If you dabble in the settings menu in a computer video game, you'll often find an option for Antialiasing (also referred to as AA). The settings offered are typically 2x, 4x, and 8x. So what exactly is antialiasing and how does it affect performance when running a PC game?
Antialiasing is a way of smoothing edges. Computer monitors display pixels, but real objects have curves and lines. In order to display these on a computer monitor, the edge is often jagged. Antialiasing helps reduce the problem by slightly blurring edges to the point where jagged lines don't show easily or at all.
Types of Antialiasing Options
This Antialiasing option is one way to reduce jagged edges in game scenes. The technology takes high resolution samples within a pixel, which are then downsampled to the necessary size. The benefit is a much smoother edge, but supersampling does require more resources from the graphics card, such as additional video memory.
- Multisample Antialiasing (MSAA)
Multisample antialiasing is a form of sampling that also solves the problem of jagged lines and edges. However, some parts of the image aren't fully supersampled so this specialization isn't quite as resource intensive. Unfortunately, MSAA doesn't perform well in alpha/transparent textures. And although MSAA offers smooth edges, it doesn't sample the entire scene like supersampling so image quality may be reduced.
- Adaptive Antialiasing
Adaptive Antialiasing is an extension of MSAA that works better with alpha/transparent textures, but it doesn't take up the bandwidth and resources of a graphics card the way supersampling does.
Ways to Adjust Antialiasing
As mentioned above, most games offer an option to configure antialiasing within the video settings in game. However, video cards allow you to customize antialiasing settings within video card's drive control panel. You can choose to have antialiasing settings dictated by the application, so different options can be utilized depending on the settings you have selected in each particular game. Or you can turn Antialiasing off completely.
Which Setting is Best for Me?
It's recommended to play with settings to see which option you prefer. If you find performance is decreased substantially (i.e. reduced frame rates or difficulty loading textures), try a reduced setting or opt for adaptive antialiasing over supersampling.