i RGB Pro XT
While we are keeping our Ryzen 9 3950X at stock clock speeds, we do want to do what we can to keep it cool under load. We also want to do what we can to keep our system as quiet as possible. With this in mind, we have decided to use Corsair’s latest 360mm H150i series All-in-One Liquid Cooler.
With the iCUE H150i, we can control the units fans, pump and RGB lighting with the same software as our other system components and keep AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X cool with relative ease. When testing graphics cards, keeping other fan noise to a minimum is a must, as this allows us to properly judge the noise levels of specific graphics cards or other system components.
Full System Specifications
DLSS Quality – Does it look as good as native resolution rendering?
,One of DLSS’ biggest claims is that it can deliver near-native levels of image quality and higher framerates on supported hardware, giving what amounts to a free performance upgrade for gamers. If image quality remains nigh-identical, then there is no reason for gamers not to enable DLSS if it is possible.
In Call of Duty: Warzone, DLSS can deliver tremendous performance improvements, especially at high resolutions. That said, the image quality provided BY DLSS is not problem-free.
Below, we can see that the outlines of objects within Warzone are impacted negatively by DLSS, providing gamers with thicker, more pixelated outlines whenever DLSS is enabled. Sadly, these issues only become more noticeable as lower quality levels of DLSS are used, so much so that Ultra Performance mode looks downright silly.
Other image quality issues
Another thing that we noticed is that when World motion blur is enabled, DLSS created a strange artefact around player weapons when players turn their viewport. This can be very distracting while aiming. Upon further analysis, these artefacts are present when rendering the game at a native resolution, but they are so small that they are almost impossible to notice if you aren’t searching for them. DLSS makes these issues larger, especially in lower DLSS quality modes.
Thankfully, Competitive Call of Duty: Warzone players will never have world motion blur enabled, making this qualitative issue a non-factor for most gamers. Even so, this highlights how games and technologies like DLSS can interact to deliver lower levels of image quality than is otherwise expected.
DLSS’ Balanced and Performance Modes
When lower quality forms of DLSS are enabled, aliasing becomes more noticeable within Call of Duty Warzone, especially for thin overhead wires and other thin pieces of geometry.
Outlines for weapons, cash and other items become thicker and more gnarly to look at. That said, these borders are designed to make these items more noticeable, so whether or not this is a bad thing is a matter of perspective.
Outside of these graphical artefacts, DLSS’ Balanced and Performance modes provide visuals that are similar enough to native resolution rendering to be fully playable, and the framerate boosts offered by these modes at 4K will make the game much more responsive during competitive play. While native resolution rendering looks better, the performance benefits speak for themselves.
At 4K, Call of Duty: Warzone’s Ultra Performance DLSS mode adds a lot of aliasing to the game and has a huge impact on the game’s graphical quality. This mode is intended for those with 5K, or 8K, displays, where the base resolution of DLSS would be high enough to account for these factors.
Frankly, Ultra Performance mode should not be used by most Call of Duty: Warzone players, as an RTX 2060 already has enough performance for a 4K (mostly) 60+ FPS experience with DLSS set to balanced mode. Ultra Performance mode pushing DLSS too far into the realms of performance, setting quality to the side for the sale of higher framerates. At that stage, there are better settings to tweak in Warzone.
(Native 4K VS DLSS Ultra Performance)
For our performance testing with DLSS, we will be primarily using DLSS’ Balanced setting, as it offers gamers a great compromise between visual quality and raw performance.
Below are two further comparisons between DLSS Balanced and a native 4K presentation. As you can see, both images are similar, though native resolution rendering does have an edge; at least to our eyes.
DLSS Performance Scaling
It is well established that Nvidia’s DLSS technology can deliver higher framerates on supported games, and that DLSS’ performance benefits can be augmented depending on the image quality that you require.
