Texture Filtering Image Quality

Texture filtering is always a hot topic when a new GPU is introduced. For the past few years, every new architecture has had a new take on where and how to optimize texture filtering. The community is also very polarized and people can get really fired up about how this company or that is performing an optimization that degrades the user's experience.

The problem is that all 3D graphics is an optimization problem. If GPUs were built to render every detail of every of every scene without any optimization, rather than frames per second, we would be looking at seconds per frame. Despite this, looking at the highest quality texture filtering available is a great place from which to start working our way down to what most people will use.

The good news is that G80 completely eliminates angle dependent anisotropic filtering. Finally we have a return to GeForce FX quality anisotropic filtering. When stacked up against R580 High Quality AF with no optimizations enabled on either side (High Quality mode for NVIDIA, Catalyst AI Disabled for ATI), G80 definitely shines. We can see at 8xAF (left) under NVIDIA's new architecture is able to more accurately filter textures based on distance from and angle to the viewer. On the right, we see ATI's angle independent 16xAF degrade in quality to a point where different texture stages start bleeding into one another in undesirable ways.



ATI G80

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Oddly enough, ATI's 16xAF is more likely to cause shimmering with the High Quality AF box checked than without. Even when looking at an object like a flat floor, we can see the issue pop up in the D3DAFTester. NVIDIA has been battling shimmering issues due to some of their optimizations over the past year or so, but these issues could be avoided through driver settings. There isn't really a way to "fix" ATI's 16x high quality AF issue.



ATI Normal Quality AF ATI High Quality AF

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But, we would rather have angle independent AF than not, so for the rest of this review, we will enable High Quality AF on ATI hardware. This will give us a more fair comparison to G80, even if we still aren't really looking at two bowls of apples. G70 is not able to enable angle independent AF, so we'll be stuck with the rose pattern we've been so familiar with over the past few years.

There is still the question of how much impact optimization has on texture filtering. With G70, disabling optimizations resulted in more trilinear filtering being done, and thus a potential performance decrease. The visual result is minimal in most cases, as trilinear filtering is only really necessary to blur the transition between mipmap levels on a surface.



G70 Normal Quality AF G70 High Quality AF

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On G80, we see a similar effect when comparing default quality to high quality. Of course, with angle independent anisotropic, we will have to worry less about shimmering period, so optimizations shouldn't cause any issues here. Default quality does show a difference in the amount of trilinear filtering being applied, but this does not negatively impact visual quality in practice.



G80 Normal Quality AF G80 High Quality AF

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What's Transparency AA? Turning Optimizations Off
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  • aweigh - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    You can just use the program DX Tweaker to enable Triple Buffering in any D3D game and use your VSYNC with negligable performance impact. So you can play with your VSYNC, a high-res and AA as well. :) Reply
  • aweigh - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    I'm gonna buy an 88 specifically to use 4x4 SuperSampling in games. Why bother with MSAA with a card like that? Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    Supersampling can make textures blurry -- especially very detailed textures.

    And the impact will be much greater with the use of longer more detailed pixel shaders (as the shaders must be evaluated at every sub-pixel in supersample).

    I think transparency / adaptive AA are enough.

    On your previous comment, I don't think we're to the point where we can hit triple buffering, vsync, high levels of AA AND high resolution (2560x1600) without some input lag (triple buffering plus vsync with framerates less than your refresh rate can cause problems).

    If you're talking about enabling all these options on a lower resolution lcd panel, then I can definitely see that as a good use of the hardware. And it might be interesting to look at more numbers with these type of options enabled.

    Thanks for the suggestion.
    Reply
  • aweigh - Saturday, November 11, 2006 - link

    I never knew that about SuperSampling. Is it something similar to Quincux blurring? And would using a negative LOD via RivaTuner/nHancer counteract the effect?

    How about NVIDIA's Digital Sharpness setting in Color Correction? I've found a smidge of sharpening can do wonders to improve overall clarity.

    By the way, when you said Adaptive AA, were you referring to ATI cards?
    Reply
  • Unam - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    Derek,

    Saw your comment regarding the rationale for the test resolution, while I understand your reasoning now, it still begs the question how many of your readers have 30" LCD flat panels?
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    There might not be many out there right now, but it's still the right test platform for G80. We did test down to 1600x1200, so people do have information if they need it.

    But it speaks to who should own an 8800 GTX right now. It doesn't make sense to spend that much money on a part if you aren't going to get anything out of it with your 1280x1024 panel.

    Owners of a 2560x1600 panel will want an 8800 GTX. Owners of an 8800 GTX will want a 2560x1600 panel. Smooth framerates with the ability to enable 4xAA in every game that allowed it is reason enough. People without a 2560x1600 panel should probably wait until prices come down on the 8800 GTX or until games that are able to push the 8800 GTX harder to buy the card.
    Reply
  • Unam - Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - link

    Derek,

    A follow up to testing resolutions, the FPS numbers we see in your articles, are they maximum, minimum or average?
    Reply
  • Unam - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    Who the heck runs 2560x1600? At 4XAA? Come on guys, real world benchmarks please! Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    we did:

    1600x1200, 1920x1440, and even 1280x1024 in Oblivion
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    ....lol, owned. Reply

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