Anisotropic Filtering is a setting in the NVIDIA Control Panel (sometimes also in-game), which is known to few gamers and is therefore rarely set correctly for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO). During my active time, I always dealt with exactly these rather unknown technical settings to make sure that I at least had no disadvantage in 1 on 1.
Before we go deeper, I’ll give you a general answer to the question of whether it makes sense to use this setting in CSGO.
Referring to benchmarks from the gaming community, enabling anisotropic filtering in CSGO is generally recommended for casual gamers. The image sharpness is greatly improved at longer distances. The performance losses in FPS are in the low single-digit range.
We have already dealt with various setting options (shader cache, anti-aliasing, dlss etc.) on our blog, and here you can find our previous articles on these topics.
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What Is Anisotropic Filtering In The Context Of Gaming?
First of all, it must be said that there are two ways to set the anisotropic filtering:
- in the NVIDIA Control Panel
- in the in-game menu
The default setting in the NVIDIA control panel is “application controlled.” Thus, the in-game settings take effect, and most games, especially FPS games, have the corresponding setting options. CSGO is not one of these. However, you have the option to make the corresponding settings for these games in the NVIDIA control panel.
In in-game menus, you will find this setting abbreviated as AF, and with several options to choose from, you must know what it does before you can go and change the settings as per your will.
Anisotropic filtering has to do with the textures, making an item more realistic in the gaming experience.
However, textures have an issue that if no filtering is applied to them, the closer objects look great, but the ones in the distance don’t follow this pattern. This affects the gameplay.
Anisotropic filtering is a more advanced mode of filtering than bilinear and tri-linear filtering because this mode reduces the aliasing within textures.
As a result, distant objects in CSGO seem much more high-quality, particularly when viewed at extreme angles.
For example, if you are enjoying a flight simulator experience, AF will assist in making the distant part of the runway appear clearer while landing the plane. If AF was not enabled, the players would have faced extreme difficulty identifying items located farther away.
While texture filtering might not be as demanding as other visual quality improvement techniques, AF is still a GPU guzzling feature. Thus as you crank up its value, performance might take a hit.
Depending upon your hardware, you might or might not be able to feel the drop in frame rates, but higher values of video memory are used when AF is enabled as compared to when it isn’t.
So, in simple words and to summarize anisotropic filtering in the context of gaming, without the AF feature enabled in games, distant items appear blurry. Still, when you increase the value of AF, they become clearer.
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How Much Does Anisotropic Filtering Affect Performance In CSGO?
First-person shooter games are quick knockout sessions in which either you shoot down your enemies in split seconds or are gunned down by them.
In such gaming sessions, enemies are located at all distances and attack you from every direction.
It is vital to have a clear image of other players that are not just located close to you but of those as well that are located far away.
As mentioned earlier, the objects and items located far away seem blurry with Anisotropic filtering turned off. This can have a significant impact on how you participate in CSGO.
Imagine a situation in which you perform extremely well by knocking out all players located close to you.
However, as AF is turned off, you have no idea what is happening far away from you.
Even if you decide to scope out the enemies that are shooting at you from a distance, you will have little to no success as the image will be blurry, and thus you won’t be able to identify the enemies quickly.
Now imagine the same situation in which you can quickly distinguish enemy players from other objects located far away from you.
In this situation, you will not only be able to save yourself from such opponents in FPS games quickly but will also be able to eliminate them promptly.
So, in other words, players’ performance in first-person shooter games varies a lot on whether AF is turned on or not.
If AF is turned on, the players’ performance is usually much better than the case in which it is turned off.
Of course, turning on AF doesn’t mean that it will improve your performance and suddenly win all your games. But it can help in some games with long distances.
Does Anisotropic Filtering Cause Input Lag In CSGO?
Anisotropic filtering is a resource-hungry process. It is a guzzler when it comes to using GPU memory. If the hardware setup has limited VRAM, the input lag will increase as you increase the AF settings.
The latency might mean the difference between winning your sessions or losing them altogether.
So be careful if your hardware is not upper class.
Since players’ reaction time in CSGO is in fractions of a second, this small delay in input can be enough to ruin a perfect gaming session.
It is also pertinent to mention that the input lag due to AF depends directly upon the setting of Anisotropic filtering selected by a player.
So, if you have a mediocre hardware setup, you might not have the leverage of cranking up the value of AF to 8x or 16x. However, when you select the 4x setting for AF, it might work perfectly.
Thus, you can use different AF settings during first-person shooter sessions to determine the maximum load that your GPU can bear.
I recommend starting with a lower value, and if you don’t see any input lag, you can keep increasing its value to the point where you begin to feel the lag.
When you feel that lag has started to appear, revert the settings to the previous value, as this is the maximum load that your GPU can withstand.
Activating the anisotropic filtering causes the highest input lag, the difference between 2x and 16x filtering is then not so high in comparison. So if you already notice an input lag with 2x anisotropic filtering, you should basically turn off the anisotropic filtering. After that, your system will only work with the bi- and trilinear texture filtering.
Anisotropic filtering is not nearly as resource-consuming as anti-aliasing, for example, and if you have a good graphics card, it won’t cause any seriously noticeable input lag.
Which Anisotropic Filtering Is Best For CSGO?
To know which Anisotropic Filtering is best for FPS games, we first need to know the common AF options that gaming titles provide to players. There are commonly four such options which are:
There is no hard and fast rule as to which value of Anisotropic filtering is the best for first-person shooter games.
While it is true that the higher the value of AF is, the better is the image quality. However, it would be an overstatement to say that you can just beef up the value of AF to 16x for getting the best results.
This might be true in utopia, but you are limited by your hardware options in real-life situations.
If you have a high-end GPU like the RTX with lots and lots of VRAM, increasing the value of AF to 16x is the best answer.
However, if you are using a low-end GPU and just want to have the best gaming experience in CSGO with this limited hardware, you will need to tweak the settings a bit to get the most out of your first-person shooter gaming sessions.
You can randomly select the value of AF during different sessions and see what works best for you.
It is also pertinent to mention that selecting the same value of AF for two different gaming titles will have different results.
For example, if you choose the value of AF as 2x in Call of Duty & CSGO, you won’t get the same results.
This is because different gaming titles have been developed in different manners, and thus choosing one value doesn’t generate the same results for all of them.
So, in simple words, there is no single value of AF that can be termed as the best for all first-person shooter games, and it all comes down to the gaming title under consideration and the hardware in question.
Final Thoughts on AF for CSGO
In conclusion, in games with large distances, it can be useful to take a closer look at anisotropic filtering, provided that your system supports it. Unfortunately, as with almost all settings, you will have to make sacrifices with a weaker system.
For example, in games like Valorant, where only melee combat is involved, and the graphics are very clean, anisotropic filtering won’t make much of a difference. It may even lead to unnecessary input lag.
But in games like Call of Duty or PUBG, a test of the different settings is certainly appropriate for ambitious gamers.
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Masakari – moep, moep and out!
Former pro gamer Andreas "Masakari" Mamerow has been an active gamer for over 35 years, more than 20 of them in the competitive scene (Esports). In CS 1.5/1.6, PUBG and Valorant, he has led and coached teams at the highest level. Old dogs bite better...