PC game graphics options explained

I don’t have a powerful gaming PC, mainly due to the fact that the PS4 is my weapon of choice, but I still like to play a game or two on the old gal on the weekend. When choosing my graphics settings, I normally put everything on medium and hope for the best.

Do I need Anti-Aliasing on? Yes, of course, I mean, it’s there for a reason, right? Why it’s there and what it does, exactly, is another question – one that I might have to use Google to answer.

Thanks to a prompt from GameSpot, I decided to find out what AA does exactly, along with all the other settings in the options menu.

Here is a noob’s guide to graphics settings.


Resolution, in brief, is the number of distinct pixels that can be displayed on your screen.The measurement is usually displayed in width by height, with 1920 x 1080 the HD standard most commonly referenced in modern gaming.

As seen in the image, below, ultra-HD (4K and above) is the current top-end standard. The higher the resolution the better the game will look, and you should set yours as high as possible in-game.

Screen Resolutions - Wikipedia

Screen Resolutions – Wikipedia

Refresh Rate

Refresh rate – also known as the vertical refresh rate – is the number of times in a second that the display updates its buffer. This ties into frame rate, where the refresh rate includes re-drawing the same frame to compensate for the game’s sometimes slower video feed.

Refresh rate is measured in Hz, with 60Hz equalling 60 “refeshes” per second. High refresh rates may result in “visual artefacts” on occasion. The refresh rate setting is a screen option, and you should make sure your screen is at least 60 Hz capable.

Vertical Sync

I know about this one, it stops screen tearing… I think.

Vertical synchronisation (Vsync) is an option that stops the video card from doing anything to display memory until after the monitor has finished its refresh cycle. This is done to prevent “screen tearing” where the display is stopped from showing information from two or more frames in a single screen.

How Vsync works is by ordering the video card to either rapidly copy the off-screen graphics area into the active display (known as double buffering), or switch back and forth between memory areas. You should only turn Vsync on if you experience screen tearing, as the setting often produces lag.

Screen Tearing

Screen Tearing

Anti-Aliasing (AA)

Aliasing is an effect that causes different signals to become indistinguishable when sampled. Basically, distortion. AA gets rid of this effect and makes your game look smoother by blending jagged pixels together. Most games come with multiple levels of AA, and there are also multiple rendering methods within these levels.

  • Multisampling Anti-Aliasing (MSAA)
  • Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA)
  • Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TXAA)

What setting should you choose? Turn up the AA until you start to notice a drop in performance – you will know when you reach it.



Anisotropic Filtering (AF)

This one is a little bit technical. “AF is a method of enhancing the image quality of textures on surfaces of computer graphics that are at oblique viewing angles with respect to the camera where the projection of the texture (not the polygon or other primitive on which it is rendered) appears to be non-orthogonal.”

In basic terms, it reduces blur and preserves detail at extreme viewing angles. Set this one to the max, and see your distant textures how they should be.

Anisotropic Filtering

Anisotropic Filtering

Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO)

SSAO was developed by Crytek and used for the first time in Crysis. The setting affects shadows in a game, and how the depth differences around them are sampled.

Turn this setting onto HBAO+ if the game – and your PC – allows it.

Depth of Field

Depth of field relates to the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene and how sharp or blurry they appear. In some cases you want the entire image sharp, while a blurry background gives you focus on what’s right in front of you.

The hit on performance is not too high, so pick a setting that suits your taste, and eyesight.

Depth of Field

Depth of Field


PhysX is a physics engine that allows for smoother gaming and enhanced effects. It supports rigid body dynamics, soft body dynamics, ragdoll effects, fluid simulation, and cloth simulation.

If you want your game to look really good, turn this on. But, be warned – you need a serious gaming rig to keep performance levels up.


Post-processing works by first rendering a scene into a buffer in the memory of the video card, after which pixel shaders apply filters to the image before displaying it on the screen. This includes effects like bloom and motion blur. This is another performance drainer, and should only be used if your PC can handle it (and if you like motion blur).

Post Processing

Post Processing

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PC game graphics options explained

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