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.

System requirements

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, except when 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:

Langdale Valley - AI Gigapixel Test
Langdale Valley - AI Gigapixel Test Langdale Valley – AI Gigapixel Test

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!

Results

Here’s a few comparisons of the results, at 100%:

Resize1

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:

The path towards Castle Crag - AI Gigapixel Test
The path towards Castle Crag - AI Gigapixel Test The path towards Castle Crag – AI Gigapixel Test

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:

Resize 2

Now, the difference between AI Gigipixel 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.

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19 thoughts on “AI Gigapixel Review – worth the cost?”

  1. I am on my last leg of my extended trial of this game changing piece of SW ! Quite a few reviews out there – I have a link for you below. I can say this – it impressed me so much – when judging the results on a 4K iMac, with my glasses on, that I know I’ll never opt for a high MP camera ever – I’ll just explore the wonderful lenses I have in my collection and up the res if I want to / need too – in Topaz Gigapixel !

    90%+ of images of 500 – 1200p on the short side, when upscaled in Topaz to ± 1800p make my heart sing – it’s nothing short of a wonder !

    This I believe now, is the solution to non-pro usage (to mention but a few!) :

    1. very old small photos,
    2. low MP cameras files from 2000s,
    3. old small scans OR scans done with a “cheep” scanner, not with the 1/2 slides a time Nikon scanner, which is out of reach – physically and financially,
    4. an amazing camera/lens, eg L1/7.5MP, which needs a res boost,
    5. film scanned in a OK scanner, and not in a Nikon pro slide / negative scanner, which you want to improve the detail of the scans

    My next batch is all my film form recent years, around 100 spools – the scans from my Canon 9000F !!

    So i say this – you do need it unless your first photography is with the DSLRs and few selected Panas, Olys, Sonys and Fujis from recent years, or unless quality of your old images is better forgotten about / unimportant

    Over

  2. I made the mistake of purchasing AI Gigapixel without taking advantage of the free trial. I made several attempts to resize a couple of photos that I had cropped and wished to enlarge again. The results were disastrous. The people in the phot actually looked “deformed”. I even posted a comment on Topaz’s website hoping to get some sort of guidance. They just deleted my comment. Expensive lesson learned.

    1. Hi Tami

      I guess it depends on the photo and there is a limit to how much a cropped photo can be enlarged… What dimensions was your picture and how large were you trying to make it?

  3. This is strange .. i’ve pushed everything through Giga – small and large, film and digital, and very very rarely was i disappointed ! The detail recovery ability WITHOUT any hallos, artifacts and all – is truly amazing – haven’t seen such competence before and believe me, i’ve tried everything – on raw and on jpgs – this alone makes it a winner in my book. I’ve asked Topaz for 3 important features for me, which are missing presently, let’s see ..

    It’s not all roses though .. the thing is crashing on me like nothing before ! In all strange ways, like process a single image and crash, process few – crash .. Rebooting of my iMac helps little if at all .. The log file does not help much – i suspect very low level stuff between Gigapixel and MacOS libs and runtime video memory management.

    1. I experienced some crashes on certain photos due to an incompatible graphics card. I swapped it with a spare card that was compatible and haven’t had a crash since.

      The latest version has an option to use the main CPU if the GPU doesn’t work – have you tried that?

      1. Hi Andy

        Thanks for input ! I am on Mac, and swapping cards is not an option really. I also suspected that mishandling of files is causing the crashes somehow. Tried the CPU instead of GPU – no change .. What actually reduced the incidence rate was when i ran Giga from an external boot SSD, processing the files on a different volume – the one inside the iMac – this seems to have worked for now. Both external and internal have the same MacOS version running

  4. Unfortunately i have to report back that AI Giga batch (the only way to use this thing) is not working at all anymore – crashing after 1 file .. I have a 2017 iMac with Radeon Pro 555 2G card, but even when i go to the 3GHz main cores – same thing happens .. It is very sad that they let it out untested / unhardened, because results are truly impressive – it recalls my first camera obsession – the Lumix LC1, which could produce beautiful results but one had to wait 6 secs after every shot for it to clear the buffer and shoot it only < iso200 .. eventually i forced myself to forget about it

  5. Rev 2.1 .. same issue – i nailed it down to certain images which crash Giga on opening them. No way to know which these images will be. Have a ticket with Topaz around that. It will be very sad if this is not resolved speedily. So far, it’s becoming a great disappointment – it cannot stay up and process.

  6. Thanks for the review Andy. You made the alternatives very clear. I use Affinity Photo but am currently forced to use Photoshop for a course I am doing. I will ditch that expensive, crash prone tool in favour of Affinity Photo as soon as I can. I won’t be buying Topaz Gigapixel either.

    1. Affinity is a superb tool. Unless there’s something you need that Photoshop does that Affinity can’t, its almost a no brainer to switch to Affinity.

      And some Photoshop plugins, such as DXO Nik, are getting around to supporting Affinity…

  7. I am trying AI Gigapixel, enlarging a roughly 200×500 300% does give me some seriously deformed faces, doing the same thing in affinity or photoshop gives me blurred out faces, there are just some limits to how much one can increase the size of low res old photos.

    1. At that resolution there just won’t be enough detail for a successful upsize, whatever tool you use. I don’t think Gigapixel is intended for such purposes.

      In reasonable resolution situations, such as a 6mp 16 bit image, gigapixel can perform very decent enlargements.

      But, in the end, it can’t create detail out of thin air. It needs a detailed image to start with…

      1. This is so true, Andy .. It can perform close to wonders with a 500p on the short side provided it’s well taken / scanned image with sufficient detail .. BTW, im don’t know about Afinity, but PhotoZoom Pro is the closest thing to Gigapixel, and better in some areas, but not always – specifically where we talk about jagged edges at 100-200% – sometimes in Gigapixel enlargements, same – absent in PhotoZoom

        1. Affinity is virtually a total Photoshop replacement. And it’s resizing as every bit as good as Photoshop. I’ve not used PhotoZoom Pro…

  8. On how many devices can I load my Gigapixel purchase ? My wife and I both are photographers with our own PC’s and we would like to ‘share’ the purchase – is it possible?

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