Microsoft introduces Automatic Super Resolution, system-level upscaling for NPUs

Microsoft introduces Automatic Super Resolution, system-level upscaling for NPUs

Auto Super Resolution uses AI to improve framerate in existing games

Alternative to driver-level upscaling that works only in certain games and only with Qualcomm chips (for now).

No, Automatic Super Resolution is not the same thing as DirectSR, which we covered recently. Automatic Super Resolution (AutoSR/ASR) is an operating system-level upscaling that works regardless of game integration, although Microsoft maintains a game list for which it works automatically and a list for which SR works when enabled manually.

This means it works similarly to NVIDIA Image Scaling (NIS) or AMD Radeon Super Resolution (RSR), except it is not proprietary to any GPU vendor and operates on a system level. That said, it has the same integration complexity as these technologies (which is none for game developers), but works cross-vendor and does not require any additional software installation. The bad news, it uses NPU for upscaling, so it doesn’t work with GPUs for now.

OS-level and driver-level upscaling are great alternatives to the slow implementation of upscaling into games, which is an advantage. However, it also means that upscaling will be applied to the whole frame, including the user interface, unlike native API implementations.

Microsoft has made it easier to integrate upscaling through its DirectSR API, but game developers still need to prepare the engine to provide the necessary variables (motion vectors, color depth, etc.); otherwise, it won’t work. ASR seems like the good alternative for games that will never be upgraded to support DirectSR, such as older titles.

AutoSR in action, Source: Microsoft

Upscaling methods

  • Per API Implementation
    • Temporal Super Resolution (TSR),
    • AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR),
    • NVIDIA Deep Learning Super Resolution (DLSS),
    • INTEL Xe Super Resolution (XeSS)
  • Single API Implementation
    • Microsoft DirectSR
    • NVIDIA Streamline
  • Driver-Level
    • AMD Radeon Super Resolution (RSR)
    • NVIDIA Image Scaling
  • OS-level NPU-Based
    • Microsoft Automatic Super Resolution ⬅️

The goal of ASR is to provide a necessary frame boost, though its quality will not be on par with native upscaling implementations. However, it removes the issue of relying on 3rd party vendor drivers, using a system-level panel that also works per game. Additionally, AutoSR uses AI to improve quality, unlike NVIDIA NIS or AMD RSR, which use spatial upscaling without AI algorithms.

Microsoft states that ASR utilizes a special AI model trained on gaming content. Interestingly, it doesn’t use the GPU or even the CPU cores; instead, it coordinates work between the Neural Processing Unit (NPU), CPUs, and GPU, effectively offloading the upscaling task. This means that AutoSR operates on the NPU, so it won’t be supported by CPUs that lack this processing unit. There is no info on AutoSR working on GPUs for now.

Microsoft further clarifies that ASR is intended for existing games and will be applied automatically for some (list below), while DirectSR is for newer games that need to integrate the API. Therefore, both solutions aim to provide upscaling and frame boosts, but they offer different quality levels and are not meant to compete with each other.

Auto SR will work automatically in the following games:

  • Borderlands 3
  • Control (DX11)
  • Dark Souls III
  • God of War
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance
  • Resident Evil 2
  • Resident Evil 3
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2
  • The Witcher 3

In short, AutoSR is an NPU-based, system-level upscaling technology that uses AI for improved visuals and performance. It is currently limited to Copilot+ PCs, meaning it will launch with Qualcomm Snapdragon X series and later should be enabled for AMD Ryzen AI 300 and Intel Core Ultra 200V series (this is not mentioned in MS blog post). In the future, the company wants to add support for HDR content and multi-monitor setups. Overall, seems like a great idea that should be supported by GPUs easily at some point.

Source: Microsoft Blog, AutoSR Page, Game Support List


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