DLSS 3 is exclusive to the RTX 40-series but older GPUs still benefit

Nvidia RTX Racer
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Nvidia's DLSS 3 looks like weaving some serious magic for frame rates when Nvidia releases the GeForce RTX 4090 on October 12. I've already covered the performance boosts we can expect to see when it hits the updated Overdrive rendering path for Cyberpunk 2077 when that gets released. And with Nvidia promising support for DLSS 3 in an impressive 35 games already, things are looking good for the tech. It looks pretty much essential for RTX Racer, pictured above.

The only thing is, DLSS 3 is exclusive to the RTX 40-series. This inevitably leads to the question: what does that mean for owners of existing cards? It's great that Nvidia is pushing the frame rate boosting AI-powered tech forward, but surely there are far too many RTX 30-series and RTX 20-series cards out there to suddenly ignore. Surely?

The good news is that these DLSS 3 games will still benefit. As Nvidia confirmed to us: "So DLSS 2 (or DLSS Super Resolution, if you prefer) and NVIDIA Reflex will, of course, remain supported on prior generation hardware, so current GeForce gamers will still benefit from games integrating DLSS 3."

One way of looking at all of this is to consider DLSS 3 as a superset of DLSS 2. This means that DLSS 2, or DLSS Super Resolution as it is also known, won't be going anywhere. That's a good thing, as DLSS is one of the best ways of boosting your frame rate without degrading your visual fidelity.

So, why is DLSS 3 an RTX 40-series exclusive technology? When considered in this light, DLSS 3 essentially combines DLSS Super Resolution and Nvidia Reflex with DLSS Frame Generation—with this last bit being the differentiating factor. The AI-powered frame generation relies on Ada Lovelace's new Optical Flow Accelerator (OFA) as well as the new 3rd generation Tensor cores.

(Image credit: Nvidia)

The RTX 30-series also has OFA cores, although only 126 of them as opposed to the 300 you'll find in the new RTX 4090. When you factor in the huge bump in Tensor cores as well—from 320 in Ampere up to 1,400 in Ada Lovelace—it's all a bit clearer as to why you won't be getting the bump in performance that comes from the new frame generation capabilities.

The RTX 40-series card, the GeForce RTX 4090 will be released on October 12. 

Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.