Should I Use Anisotropic Filtering for FPS Games? (2023)

In the gaming scene, there are always two types of gamers. Some don’t have a clue about software and hardware and just play the game, and others are constantly tinkering with their system and trying to squeeze every slight advantage out of it. I belong to the latter. It has always bothered me that an opponent might have a technical advantage in 1 vs. 1, so I have always looked at every possible setting and spent a lot of time researching and testing to get the most out of my existing hardware.

Of course, the correct settings don’t make you a superstar, it’s your talent, skills, and experience that do, but the thought that my system is running optimally, and therefore it, depends solely on my abilities and those of the opponent, has always given me a better feeling and more self-confidence because everything that can positively influence my performance I have done and I knew that I am therefore hard to beat.

Today we will talk about the anisotropic filtration setting in the NVIDIA Control Panel.

Anisotropic filtering is a technique used in video games to improve image quality.

We have already dealt with various setting options on our blog, and here you can find our previous articles on these topics.

Let’s go!

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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:

  1. in the NVIDIA Control Panel
  2. 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. However, if this is not the case, you have the option to make the corresponding settings for these games in the NVIDIA control panel.

anisotropic filtering nvidia control panel
If you want your game to use its settings, select Application-controlled

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 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 FPS Games?

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 the game.

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 FPS Games?

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 first-person shooters 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 FPS Games?

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:

  • 2x
  • 4x
  • 8x
  • 16x

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 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 & Valorant, 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

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.
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