Anti-Aliasing Analysis, Part 2: Performance

Test System And Benchmarks

We chose a wide variety of graphics cards for our tests, ranging from the Radeon HD 5670/GeForce GT 240 to a pair of Radeon HD 6850s in CrossFire and GeForce GTX 460s in SLI. The games we're testing include Just Cause 2, F1 2010, Aliens Vs. Predator, and Left 4 Dead 2; these titles allow forced AA modes from both graphics vendors. We're also including Lost Planet 2 to demonstrate supersampling on Radeon cards. Unfortunately, the feature does not work in most of the other titles we tested.

You may notice that the GeForce GTX 460 SLI results are not included in the Left 4 Dead 2 benchmark. This one is our bad. Our original test runs were rendered invalid after the game decided to self-update and break compatibility with our test sequence. We’re confident that the SLI data generated in the other benchmarks is representative of two 460s rendering cooperatively.

Also note that the GeForce GT 240 does better than some of the higher-end cards (like the GeForce GTX 550 Ti) in F1 2010. This is because the GT 240 is not DirectX 11-capable, forcing it to fall back to DX 9. This same limitation also explains why the GeForce GT 240 is absent from our Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 benchmark.

Test Hardware
Processor
Intel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge)
Overclocked to 4 GHz, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache, power-saving settings enabled, Turbo Boost disabled.
Motherboard
MSI P67A-GD65, Intel P67 Chipset
Memory
OCZ DDR3-2000, 2 x 2 GB, at 1338 MT/s, CL 9-9-9-20-1T
Hard Drives
Western Digital Caviar Black 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
Samsung 470 Series SSD 256 GB, SATA 3Gb/s
Graphics CardsGeForce GT 240 GDDR5
GeForce GTX 550 Ti
GeForce GTX 460 1 GB (Single and in SLI)
GeForce GTX 570

Radeon HD 5670
Radeon HD 5770
Radeon HD 6850 (Single and in CrossFire)
Radeon HD 6970
Power Supply
ePower EP-1200E10-T2 1200 W, ATX12V, EPS12V
CPU Cooler
Cooler Master Hyper TX 2
System Software And Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX
DirectX 11
Graphics Driver
GeForce: 280.26 WHQL

AMD Catalyst 11.9 WHQL
Games
Just Cause 2
version 1.0.0.2
Formula One 2010
version 1.1.1.129
Aliens Vs. Predator
DX11 benchmark version 1.0.0.0
Left 4 Dead 2
version 2.0.8.5
Lost Planet 2
version 1.0.1.129
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  • compton
    This series is one of the best. The first article was most illuminating, and the second keeps it coming. Before the first article I was clueless to nVidia's AA nomenclature. Now it makes much more sense, and I applaud nVidia for not making the situation worse (though nVidia and AMD need nomenclature help in other areas still).

    I'm not a huge gamer and the games I do play mostly run awesome with my 2500K + GTX460. I decided that if it's going to be a while before the next generation of GPUs drop, I'd get another 460. So that's what I did, should be here in a few days. I was worried that even at 1920x1200 I'd have problems with AA and the lack of VRAM, but it's good to see that two 460s work pretty admirably.

    As an aside, I'm totally on an efficiency kick, and I don't relish the thought of needing two cards to get decent performance, but the GTX 460 is one of the most efficient cards around well over a year after it's release.
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  • Zeh
    What happened to Morphological AA? When the 6000 series was released, Morph AA showed an impressively low demand on hardware - about 2 or 3 fps lost -, and now it's cutting frame rates in half?

    Seriously, what is it?
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  • jemm
    Great article! Very ilustrating!
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  • Anonymous
    This article is going to have me diving into my settings tonight, I've basically set my aged 5770 to run as poorly as possible given I game at 1920x1200 :/ Learn something new every day ;)
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  • ojas
    ZehWhat happened to Morphological AA? When the 6000 series was released, Morph AA showed an impressively low demand on hardware - about 2 or 3 fps lost -, and now it's cutting frame rates in half?


    Was thinking the same thing....part 1 and part 2 are contradicting each other hear...if i'm remembering part 1 correctly...

    btw there's a typo at the start of page 2,
    Quote:
    This is because the GT 420 is not DirectX 11-capable
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  • cleeve
    ZehWhat happened to Morphological AA? When the 6000 series was released, Morph AA showed an impressively low demand on hardware - about 2 or 3 fps lost -, and now it's cutting frame rates in half?Seriously, what is it?


