Nvidia has finally enabled Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing in its latest graphics cards, allowing for smoother graphics without the usual performance hit.
The feature, also known as MFAA, is available in Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970 and 980 series graphics cards, which launched in desktop and notebook versions two months ago. Users will need to download the GeForce 344.75 WHQL driver to enable the new feature.
Anti-aliasing is a way of removing jagged edges from PC graphics by looking at the edge of an image and blurring the colors on either side of the line. With regular Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing (or MSAA), the GPU looks at two or more points in a pixel to accurately determine where the blurring should occur. The problem with MSAA is that it takes a heavy toll on performance, as each frame requires at least twice as much sampling to render the smoother image.
MFAA aims to solve that problem by alternating between two sample points with each frame. Nvidia then uses filtering to combine the two images, and while the result doesn't look markedly different from MSAA, Nvidia says it results in a roughly 30 percent performance improvement.
Unfortunately, it'll be a while before MFAA becomes a standard feature for PC games. Right now, only 21 games are supported, but Nvidia says additional game support will come through future driver updates.
Why this matters: Along with "Dynamic Super Resolution," which emulates 4K-like visual smoothness on 1080p displays, MFAA fits the theme of emulating high-end graphics features on lesser GPUs. While the GTX 970 and 980 sit near the top of Nvidia's lineup, we'd expect MFAA to pop up on cheaper cards over time, so that even if you can't afford the best graphics quality, you can at least get smoother images on a tighter budget.
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