Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing: 1280x1024
We’ll begin with typical multi-sample anti-aliasing, or MSAA. This is the standard AA implementation used in most games, and you can learn more about it in our Anti-Aliasing Analysis, Part 1 article on the Generic Anti-Aliasing Implementations page.
In general, at 1280x1024, we see that 2x MSAA and 4x MSAA both have a noticeable impact on performance, though the degree varies depending on the game. For example, F1 2010 suffers only a minor frame rate hit, while Aliens vs. Predator suffers more severely, despite the fact that the title is capped at 4x MSAA. In general (and as we'd expect), 8x MSAA results in a much more significant penalty compared to 2x and 4x MSAA.
At this low resolution, the Radeon HD 6850 and GeForce GTX 460 handle 8x MSAA across all of our test cases without slipping under a 30 FPS average. Lower-end cards like the GeForce GT 240 and Radeon HD 5670 manage to muscle through 4x MSAA in most environments, but you'd probably want to compromise in-game detail settings in order to maintain playable performance. At the end of the day, entry-level discrete graphics hardware leaves you choosing between graphics quality and smooth edges.