From our experience, most DLSS games offer the best visuals with DLSS’ Balanced or Quality modes enabled, offering users the best visual experience while also offering boosted performance. As detailed on page 2 of this analysis, lower quality DLSS settings have much more visible aliasing and visual artefacts, which are mostly caused by Modern Warfare’s visual style. , , ,
1080p Performance – Why Warzone needed DLSS
At 1080p, it becomes clear why Nvidia added DLSS to Call of Duty Warzone, and even with DLSS enabled, AMD’s Radeon RX 6800 has managed to handily outperform its Geforce rivals at 1080p.
It is worth noting that Warzone does not appear to be GPU-limited in our Warzone test scene, limiting the potential of DLSS on our high-end graphics cards. Only Nvidia’s RTX 2060 received a major performance boost, receiving a performance uplift of almost 36% when comparing average framerates. On higher-end graphics cards, we hit non-GPU performance limitations in Warzone. Even so, Radeon has a clear advantage here.
Without DLSS, AMD’s RX 6800 easily beats Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti and Nvidia’s RTX 3070 at 1440p. Adding DLSS to the mix secures Nvidia higher framerates than their Radeon counterparts, though it is worth noting that Nvidia’s performance advantage does come with some downsides. DLSS has some visual downsides in Warzone, though they are minor differences all things considered.
Regardless, DLSS can deliver tremendous performance uplifts to Call of Duty: Warzone players. Nvidia’s RTX 3070’s average framerate increased from 130.3 FPS to 175.5 FPS. That’s a big performance difference, especially for those with 144Hz+ monitors.
At 4K, the performance impact of DLSS is at its largest. While AMD’s RX 6800 wins the performance race when DLSS is disabled, Nvidia’s AI performance enhancement technology allows Nvidia to take a performance lead. With average framerates of almost 120FPS when DLSS is set to performance mode, Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 3070 are ideal for playing Warzone on the latest 4K 120Hz+ VRR monitors.
With DLSS on Warzone, 4K gameplay within Warzone becomes a lot more achievable, and on high-end graphics cards, it makes 4K 144Hz gameplay possible. That’s the power of DLSS. As always, DLSS shows its largest benefits at 4K+ resolutions.
Conclusion – DLSS is a great addition, but… ,Adding DLSS to Warzone offers Nvidia’s RTX users an excellent venue towards increased framerates within the popular online Battle Royale PFS, but it is not free from issues.
For starters, Nvidia’s DLSS technology does not deliver the same near-to-native levels of image quality as it does for other titles, mostly due to rendering oddities within Call of Duty Warzone itself. As mentioned elsewhere within this article, the outlines of weapons, cash and other items within Warzone have a pixelated look within Warzone, which only worsens as DLSS’ quality levels are lowered. Beyond that, graphical issues within the game’s World Motion Blur are visible during fast weapon movements. Thankfully, most Warzone players will have Motion Blur disabled already, but that doesn’t mean that the issue does not exist.
Outside of these graphical oddities, DLSS is a great addition to Call of Duty Warzone, making high framerates more accessible within the game on Nvidia’s RTX hardware.
DLSS’ addition to Warzone is part of Nvidia’s push to add its own technologies to every major online title, creating an effective “this game plays best on Nvidia” campaign. There is a reason why Nvidia has been pushing DLSS and Nvidia Reflex so hard recently, and in the case of Warzone, it is because AMD has created strong competitors within many of these games. In the case of Warzone, AMD’s RX 6800 outperforms Nvidia’s RTX 3070 and RTX 2080 Ti in Warzone with ease, making DLSS a “must add” technology for the green team. Nvidia wants to chip away at all potential Radeon victories, making DLSS one of Nvidia’s strongest tools within the gaming market.
While DLSS’ implementation within Warzone has its flaws, it remains a great way to increase the game’s framerate. DLSS remains a useful tool for Nvidia’s Geforce RTX users, but Warzone proves that DLSS is not a perfect technology.