Should you have Anti-Aliasing on or off? – AA Explained

If you’re new to gaming, then there are many different settings that you can change around to improve your overall performance when you’re playing video games. Most of these settings are generally there to improve the quality of your image, but they might come at a cost when it comes down to overall gameplay.

This is said to be the case for anti-aliasing, which is a setting that you can turn off when you’re playing games. Many people aren’t even aware that this is an option, let alone know whether to turn it on or off. There are also different types of anti-aliasing to be aware of as well.

So, what should you do with the anti-aliasing setting when you’re playing a video game on your monitor, and what effect will it have? Lets look into the situation in more depth to find out.

Should you have Anti-Aliasing on or off?

In short, you should switch Anti-aliasing on if you’re trying to get the best possible picture that you can get, and you’re playing a game in single player mode. If you want the best chance of winning a competitive game online, then turning anti-aliasing off is a good idea.

This explains what you should do, but it doesn’t exactly explain why you should do it. To do this, we’re first going to have a look at what anti-aliasing even is.

What is anti-aliasing?

Okay, so when you’re playing a video game or watching the television, it’s going to appear to you as one whole image. But to create that image, there’s actually millions of pixels on the screen there presenting the image.

This is true for a 1080p resolution display or more – 1920 pixels long, multiplied by 1080 pixels high, equals 2,073600 pixels in total. That’s more than 2 million tiny blocks on your screen that all convey a different colour depending on what you’re doing on your game.

Now, even though there’s millions of these pixels, they’re still square blocks, which mean that they don’t go at a diagonal angle at all – they only go horizontally and vertically. So if something diagonal runs through the screen, it might end up looking very blocky – like when you zoom in super close to a photo. We refer to this as aliasing.

So, what can you do to get rid of the aliasing in your game? Well, this is where anti-aliasing comes in. Instead of having the image on your screen look blocky, anti-aliasing works to make the edges of the object on screen appear to be a lot smoother.

It does this by using the opposing backgrounds colour to work with the pixel and tries to blend the two together. So, if your character is white, and the background behind them is black, then anti-aliasing will work to make the edges of your character blend into the black background with grey colouring.

Anti-aliasing at its simplest is just a technique to smooth out the image on your display. It is adjusted as part of your software, as opposed to something like the type of monitor you’re using, which comes down to your hardware.

Do I need anti-aliasing with a 4k monitor?

Often, people say that nowadays there’s less and less of a need for anti-aliasing as we’re getting monitors and TVs that have a higher resolution.

A general rule of thumb is that with more resolution, the less need there is for anti-aliasing. This is because the objects on your screen have enough pixels in them that the edges of the object will already be quite smooth. However, this does definitely depend on the size of your screen.

For example, if you have a small 22 inch monitor screen that had 4k resolution, and you’re playing from a pretty good distance away, then you’re less likely to see if the edges aren’t that smooth. And therefore, there’s less of a need for anti-aliasing.

However, if you’ve got a 4k resolution on a larger 32 or 40 inch screen, then you’re far more likely to be able to see the blocky edges of the objects on your screen – it’s often more noticeable in people and characters that you’re playing with. In this case, you might want to turn anti-aliasing on to make the image being displayed smoother and better.

Types of Anti-aliasing

Whilst you might not think there would be other types, there are actually variations of anti-aliasing out there that are pretty different to one another. This includes;


This is the original form of anti-aliasing. It’s really good and works well to smooth the edges of your object, but it takes up a lot of power, which is one reason why some choose not to use it, as it can affect performance.

CSAA is Nvidia’s own adaption of this form of anti-aliasing, and EQAA is AMD’s version. They remain pretty similar to the original. So whilst the image quality is very high with supersampling, it’s too computationally demanding to still be used.


Another popular for of AA, this is sort of a compromise between processing power and smoothness. It uses a lot less processing power than SSAA, and this is one of the reasons why it’s pretty commonly used. However, you do sacrifice some image quality in comparison.

MSAA only really makes the edges smoother where necessary, and it’s a common alternative to supersampling. Coverage sampling anti-aliasing (CSAA) is a variant of MSAA.


This is a different form of AA, and which is designed to be extremely efficient. It uses look up tables to eventually smooth the image that’s displayed on your screen, and it’s a good way to get rid of jagged edges.


Relatively new when compared to some of the other AA methods used here, it’s essentially a variation of MSAA. It can definitely help with smooth edges, and also with flickering on your screen too. It’s a mix of temporal anti-aliasing and hardware anti-aliasing.


For those looking for the best image possible, then you could consider using FXAA. It takes up a lot of processing power, but sometimes it worth that in exchange for fps and performance. It stands for fast approximate anti-aliasing.


In conclusion, it’s pretty clear to see the difference between having anti-aliasing on and off. At the end of the games, it will really come down to personal preference as to whether you have this setting turned on or off, much like your decision about what to do with motion blur.

Although it doesn’t make a massive difference, it can definitely have an effect on your gameplay. So, it’s worth trying both out to see which you prefer.

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About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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