What Is Anti Aliasing & Why Is It Important For Gaming

| Last Updated On: August 8, 2020
What is anti-aliasing

Being a hardcore gamer, you always want the best settings for your game to run on. That means, getting the best equipment, churning them up to “Ultra High” and hitting your keyboard keys away for the rest of the day.

One of these essential game settings is the Anti-aliasing option. But wait, “I’ve seen it in my game settings, but what is anti aliasing?”. We know one thing: turning it one makes the game appear smoother.

You might not have heard about it or seen visible differences if you own a high-resolution monitor, but it’s still working at the back. Although it’s a little demanding of your system, it can be a game-changer!

So:

Whether you know about anti-aliasing or not, this article is all about it. We’ll go over the basics of anti-aliasing and explore the various types of the anti-aliasing option which exist. Without further ado, let’s get started!


What is Anti Aliasing?


Why don’t we take a little detour and consider an analogy? Raise your hand.

What do you see? Our hands are all not straight lines, are they? They’re all rounded and well, just not straight lines. The computer, however, doesn’t work this way. The visible components on your screen are small squares called pixels.

Here’s the thing:

If you attempt to make longer lines, diagonals, or edges with these squares, they will appear jagged. They often resemble staircases. That’s not the screens fault, though.

But, this issue had to be solved for gamers or users to stop them from throwing their computer screens away. Drum rolls, please. Anti aliasing is the solution!

Image of a game with anti-aliasing on

Anti-aliasing aims to reduce the problem (called aliasing) by smoothing the jagged edges by applying specific techniques. Often, the problem is because the output monitor isn’t capable of handling such smooth lines.

Although you can shift to a high-resolution monitor to see a better effect, anti-aliasing is a more straightforward solution. You often find it in your game’s settings because of the rendering of such pixels in games.

Don’t find it in there? Anti-aliasing is also called AA or Oversampling. Most games include options to enable anti-aliasing in 2x, 4x, 8x, or even higher mods depending on your graphics card.

Anti-aliasing is a little demanding of your system’s resources. If you’re operating on a smaller system or have lesser resources to share, you can choose to turn the setting off (well, say hello to jagged edges!)


How Does Anti Aliasing Work?


Jagged edges (or aliasing) are relatively annoying. Anti-aliasing works by smoothing the rough edges and make them more appealing to the eye. Rather than chunky edges, you’d see a blurred out version of the sample pixels.

That is precisely what anti-aliasing does. It might blur out the weird edges until the image appears to be smoother, and the jagged edges are gone.

4 types of anti-aliasing explained

But wait, blurred pixels don’t sound like much of an upgrade, do they? Anti-aliasing doesn’t just stop there. Remember how it was called oversampling? Well, anti-aliasing also samples the pixels around the blurred pixels.

This helps the pixels adopt a newer color so that the final image appears to be better, and the blurred pixels are blended in.

Again, this blending or smooth illusion comes at a cost: computing power. If you’re up for sacrificing a little computing power or own a beastly computer, you’re in for a great deal. Your gaming performance will be quite better once you’ve got a realistic appearance.


What Types of Anti Aliasing Are There?


I might’ve thrown you off with the whole ‘it sucks your computing power,’ but that’s not true. Anti-aliasing isn’t that simple, and this blending effect depends on your hardware’s capabilities.

There are a few techniques to achieve this, and the results of each are different. It all depends on the resources your system is ready to set aside. If you haven’t made the equation yet, here’s it: more computing power means better anti-aliasing!

Here’s a list of those techniques:

-

SSAA (Super Sample Anti Aliasing)


SSAA was one of the first anti-aliasing techniques to exist. Although it is the most demanding of your system’s resources, it is the most effective technique in combating jagged edges.

In this technique, all pixels in a particular image are taken and analyzed. Furthermore, all pixels surrounding it are analyzed for the blending process as well. In conclusion, it forces your graphics card to render high-resolution graphics and then begins to downsample it all.

If you talk in terms of computing power, there’s loads of memory and GPU usage to pull this off. However, the final display is much sharp, clear, and the pixel density increases as well.


MSAA (Multisample Anti Aliasing)


SSAA is used rarely, simply because of its demanding nature. MSAA aims to resolve this by attempting to sample only a particular section of the image, namely polygons. Since it only attempts to analyze and blend in polygons, the resource usage is much lesser.

However, since it doesn’t operate on the entire screen, the image quality won’t be that great on certain textures. You can find MSAA settings in games labeled as 2xMSAA, 4xMSAA, or more alternatives.

So, if you’re looking for a more straightforward, more effective solution to the problem, MSAA is the one!


Adaptive Anti Aliasing


MSAA has one small issue: it doesn’t work that great on alpha or transparent screen textures. Adaptive anti-aliasing is an extension to the MSAA, which presents a better solution for alpha or transparent screen textures.

Although you might think that the solution will be resembling super-sampling, it doesn’t. The answer is still economical in terms of computing power and bandwidth.