    On release we tested StarCraft II because that was a game that choked with MSAA on Radeons. It turns out, that game is severely CPU limited, so it wasn't the best test subject for Morphological AA
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  • MauveCloud
    I don't like these animated gifs for comparing anti-aliasing modes, because 1. gifs are limited to 256 colors, 2. moving around in a game will affect how noticeable the differences in quality between different anti-aliasing modes are. (so will the physical size of the pixels, but that would probably be impractical to represent when viewed on other monitors). Would it be possible to get some animations that show antialiasing modes side-by-side (or half and half) while moving around in some of these games, instead of just fixed-position images that cycle between anti-aliasing modes?
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  • cleeve
    MauveCloudI don't like these animated gifs for comparing anti-aliasing modes, because 1. gifs are limited to 256 colors, 2. moving around in a game will affect how noticeable the differences in quality between different anti-aliasing modes are.


    As for #2, there's no worries as the Half Life 2 engine in Lost Coast that we used for the majority of comparison shots doesn't move the camera during idle times. We used a save game and reloaded the scene at exactly the same position, so its not an issue here.

    As for your first concern, I was worried about that, too, at first. But I carefully scrutinize the uncompressed TIFF files before exporting them to GIF and in these cases there's no practical difference, it does an excellent job of demonstrating the result with different AA modes.
    4
  • wolfram23
    Very interesting article! Although I'm a tad confused by your nomeclature of the Radeon AA settings. There's MSAA, AMSAA, SSAA, and within those you can choose box, narrow tent, wide tent, and edge detect types (edge being the only one AFAIK to increase demand), and then on top of that you can enable Morphological. So, I'm not sure what "EQ" means as it is not at all a term used by Radeon (or at least CCC).

    Also, as the first poster said, why is morphological so demanding all of a sudden? When I first tried using it, I barely saw an impact on performance and in a couple games it made everything look blurry. I just tried enabling it in Skyrim (a game that really needs better AA) and my performance plummeted - which these results confirm. What changed?
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  • cleeve
    wolfram23 So, I'm not sure what "EQ" means as it is not at all a term used by Radeon (or at least CCC).


    As it says in the article, EQAA is Radeon HD 6900-series exclusive. You probably don't have a 6900 card.

    wolfram23Also, as the first poster said, why is morphological so demanding all of a sudden?


    The answer is 5 posts above this comment. :) Depends on the game, you may have been using a CPU-bottlenecked title.
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  • Anonymous
    I wish for a DX10 card, they would have thrown in a card a lot of us probably have/had, like a GTX260.
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  • mt2e
    I must say the animated GIFs are pro status....I wanna see a giant GIF with all modes compared....like a gradual no AA to MAX aa...I know there are tons of modes but that is just the "jist" of the idea.
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  • cleeve
    mt2eI must say the animated GIFs are pro status....I wanna see a giant GIF with all modes compared....like a gradual no AA to MAX aa...I know there are tons of modes but that is just the "jist" of the idea.


    Check our AA Analysis Part 1 article, lots more comparisons there:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/anti-aliasing-nvidia-geforce-amd-radeon,2868.html
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  • pdxoutdoors
    Great article.

    FYI, typo in first paragraph, "the image quality the impart" (should be "they")
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  • yyk71200
    Also, if you download NVidia inspector, you can use Sparse Grid SS Transparency AA (doesn't work in all games). Looks better than regular Transparency SS AA but even more demanding. It is not available in the normal control panel.
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  • DXRick
    Interesting, but the 450px × 448px images are too small for me to see the differences well.
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  • MauveCloud
    CleeveAs for #2, there's no worries as the Half Life 2 engine in Lost Coast that we used for the majority of comparison shots doesn't move the camera during idle times. We used a save game and reloaded the scene at exactly the same position, so its not an issue here.


    You misunderstand my concern here. I'm not talking about whether the screenshots are in the same position. I'm talking about users actually moving around in the game (it's not common when actually playing any of these games to stay in one place for long, right?) and whether the qualitative differences between antialiasing modes are still as noticeable while moving.
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  • cleeve
    MauveCloud whether the qualitative differences between antialiasing modes are still as noticeable while moving.


    Ah. Well for that you should try it out. in my experience the stills represent what happens in-game quite well, except when it comes to post processing effects like Morphological and FXAA. Those tend to crawl because the filer re-assesses each frame independently, it's not based on the same geometric data like MSAA.
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  • cleeve
    DXRickInteresting, but the 450px × 448px images are too small for me to see the differences well.


    It's 1 to 1, so if you can't see a difference there, you won't see it in game.
    2
  • cleeve
    pdxoutdoorsGreat article.FYI, typo in first paragraph, "the image quality the impart" (should be "they")


    Thx, fixed!
    0