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What is Anti-Aliasing? What Does it Mean for Gamers?

What is Anti-Aliasing? What Does it Mean for Gamers?
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Are you an avid PC gamer? Then you’re probably familiar with anti-aliasing. However, if you’re new to gaming on the PC, then you may have heard this term but not really know what it’s all about.

In this article, we’ll explain what anti-aliasing is and what it means to gaming on the PC. Let’s get started!

The Jaggies

To start off, you may have heard those who are pros at PC gaming talk about the jaggies. What are jaggies? This is a term that refers to the blocky, pixelated edges you may have noticed when playing games on the PC. These are referred to as “jaggies.”

Jaggies develop on the screen because the of the pixels that make up the image you see. Pixels rectangular lights that create the images on the screen. The pixels form lines that create each image. If there are areas of the image that are rounded or curved, then the rectangular pixels create a jagged edge, or jaggies.

What is Anti-Aliasing?

This is where anti-aliasing technology comes in to play. It works to resolve the jaggies and smooth out the image, so we see it correctly. To some people, anti-aliasing may look as if there’s a slight blurring around the edges of the games they’re playing. That blurring means the anti-aliasing is at working trying to smooth out those jagged edges.

The technology samples the pixels around the edges of the image on the screen. It then uses the colors it sampled to blend away the jaggies. While this is a simple explanation, there are several different types of anti-aliasing techniques.



Types of Anti-Aliasing Techniques

There are different types of anti-aliasing techniques; however, choosing the best anti-aliasing method for your screen will depend on the type of computer hardware you have, and its capabilities.

1) Supersample Anti-Aliasing (SSAA)

This is considered to be the most effective anti-aliasing technique and is the oldest. This type of anti-aliasing makes your graphics processor render your games at a higher resolution. When the image is rendered, this SSAA technique increases the number of pixels that are displayed. This works to make the image sharper on the screen.

This method also analyzes (samples) the colors of the pixels on the screen. It then determines an average color, which can work to smooth out the image.

This is a great choice when it comes to anti-aliasing; however, you’ll need a high-end graphics card and a lot of video memory. In other words, you’ll need a pretty powerful computer to get this method to work correctly.



2) Multi-Sampling Anti-Aliasing (MSAA)

MSAA is the most common anti-aliasing method used. The reason is that its able to balance the computer’s performance with the quality of the image. This method uses polygons and color manipulation to create an image that looks smoother.

When you choose this method, it will be necessary to choose the number of samples. The most common sample counts are 2, 4, and 8. Keep in mind that the higher the sample count, the more power your PC will need to use the technique.

3) Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA)

If you don’t have a high-powered computer, then you may want to consider FXAA. This technique doesn’t require as much power from the PC and its resources. Rather than running samples on the color and the geometry of the pixels, all this method does is slightly blur the jagged edges. The result is usually a blurrier image over all; however, it’s usually not enough for the human eye to recognize.


4) Coverage Sampling Anti-Aliasing (CSAA)

CSAA was created by NVIDIA, one of the best-known

Some anti-aliasing methods are developed by graphics card manufacturers in the world. The technique doesn’t require much power and uses a much lower sample count that MSAA.

5) Enhanced Quality Anti-Aliasing (EQAA)

EQAA is an anti-aliasing method developed by AMD, another large graphics card manufacturer. This technique is very similar to CSAA, and delivers high-end results, without taxing the computer’s resources.

6) Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TXAA)

This is a fairly new anti-aliasing methods, which uses several techniques that the other anti-aliasing methods use to get rid of the jaggies. This method isn’t very taxing on the computer, and the result is a better image than using the FXAA method, though you will probably still notice some blurriness in the image.



Why is Anti-Aliasing Important for Gamers?

As the screen resolution has been increasing, pixels have become virtually invisible. This is because they’re much smaller. On a screen that has 1080p, you may not even notice the pixels until getting very close to the screen. As a result, anti-aliasing is not as important as it once was.

In addition, with faster GPUs, overall resolution has increased, making even older games run with beautiful images. The use of anti-aliasing just isn’t as necessary as it once was.

However, newer games still benefit from the use of anti-aliasing. This is because of the larger screens that many gamers use today. Larger resolutions don’t need as much anti-aliasing; however, as the screen becomes larger and the resolution stays the same, then the pixels become more noticeable. That’s why anti-aliasing is still needed on larger screens.

Is It Best to Turn Off Anti-Aliasing?

The answer depends. For instance, if you’re using 4K resolution on a smaller monitor, then you won’t need to use anti-aliasing. Everything on the screen will look very smooth. However, anti-aliasing may still help make lines and textures smoother.

If you’re into competitive gaming, then anti-aliasing can give your shots more precision. Or if you’re looking for an immersive play experience, then having a smooth image, without jaggies, would be best. However, you still have to keep in mind that the technique can take a lot of a computer’s resources, which may affect the game, too.

If you do choose to go with anti-aliasing, remember that one technique is not better than another. It will depend on your computer, the monitor, and the game. For computers that are not very powerful, you might consider using FXAA. If you have a more powerful PC, then you can try one of the other types of anti-aliasing, such as CSAA.

And when you’re just not sure which method to use, then you can experiment to see which method gives you the best results. Try each method on your favorite game and see if the image is good enough for you to have fun with the game, without seeing jaggies. And if your PC isn’t able to handle the load, then try turning down the anti-aliasing, or just turning it off.

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About the author



Mackenzie’s obsession with all things tech began when she was a kid. She blames her father’s love of sci-fi for her own interest in and love of technology. Mackenzie attended Purdue University, where she studied computer engineering technology. She currently works at a small Silicon Valley tech company and enjoys writing about tech in her spare time. Mackenzie’s husband is a computer scientist, which makes their home an interesting place—it’s filled wall to wall with the latest and greatest tech and devices.