PC Graphics Settings Explained: Anti-Aliasing, V-Sync, FOV, and more
Created by Michael Higham on
Types of Anti-Aliasing
Explanation: Anti-aliasing is an important graphics setting to use, but there’s a bunch of anti-aliasing methods. Let's look at the different ones and examine how they tax your system.
- Multi-sample anti-aliasing is the most common type. In layman's terms, your computer takes color samples from around a piece of geometry in a game world and projects an average of those colors. The illusion of smoothness around an otherwise jagged object is created. The higher the number of samples (2x, 4x, 8x), the more your GPU has to calculate, impacting performance.
- Fast approximate anti-aliasing is a blanket approach to smoothing out an image. Instead of analyzing each frame and calculating geometry like MSAA, FXAA applies the smoothing effect to the entire image indiscriminately. It's faster for the GPU to perform, but it results in a blurrier image overall.
- Temporal anti-aliasing (Nvidia)/morphological anti-aliasing (AMD) are the same thing. It’s similar to MSAA, but it uses previous frame data to create the color samples in the current frame--and is more efficient as a result.
- Supersampling anti-aliasing is the most demanding method, but it produces the cleanest image. It makes the game render a higher resolution, then downsamples, or shrinks, the image to fit your display's resolution. It's as if you're artificially increasing the pixel density of your screen and the result is a sharper image.
What's in the screenshot: Dishonored 2 has the option for high grades of TXAA, and you can see it enabled on the right side. The rails are the focal point of the screenshot, but pay close attention to the window sills and the outline of the tree.
Suggestion: While SSAA looks incredible, it's far too demanding for most mid range PCs on modern games. If a game allows for different types of anti-aliasing, test out each type to see which one produces the best balance of image quality and performance. This will likely be TXAA/MLAA, but MSAA also works well. While FXAA isn't as graphically demanding, you may find that it will make games look a bit too blurry.