What Is Anti-Aliasing and What Does it Do?
Updated · Jun 29, 2022
If you enjoy PC games, then there’s a chance that at some point you’ve been encountered issues with your graphics card. That’s because new titles are becoming more and more demanding on your GPU.
Luckily, there is a way for you to continue enjoying beautiful textures even with your old, crappy card.
We’ll tell you all about what anti-aliasing is!
What Is Anti-Aliasing
To better understand what the anti-aliasing mode is, you need to be familiar with the term "aliasing".
It's the effect of distortion in an image or video due to lower resolution or a limited frame rate. As a result, it may cause the object's edges to appear stepped or videos to not play smoothly.
On the other hand, anti-aliasing uses a variety of techniques to fix those "jaggies". This will smooth the whole image, making it friendlier to the eye.
So, is anti-aliasing good?
It strictly depends on your rig.
That’s because, although it will make your in-game experience better, some AA types use a lot of memory. Hence, it will have a negative impact on your PC’s performance. Even more, some of them may cause the game to be unplayable.
Now that you learned what anti-aliasing is, let’s show you how it actually works.
What Does Anti-Aliasing Do?
First, you need to know how computer graphics work.
Basically, most video games are 3D, but our monitor can only produce a 2D image. This 2D image is generated via the GPU by drawing it. However, sometimes these images are simply too hard to draw, and the result is a pixelized object with jagged edges.
Images shown on a monitor are drawn by lines of pixels that are tied together. Everything is fine as long as these lines are horizontal and vertical. However, if you draw a diagonal line, it will become jagged. That’s because the shape of the pixels is either square or rectangular.
That’s where this technology plays its part.
What does anti-aliasing do?
It takes samples from the surrounding area and fills empty spaces near the edges with similar pixels. Hence, it creates a smooth diagonal line by blending adjacent pixels' colors.
Now let's dive into the different types of anti-aliasing to further enhance your knowledge.
Types of Anti-Aliasing
If you are a hardcore gamer, you are probably aware that there are several forms of AA. However, you may be perplexed as to what these abbreviations mean.
Fortunately, we are here to help you define the different anti-aliasing options.
Here’s the short version:
- By increasing the sample rate (used in MSAA, SSAA)
- Blurring the edges/contrasts (used in MLAA, FXAA, and SMAA).
Let's take a closer look at each type.
These types of anti-aliasing work by rendering the image at a higher resolution and then downsizing it.
At the highest resolution, it takes color samples from the new pixels and then shrinks the image down to the original resolution. This process gives each original pixel a new color.
Supersample Anti-Aliasing (SSAA)
This is the most effective way. However, you must have a very powerful PC to process it.
It's using an increased amount of samples from each pixel. Also, the color is calculated using the values inside it. This results in pixels that have a mixture of their own colors.
SSAA antialiasing is arguably the best form of AA. That’s because, due to the higher sample rate, textures become sharper and clearer. Also, there is no blurring effect.
The only disadvantage is that it uses a lot of your PC resources. Often, only rigs with multiple GPUs are able to cope with it.
Multi-Sampling Anti-Aliasing (MSAA)
When a GPU is rendering an image, it draws two things:
- The polygon, which is the outline of an object.
- The texture, with which it fills the polygon.
MSAA reduces the resources needed compared to the SSAA. What MSAA is doing to achieve that is scanning only polygons' edges and increasing the samples’ amount there.
This AA can create high-fidelity images by using multiple samples from just two pixels. This way, it reduces the time it takes to display a good image, thus balancing performance and quality.
The advantage is that it will use fewer resources, however, you can still see pixelated images.
Coverage Sampling Anti-Aliasing (CSAA) / Enhanced Quality Anti-Aliasing ( EQAA)
The well-known GPU manufacturers Nvidia and AMD created their anti-aliasing methods. They both work in the same way.
By using these methods, the GPU detects whether a polygon is present in the image. Then it determines which parts of this polygon are most likely to be “jagged” and supersample only those pixels.
It's an efficient way to smooth the image because it only scans certain portions of it. Also, it uses significantly less process power to run.
TXAA (Temporal Anti-Aliasing)
This is one of the most complex and best anti-aliasing methods. It's designed to get rid of the shimmering that is most noticeable in motion.
It collects information from the past and current frames to create a clearer image in the current frame. Each pixel is sampled once at a different location inside it. Then pixels from past and current frames are blended to produce an anti-aliased image.
DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling)
This is an innovative anti-aliasing mode invented by Nvidia that looks to boost your framerates.
It’s doing that by rendering the image at a lower resolution than displayed to reduce stress on your GPU. Then it upscales it to its native resolution using deep learning technology.
Doing so sharpens the frames, making them more appealing at the original resolution. Also, it boosts frame rate and gives you a lag-free experience.
It works by slightly blurring each pixel after it’s rendered. The GPU determines where the edge of the polygon is by comparing the color contrast between pixels.
