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What is Anti-Aliasing?

Picture this…

You’re playing your favourite video game and suddenly the character’s edges become blurry and jagged, the immersion you had is now ruined and you’re left wondering, what can i do to stop this?

You quickly discover there are multiple types of anti-aliasing methods which quickly leads to frustration effectively turning anti-aliasing into a scary, confusing concept.

Well if this sounds like you then you’ve come to the right place as MWBIS has delved deep into the world of anti-aliasing technology. We have tried our best ato turn anti-aliasing into a simple concept that anybody can understand.

So let’s get to it then…

What is anti-aliasing?

Anti-aliasing refers to a variety of techniques used to counter jagged edges that form when rectangular pixels attempt to form into non-rectangular shapes, otherwise known as aliasing.

To put it simply, your computer screen is made up of millions of rectangular pixels that make up your screen resolution. Therefore, for monitors in the PC gaming world it is vital to aim for a higher resolution as a larger quantity of pixels will lead to sharper image quality.

However, when shapes appear that are non rectangular, these pixels must form jagged edges around the shape to create the illusion of a curve. With enough pixels this is not noticeable but many older monitor models struggle to hide this jagged appearance, due to excess pixels, resulting in an unpleasant viewing experience and a lack of smooth curves.

Here at MWBIS we were tired of wondering why on earth our circles were filled with these jagged edges and thus have created a comprehensive guide to help you understand the question…

What is anti-aliasing?

Types of anti-aliasing

Many people wrongly believe that anti-aliasing refers to a singular piece of technology when in reality there are many different types of Anti-Aliasing methods that are used to effectively target different types of monitors based on price, quality and other factors that we will discuss in detail below…

Multisample Anti-aliasing (MSAA)

Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) is one of the most widely used anti-aliasing techniques due to its great balance between visual imagery and performance.

The multi-sampling anti-aliasing technique uses multiple samples of adjacent pixels to create a high resolution image. For every sample used the pixelated textures increase in quality resulting in dynamic higher resolution displays.

This method of anti-aliasing does scale in regards to its power consumption as the more samples used the more computing power is required. High end games tend to require more sampling which can lead to excessive power consumption.

Enhanced quality anti aliasing (EQAA)

This is a type of MSAA technique developed by NVIDIA that uses the same process of sampling but uses a technique known as coverage sampling anti-aliasing which leads to the monitor sampling fewer colors while still maintaining a smooth image.

Supersampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA)

Supersample Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) is the most effective anti-aliasing techniques. It works by rendering games at high resolutions before downsampling to create a more refined, sharper image with significantly less pixelated edges.

Most high end PC games use SSAA as their primary anti-aliasing method however it requires large amount of computing power thus making it one of the most demanding anti-aliasing techniques.

For this reason we recommend this method for PC gamers wishing to play a PC game with an intense graphics requirement without annoying jagged lines. Just make sure you have the hardware to handle this anti-aliasing technique otherwise you will experience a significant performance impact.

Temporal Anti-aliasing (TXAA)

Temporal anti-aliasing (TXAA) is a method developed by NVIDIA that combines MSAA and post-processing anti-aliasing techniques with temporal filters to simultaneously smooth curves through blurring and develop sharper imagery using MSAA’s down-sampling method.

The result of temporal aliasing is a decent balance between the two methods and an overall good quality image. However, it’s hardware intensive and has been surpassed by more modern and more efficient methods. It is rare to find a game using TXAA in the current world of PC gaming.

Fast approximate Anti-aliasing (FXAA)

Fast approximate anti-aliasing (FXAA) is a method developed by NVIDIA and is the best anti-aliasing method for low-end PCs. It is significantly less demanding than other methods as it smooths out the jagged edges of the 2D images as they appear on screen instead of adapting for the 3D character models.

The major drawback for this type of anti-aliasing is that it can result in a slight blurring effect and thus reduced visual fidelity for most PC games that demand high graphics and large amounts of additional video memory. For this reason we recommend this method for low-end PCs.

Morphological Anti-aliasing (MLAA)

Morphological anti-aliasing (MLAA) is a type of anti-aliasing that uses post process anti-aliasing techniques to blend square pixels along the border of images to smooth edges.

It uses better line filtering and is another method ideal for low-end PCs as, just like FXAA, MLAA can result in heavily blurred imagery.

Subpixel morphological Anti-aliasing (SMAA)

Subpixel morphological anti-aliasing (SMAA) is an anti-aliasing technique that is very similar to FXAA and MLAA but uses a better edge detection algorithm to smooth jagged edges more efficiently.

Spatial anti-aliasing (SAA)

Spatial anti-aliasing works by smoothing the edges of an image to create higher visual fidelity. The spatial anti-aliasing method is a great anti-aliasing option for those wishing to run games that require anti-aliasing to prevent the production of a low resolution image.

Deep learning super-sampling (DLSS)

The final type of anti-aliasing technology is Deep learning super-sampling which is one of the newest types of anti-aliasing currently on the market. It is developed by NVIDIA and is only available on their recently released Volta and Turing-based models GPU models.

It uses dedicated Tensor core AI to upgrade low resolution imagery into high resolution for use on higher end monitors using a more intensive output device.

DLSS is a truly groundbreaking innovation with its use of AI but its accessibility is limited to only NVIDIA graphics card currently so for many gamers it is not yet available.

Which anti aliasing method should you use?

Now that you can confidently answer the question “what is anti-aliasing?” let’s now discuss which method you should use with your personal computer monitor.

To be perfectly honest, the quality of your GPU determines which method you are able to use as different types of anti-aliasing are best suited to target particular games.

Games with demanding gaming graphics tend to to require more processing power for everything from their drop down menu to their lower resolution background character models.

When browsing through your anti-aliasing settings it is important to understand which of the anti-aliasing methods is best suited for the hardware you have and the games you want to play.

For low-mid range PCs we recommend using post-processing anti-aliasing techniques such as FXAA and coverage sampling as these methods require the least amount of processing power.

For more higher end PCs we recommend MSAA and SSAA as these methods have a great balance between processing power and visual fidelity.

DLSS is the most exciting anti-aliasing technology but is currently quite limited so we recommend either purchasing a NVIDIA graphics card that can run DLSS or continue using MSAA or SSAA until more options become available.

We hope this article has been useful in helping you learn about anti-aliasing and that you now understand what is anti-aliasing and what makes anti-aliasing good for any gamer wishing for a higher resolution.