Tweak Your Graphics Card for Gaming

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nVidia Control Panels

Now let's take a look at the nVidia and AMD control panels. If you have an nVidia graphics board, open the nVidia graphics control panel by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting nVidia Control Panel from the context menu.

You should use the Windows control panel only if the game doesn't offer the appropriate built-in settings--which happens often with antialiasing. nVidia's control panel has two different antialiasing settings, one for standard multisampling antialiasing and the other for transparency antialiasing.

Though you can enable them separately, there's really no point to turning on transparency antialiasing if you don't have standard antialiasing enabled.

First set the antialiasing mode, then turn on the setting.

One interesting option in Antialiasing Mode is the 'Enhance the application setting' mode. What this does is turn on CSAA for games that support multisampling antialiasing but don't have explicit settings for CSAA. If that seems a little confusing, it is.

CSAA essentially allows you to add an antialiasing level (say, 8X) over the in-game level, and to obtain that level of image quality without the performance hit of full 8X multisampling antialiasing (MSAA). It's a little arcane, but it's worth experimenting with if you have the time and inclination.

Transparency antialiasing reduces jaggies for transparent textures. Frequently, when you turn on standard antialiasing, textures that include transparent elements--a chain-link fence, for example--may reduce those jagged effects for distant objects, but the fence will still have jagged edges.

Setting the nVidia transparency antialiasing.

nVidia also allows you to set game profiles explicitly. Click the Program Settings tab, and you'll be greeted with a drop-down menu that permits you to set parameters for specific titles. What you can do here is leave the global settings for stuff like anisotropic filtering and antialiasing to Application controlled, and then set overrides for specific game titles.

It's like having an in-game control panel, only you set it in the nVidia panel. This approach is especially useful if you want to set aggressive image-quality settings for older titles that are very fast on your system while allowing newer titles to be managed by their in-game settings.

Adjust your control panel settings only for specific games.

This screen is a little confusing at first--everything seems to read 'Use global setting' or 'Not supported for this application'. However, each setting that is supported is actually a drop-down box that allows you to change the setting. When you run the game, nVidia's driver enables that setting for that game only.

Next: AMD Graphics Control Panel

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