Ever feel like your games look a little blurry, even though you’re running them at a high resolution? Or maybe you don’t have the graphics power to run them at high resolution, so you’re stuck downgrading to fuzzy graphics. Radeon Image Sharpening from AMD is designed to help with this, giving your images a crisp look without taxing your hardware.
What Is Radeon Image Sharpening?
Radeon Image Sharpening is one of those few technical features that does exactly what it sounds like: it sharpens the images in your games.
Say you’re gaming on a high-resolution display, like a 4K TV, but you don’t have a graphics card capable of pushing that many pixels in your favorite titles. Or maybe you have a game whose anti-aliasing implementation adds just a bit too much blur to the image, even at native resolution. Some games have sharpening features built-in to deal with this, but many do not.
Radeon Image Sharpening is a post-processing technique designed to make those games look sharper without bogging down performance—in fact, there’s barely any performance drop of which to speak. Best of all, your games don’t have to specifically support the technology. It’s available in your graphics card’s settings and works with any game using DirectX 11, DirectX 12, or Vulkan (and in some cases, even DirectX 9).
It isn’t just a brute-force sharpening filter, either. It uses a contrast adaptive sharpening (CAS) algorithm that sharpens soft edges, without over-sharpening high contrast parts of the image. By using this smarter, contrast-aware approach, AMD is able to cut down on the number of artifacts you’d see with a more broad application of sharpening, like you might apply in a basic photo editing program (though some artifacts may still pop up occasionally). The results are surprisingly good, though it does depend on the game and the specs you’re hoping to hit.
Radeon Image Sharpening vs. Nvidia DLSS
If you’re thinking that RIS sounds a lot like Nvidia’s DLSS, you’d be sort of right—they have somewhat similar goals, but use different methods to achieve them.
While Radeon Image Sharpening does have some smarts baked into its algorithm, it’s still ultimately a simple post-processing trick: it takes an image at a certain resolution, adds some sharpening, and spits out the new image at the same resolution. Nvidia actually has a similar feature called Image Sharpening, available directly in the Nvidia Control Panel or through Nvidia Freestyle. This is a more equivalent comparison than DLSS.
That’s because DLSS goes beyond simple image sharpening. Instead of merely applying a filter to the image, DLSS uses artificial intelligence to take a low-resolution image and reconstruct it at a higher resolution. DLSS 2.0 does use a sharpening filter as part of this process, but it’s much more than that, which means it can produce better results—at least in some cases—and has more room for improvement as it evolves. It does, however, come with a bit more of a performance hit, and developers need to bake in DLSS support to games before you can use it.
While Radeon’s Image Sharpening is integrated into some titles (like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Death Stranding), users with an AMD card can apply it to games at the driver level for much more widespread support.
AMD has its own DLSS competitor on the horizon, called FidelityFX Super Resolution, but it hasn’t launched just yet. When it does, comparing solutions from the two companies will be a bit more apples to apples. For now, Radeon Image Sharpening is a decent stopgap for owners of AMD graphics cards.
How to Enable Radeon Image Sharpening
To use Radeon Image Sharpening, you’ll need an AMD Radeon RX 470 or better—though game support differs a bit depending on the card. Most cards support sharpening DirectX 11, DirectX 12, and Vulkan-based games at this time, with some cards supporting DirectX 9 games as well. Check AMD’s website for the most up-to-date support information.
Right-click the Radeon Software icon in your system tray to open your Radeon Settings. Head to the Gaming tab, select the game you want to play, then turn Radeon Image Sharpening on. You’ll see a slider appear that lets you fine-tune how much sharpening you want, which can help alleviate artifacting or other issues that some games might exhibit more than others.
You may need to go through some trial and error to find your ideal setting for each game. You can also click Global Settings from the main Gaming tab to enable sharpening on all supported games, but it’s probably best to do it game by game so you can adjust the slider accordingly.
If your game has AMD’s sharpening tech built-in, you’ll usually find it listed as FidelityFX CAS in the game settings. AMD recommends only enabling one of these features at a time to avoid over-sharpening. If you’re an Nvidia owner, you can try out AMD’s tech using this in-game setting without having to buy an AMD card first.
From there, just launch the game in question, set your resolution or scaling to hit the performance targets you want, and start playing. The higher resolution you can run before sharpening, the better. Remember, RIS isn’t upscaling games to a higher resolution, it’s just sharpening blur at the existing spec. The more data it has to work with, the better the final image will look.