Specs Dictionary

This dictionary defines all the confusing game graphics settings terminology, including anti-aliasing, v-sync, tessellation, anisotropic filtering, and more. Reading this guide will assist viewers in optimizing their game settings for the best FPS.

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Glossaries

Term Definition
Anisotropic Filtering

Anisotropic Filtering is a type of texture filtering (see: Texture Fill-Rate) that is often listed alongside bilinear and trilinear filtering techniques. Texture filtering is a process through which game graphics are modified to improve smoothness of objects and ensure textures are proportionate to the screen's viewing angle. For example, a road leading to a vanishing point would require a more trapezoidal application of textures to the surface to ensure the road's dashed lines are not skewed with viewing distance (if using a square or oblique application).

Author: Steve Burke
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Level of Detail

Whether explicit or behind-the-scenes, all major 3D game titles use “Levels of Detail” for their render output, sometimes listed as “LOD.” This is usually a setting that gamers have no control over, though it sometimes makes an appearance in .ini files or game settings. Nonetheless, LOD has profound impact on game performance and, when implemented correctly, can substantially optimize performance for lower-end hardware. We'll explain this in more depth below.

Author: Steve Burke
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Screen Tearing

Screen tearing is a frame rendering phenomenon that creates a jarring user experience. Screen tearing is different from screen stuttering, and the two phrases cannot be interchanged; that said, the two are related in that they often occur in opposition. “Screen tearing” specifically refers to an instance where the GPU has begun drawing the next frame while the current frame is still displayed, resulting in a horizontal shear in the visual output between the old and new frames. A screenshot is provided below for example.

Author: Steve Burke
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Stuttering

 Frame stuttering is separate from Screen Tearing, though the two are often used in close proximity to one another. Frame stuttering occurs when the display is anticipating a new frame to be delivered from the GPU, but the GPU misses its mark (processes the frame too slowly), and thus must wait for the next cycle before pushing the new data to the display. When this happens, the display is forced to redraw the previous frame, resulting in two instances of the same piece of information (stuttering). This occurs when V-Sync is enabled.

Author: Steve Burke
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Texture Resolution

Texture quality is generally representative of the actual resolution (in pixels) of textures mapped to objects. Higher resolution textures result in significantly deeper details, but are also abusive on VRAM and video processing hardware. For instance, 4K & 8K texture packs exist as mods for Skyrim, each adding far more detail to objects (like wood grain, dirt and grit, etc.); such texture packs are also a massive drain on system resources and should be used sparingly.

Author: Steve Burke
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V-Sync

V-Sync (vertical synchronization) ties the GPU's framerate output to the refresh rate (frequency) of the display, which resolves screen tearing, but introduces stuttering. With a 60Hz display, this would force an FPS of 60, meaning the display will anticipate a frame precisely every 16ms. If the GPU misses this timing requirement (takes too long drawing the frame), the display will repeat the previous frame. This eliminates the chance of “tearing” by restricting the display only to drawing frames every refresh interval, but can cause stuttering when the 16ms window is missed (the display will repeat the previous frame).

Author: Steve Burke
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