NVIDIA Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA) Performance on GTX 970

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New NVIDIA Driver Enables MFAA for Maxwell GPUs

NVIDIA-MFAA

NVIDIA today released GeForce Game Ready Driver 344.75 WHQL drivers and with the driver comes support for Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA). MFAA is an implementation of Anti-Aliasing (AA) that NVIDIA hopes will replace MSAA in the years to come. MSAA is one of the oldest and most popular forms of AA. MSAA removes jagged edges that increases graphic quality, however it does cause a decrease in system performance. NVIDIA thought that this is something that could be improved and came up with a new solution on the new Maxwell GPU series. That means MFAA requires GeForce GTX 980 and 970 ‘Maxwell’ GPU powered desktop cards or GeForce GTX 980M and 970M mobile GPU’s to run as the new AA technology needs the latest hardware to run on.

“Previous-generation GPUs include fixed sample patterns for anti-aliasing (AA) that are stored in Read Only Memory (ROM). When gamers selected 2x or 4x MSAA for example, fixed sample patterns were used. With Maxwell, we have introduced programmable sample positions for rasterization that are stored on Random Access Memory (RAM), creating opportunities for new, more flexible, more inventive AA techniques that uniquely address the challenges of modern game engines, such as the increased performance cost of high-quality anti-aliasing. Maxwell’s new RAM-based sample position technology can still be programmed with standard MSAA and TXAA patterns, but now the driver or application may also load the RAM with custom positions that are free to vary from frame to frame, or even within a frame.” – NVIDIA

NVIDIA says that MFAA is able to render graphics of 4x MFAA quality with a performance hit equal to that of running 2x MSAA while having the image quality equal to that of 4x MSAA.  So, MFAA is said to deliver a 30% performance boost while maintaining smooth, high-quality edges by alternating sample calculations across each frame and each pixel. This means that users can increase the graphics quality without reducing their frame rate.  Confused? Here is a great video where Tom Petersen from NVIDIA goes over MFAA and how NVIDIA is alternating AA sample patterns both temporally and spatially to give you the performance you want when gaming with the best image quality possible.

The one major drawback for MFAA is that only a handful of game titles support MFAA. Right now there are 20 game titles that support MFAA. NVIDIA has plans to expand the supported titles with future driver updates.  At time of release, the games that support MFAA will be:

MFAA Supported Games as of November 17, 2014
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Dirt Showdown Hitman: Absolution
Assassin’s Creed: Unity F1 2013 Just Cause 2
Battlefield 4 F1 2014 Saints Row IV
Civilization V Far Cry 3 Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Civilization: Beyond Earth Far Cry: Blood Dragon Titanfall
Crysis 3 GrID 2 Wargame: European Escalation
DiRT 3 GRID Autosport

We were shocked to find out that Far Cry isn’t on the MFAA supported games list and even double checked that it wasn’t a mistake. We hope NVIDIA quickly updates the MFAA supported game list soon!

Enabling MFAA is extremely simple as it takes a single change in the NVIDIA Control Panel to enable MFAA.  Once it has been enabled, any supported game configured with 2x MSAA or greater will automatically use MFAA.  Eventually NVIDIA has plans to integrate MFAA into the GeForce Experience and has it as an option in the Optimal Playable Settings profile.

NVIDIA-MFAA-Enable

Now that we know a little about MFAA, let’s take a look at some of our performance testing.

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  • Zach B.

    While the screenshots are appreciated, they are kinda useless at 645×363. Would love uncompressed samples of at least 1920×1080 to better compare them in their more “natural” state.

    • Adrian Alberto Rojas Fortique

      Well in reality since this is pretty much the same as old AMD’s temporal AA a screenshot wouldn’t be helpful, you need a gif or animated png. The rate of change of the gif or png should be set to around the same as the average fps produced ingame so you can appreciate if it is good enough for an actual AA effect or if instead it produces the effect of shimmering borders.

      • Seth Hoke

        How is this the same as AMDs temporal AA? Its just a different method of MSAA, as in it doesn’t sample from a uniform predefined grid. Its more random, cheaper, and does a pretty good job.

        • Adrian Alberto Rojas Fortique

          It is the same because it moves through the same set of differently sample patterns, let’s say that all even frames go through sampling pattern A, all the odds go through sampling pattern B, the mix that our brains do of staring 1/60th of a second of sampling pattern A followed by a 1/60th of sampling pattern B is what gives the extra Antialiasing effect, you would do well reading very carefully how this works because yes it is the exact same thing, and look up all the negatives of this “new” MFAA and you will realize that it has the exact same negatives. Google some really old tom’s hardware articles if you are interested in the negatives.

        • Adrian Alberto Rojas Fortique

          Btw it isn’t more random, it is exactly the same as the other one, to do MFAA 4X you take your MSAA 4x sampling positions, and use it 2 and 2, a set is used for odd frames the other for even frames, you need a minimum framerate for the effect to work, you need vsynch, and can’t screenshot it since it is a dynamic effect.

          Also just as in the old version you have to directly program it game to game.