These are fast, cost-efficient methods that eliminate jaggies, but due to the blurring, images could appear very foggy.
FXAA (Fast-Approximate Anti-Aliasing)
This post-process AA use blur filters to smooth the image. The way it does It's by analyzing all pixels in a fraction of a millisecond. Whenever it detects an artificial edge, it smooths it.
This is probably the best anti-aliasing method for low-end PCs because It's not very demanding on the GPU. That’s because it smooths out the 2D image, rather than the 3D geometry of the objects.
The disadvantage of this technology, however, is that it can blur textures.
MLAA (Morphological Anti-Aliasing)
It works by finding predetermined patterns in the image or discontinuities in pixels. It's not very demanding because it blends pixels and blurs the image.
However, as you already know, this results in a very foggy picture. Even more, the effect is worse than the FXAA.
SMAA (Subpixel Morphological Anti-Aliasing)
It’s similar to FXAA but also detects edges and is easier on the eye. That’s because it reduces the blur effect, which is the downside of the two mentioned above.
The detection method is closer to the one in MSAA rather than the one in MLAA. The result is a clearer image with low-performance consumption.
Now that you’ve learned a bit about each type, let me help you decide which anti-aliasing to use.
Which Anti-Aliasing Should I Use?
Choosing between different anti-aliasing settings could be harsh. Although SSAA provides the best quality, It's expensive in terms of resources used.
So, turning anti-aliasing on or off strictly depends on several factors.
- How demanding your games are
- How powerful your rig is
- Which features do you prefer to be sharp and which to be jagged
Let me help you decide with a quick explanation.
If you have a PC with:
- Less than 8 GB of RAM
- Moderate GPU and CPU
- Integrated graphics card
You may have to use either SMAA or CSAA because they require less computing power. This will help you run games at optimal speeds while not making major compromises on quality.
If your rig is equipped with:
- Moderate CPU and GPU
- Dedicated graphics card
- More than 8 GB of RAM
- Good cooling system
Then you might want to use SMAA, MLAA, or FXAA, and MSAA. However, you should try them a couple of times so you can figure out what works best for you. Although your computer is not that bad, it’s still not a gaming one.
Lastly, if your PC is a true gaming setup that has these components:
- A Gaming optimized CPU and GPU
- Dedicated graphics
- 8 GB or higher
- Perfect gaming cooling
This means that you can run SSAA, TXAA, and MSAA with few or no problems at all.
I hope this explanation sheds more light on which anti-aliasing types you should choose.
Why Is it Important in Gaming?
Over the past decade, the resolution of displays has risen to levels where pixels have become nearly invisible. You have to get really close to the monitor to detect them. This made the use of anti-aliasing in gaming an unnecessary expense of memory.
However, few game titles offer high resolutions, and that could be a problem. That’s because your screen is getting larger, but your game resolution is staying the same.
And as we already know, if the game resolution doesn’t match the big screen, you will start noticing the pixels. Therefore, anti-aliasing could prove pivotal to your overall gaming experience. It doesn’t only affect the in-game graphics but also improves your skills, as your vision is enhanced.
Ever since its invention, the use of AA technology has become imminent. Due to how computer graphics work, it was hard to produce a sharp and good-looking image back then. That’s why older in-game graphics were far from perfect, to say the least.
The implementation of different types of anti-aliasing made the gaming experience more realistic. Also, it allowed people with low-spec rigs to enjoy amazing visuals.
However, this feature could be very costly in terms of performance. So, if you're wondering whether you should use FXAA anti-aliasing or SSAA, check your machine’s capabilities.
What does anti-aliasing actually do?
All anti-aliasing types are designed to eliminate sharp edges in in-game objects, also known as “jaggies”.
Should I turn anti-aliasing on or off?
If your graphics look great without it and you have a high-res monitor, you should consider turning it off. Although some types can further enhance your textures, they could drastically affect performance.
Is anti-aliasing good for FPS?
Because AA improves your visual quality, it further increases the load on your GPU. So, using it will have a negative impact on your FPS.
Is anti-aliasing good for graphics?
Yes! All forms of it enhance your graphic quality. Even more, the SMAA anti-aliasing doesn’t affect performance much either.
Does anti aliasing cause lag?
AA is tied to FPS, so excessive use of it may cause some input lag. However, It's not likely to happen, and if it does, it will be almost unnoticeable.
What is temporal anti aliasing?
It's a form of spatial anti-aliasing that removes jaggies, which are most noticeable in motion. It uses very complex techniques that blend pixels together to create a clear image.
What is the best anti aliasing?
If you have a high-end computer, then SSAA anti-aliasing will be the best solution. However, if your PC is in the mid-range class, then FXAA will fit better because It's not that demanding.
What is anti aliasing in games?
It's a method that uses a combination of techniques to eliminate "jaggies" in-game.
Now that you’ve learned what anti-aliasing is, feel free to browse the rest of TechJury for more useful information.
Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.
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