CSAA (Coverage Sampling Anti Aliasing)


As efficient as adaptive sampling and MSAA sound, they still aren’t the most effective solutions. They’re old school pixel sampling techniques that don’t take benefit of modern hardware capabilities. CSAA is the successor of the previous technology.

CSAA attempts to gather more information about a particular pixel and its surroundings (coverage) without using much of the system’s resources. It is developed by NVIDIA and appears to have a slight edge over MSAA.


EQAA (Enhanced Quality Anti Aliasing)


To counter NVIDIA’s approach with CSAA, AMD developed its solution. EQAA was first released with Radeon graphics cards and grows upon the MSAA technique with little to no increase in performance overhead.

You might not find much difference in MSAA and these alternatives. These categorize as the same solution provided by different vendors. However, upgrading or using modern technology is still better than adopting old school ways of anti-aliasing.


FXAA (Fast Approximate Anti Aliasing)


FXAA is by far the least demanding anti-aliasing technique of all. If you run your games on a low-end gaming PC, this technique might be the best fit for your system. Rather than attempting to calculate edges or sample the areas around the jagged edges, this technique is much simpler.

It only attempts to blur out the edges on the whole screen, so the jaggedness is gone. That’s it. You could’ve guessed it by its name. The attempt to render the results are much faster. However, there’s little to no increase in performance, and the final results are more blurry than others.


TXAA (Temporal Anti Aliasing)


TXAA is one of the latest anti-aliasing techniques which attempts to improve MSAA. It is linked with better results than FXAA as it tries to combine the results from several methods before yielding the final result.

The sampling is perfect but comes at the cost of a little more computing power. The results are smooth-edges and sharp graphics. The technique, however, isn’t available on all graphics cards. It works better with the latest graphics cards.


How To Adjust Anti Aliasing?


As we’ve mentioned before, anti-aliasing options are most commonly available in games. If you feel you need this feature enabled, head over to your preferred game, and take a look in the Video Settings tab.

AA-settings of a video game

If you find the setting there, you can change it according to your own needs. However, some games don’t provide you the option at all. So, if the game doesn’t, it is probably configured to perform to the best of its abilities.

For the latter option, you can head over to your graphics cards’ settings. Most graphics cards provide you the ability to change the setting from over there. It’s recommended to change the settings from your graphics card so the settings can automatically apply to all games.


What Type of Anti Aliasing Should You Pick?


The answer to this question is entirely subjective. We’ve presented every option in front of you. Your decision, however, might be based on these two things:

  • Your computing power
  • What is the resolution of your monitor? (You might not even need it at all if it’s high!)
  • What type of graphics do you have?
telling the best AA type for you in this image

If you’re a simple gamer with more straightforward needs, you might go for something simpler like FXAA. If you’re a hardcore gamer with performance and quality of gameplay as the most important thing, you might even go for SSAA.

Here’s the general rule which applies to select the anti-aliasing technique of your choice:

  • FXAA is for low-end PCs
  • MSAA or alternatives are for Mid-level PCs
  • SSAA is for high-end, beastly PCs

Jaggedness is annoying, and that is for sure. So, if you’re up for removing the weird jagged surfaces from the core, SSAA is your best friend. But if you can adapt to blurry, but better surfaces, you know what to pick! (FXAA if you didn’t guess it).

Not to mention, the setting also depends on the application you’re trying to run and the graphics card you own. If you don’t own a modern graphics card, TXAA might be off the options for you. Similarly, if MSAA is the only option available, this debate is not applicable in your case.


Which Anti Aliasing Setting Is The Best?


Again, the answer to this question is tough to answer. What you can do is attempt to answer the question on your own. Head over to your game and run different types of anti-aliasing options.

Admittedly, not all options will yield the same results. Likewise, all techniques will not use the same sort of resources from your computer. If you feel your computer can’t perform better or there’s apparent lag or dropping of frames, you can opt for a different technique like FXAA.

Well, modern technology is quite advanced. The graphics cards and the high-res monitors are capable of handing perceived aliasing on their own. With that said, you won’t find game-enthusiasts debating about anti-alias options because the setting has outlived its importance.

But, if you do need an opinion, SSAA is the best oversampling technique (but resource-intensive), and TXAA is a good option for newer systems (but blurry). So, keeping the tradeoffs in mind, you can opt for MLAA or any one of its successors. It all depends on the vendor of your graphics card.

GTA 5 red sports car

Final Verdict

Anti-aliasing is a crucial technique to remove jagged surfaces from the screen. Although modern monitors and output devices are capable of handling the issue on their own, the setting used to be the most crucial discussion for many.

Still, if you run a low-res monitor, anti-aliasing is essential. With a few different techniques to blur and sample out the bad pixels, you can adopt a better method of rendering game screens.

Hopefully, this article helped you out with the question, “what is anti-aliasing,” and you can now share your knowledge with others. Go on, have a few trials with your system’s settings, and see which setting is the best fit for you!


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Author
Bobby Segura
Bobby Segura

Gaming enthusiast who enjoys everything from the Vagrant Story to Assassin’s Creed. His interest in gaming soon transformed into passion and he started working as an author of NeoGamr.

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