AI Gigapixel Review – worth the cost?
Update February 14th, 2019
Thanks for visiting this page – Google seems to send most of you directly here. However, I have now published a new review of this amazing software. Everything you read below is still valid but please check out the latest review… This software is mind blowing!
Last week I received an email from Topaz Labs about their latest product, the weirdly named Topaz AI Gigapixel. They claim it to be the ‘best’ image resize tool and it utilises ‘Artistic Intelligence’. Yeah, right. I’m a fan of Topaz Labs’ products, particularly Topaz Detail, but this kind of sell puts me right off. Buzzwords like ‘Artistic Intelligence’ sound good but what does it mean? And Gigapixel? C’mon, that’s a crazy name! I’ve been a software developer since 1983 and gimmicky words like this make me sceptical rather than enthuse me. Still, they offer a 30 day free trial, so I went into it with a negative viewpoint. I mean, who needs this software, anyway?
Image Resizing – a brief history
My first digital camera had 3.3mp and I thought it was incredible. LOL!! My first dSLR had 8mp. Now I shoot 28mp! But in the old days, making an A4 print required enlarging the image. Hmmm. Enlarging means adding data to the image without losing image quality. Some images – clean, simple, noise free ones, upsize well. But many landscapes just don’t enlarge nicely. They resemble oil paintings – they lose details and print badly. To compensate, photo software created better and better resizing methods, such as bilinear, bicubic and Lanczos 3. Fred Miranda advocated ‘stair interpolation’ – enlarging the image in little steps and then Genuine Fractals came was released. Genuine Fractals could upsize images beyond the (then) abilities of Bicubic and Lanczos 3 and became my main tool for this job. On1 Photo Studio now includes it and for this reason that I have ON1 installed on my PC.
Topaz AI Gigapixel
The blurb on their website states:
Topaz A.I. Gigapixel is the first A.I. standalone application for superior Image upsampling, made for batch resizing your images up to 6x! It uses the power of Topaz’s proprietary Artistic Intelligence engine to make sharper and clearer upscaled images more than traditional upscaling tools. Because A.I. Gigapixel models calculates over a million calculations per pixel, this software is standalone only(it does not work as a plugin or studio adjustment) that inherently takes a long time to process your image, but the quality of the end result far surpasses our competitors.
That’s quite some claim and I presented two images to it, to see what it could achieve.
It’s worth checking out the system requirements before using and purchasing this tool. They are specific and several it does not support several graphics cards… My graphics card is on their unsupported list, but it still worked, unless I tried to upsize an old 6mp image to 300%(!). This may explain the speed issues I experienced.
The first test
Here’s a favourite image:
I sell this image as a 30″ by 20″ print, printed at 254 DPI. And there’s the problem. The image is 5472 pixels wide, which only yields a 21 inch print. I need, therefore, to upscale it by about 30% to 7620 pixels wide and, up to now, have used Genuine Fractals in ON1 to do so. And the upscaling looks fine and the prints are great. The windows in the little houses are clearly visible in the print.
Anyhow, to test AI Gigapixel I did a comparison against the following software:
- Photoshop (bicubic)
- Affinity Photo (Bicubic)
- Affinity Photo (Lanczos 3)
- ON1 (Genuine Fractals)
Before showing you the results I can confirm that Topaz were not kidding when they said AI Gigapixel ‘takes a long time to process your image’. It took ages. My PC may not be the fastest, but it’s not a slouch. After half and hour(!) of waiting, I had my dinner and thought it a very good job they offer a 30-day free trial!
Anyhow, it eventually came up with a result. In contrast, ON1 took about 1 minute, Photoshop less than 30 seconds and Affinity Photo took, and I kid you not, less than 2 seconds!
Here’s a few comparisons of the results, at 100%:
Well, there are tiny differences between the outputs, but not enough to make me want to buy AI Gigapixel. Experience tells me that these results will print well and you’d be very hard pressed to see any differences between any of these images in a print.
The second test
The first test showed me that a moderate upscale is handled well by most software. So I put a much bigger challenge to them:
This image is from a 8mp camera and is 3504 pixels wide. So, it needs to be upscaled by over 100% to do a 30 inch print. Before, my tests had showed that this was too much and I have never offered a 30 inch 8mp print for sale as the quality was too low.
The tools upscaled it, with AI Gigapixel taking a very long time, although not as long as with the first image. Here are the results:
Results – second image:
Now, the difference between AI Gigapixel and the others is more clear, particularly in high contrast areas, such as where the trees meet the skyline. The differences are subtle but they are perceptible, much like the difference between DXO’s raw processing and Lightroom’s.
I did a test print from the AI Gigapixel output file and it’s usable. And that is a first for me – producing a decent 30 inch print from a 8mp image. Bravo AI Gigapixel!
Do you need it?
Today’s modern digital cameras, with 24mp (and greater) sensors all produce image files so large that, unless you want to do a huge print, no upscaling is needed. A 6000 pixel wide image easily produces a 20 inch print and would produce a decent 30 inch print using a ‘simple’ upscaling method such as Bicubic or Lanczos 3. The results from the first test show there is no perceptible advantage to using a sophisticated tool such as ON1’s Genuine Fractals or Topaz’s AI Gigapixel.
So, if you are only working with these large image files and are not intending to print posters then I’d either stick with what you have or get Affinity Photo.
However, if you have images from an older camera or your current camera is 16mp (or less) and you want to make large prints, then AI Gigapixel is worth using. Its quality is the best I’ve seen, especially with smaller image files. It’s only downsides are 1) the price (a one-off payment of $99) and the speed (or lack of it). It is dead easy to use and can do batch processing. So, it’s a case of set it and forget it – maybe for several days!
In conclusion, I’ll put it this way: I’ve been a user of Genuine Fractals since they released it in 1996. Today, I’m uninstalling it. My tests show me that tools such as Affinity Photo produce equally good results and AI Gigapixel surpasses it and then some…
You can download a trial version from here.