Image Quality

For our IQ testing I used the built in screenshot function that HL2 has (default is F5).  I picked out some areas that showed bad quality without AA and AF and then saw what each card did to correct it in 4xAA 8xAF modes. 

Half-Life 2 – Antialiasing Quality

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 163

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 164

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This beginning section of the “d1_trainstation_02” map clearly shows some line problems resulting in aliasing along the wall corner and inside the windows. 

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 165

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 166

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Both cards cleaned up the mess very well leaving a great image quality for 1024×768 resolution.

Half-Life 2 – Anisotropic Filtering Quality

To test AF quality I chose an outdoor scene with a lot of light that allows us to see for a distance along the ground.  Here I chose just outside of the actual trainstation on the same map.

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 167

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 168

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Pay attention to the white lines and the area of road between them for quality enhancements with 8xAF turned on. 

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 169

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 170

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On both sets of white lines in the road, the detail has increased tremendously in the texture.  The area of cobblestone to the left side of the screen also gets significantly less blurry.  I honestly am not able to find any place where the two images are rendered differently enough to call one card better than the other. 

Half-Lif 2 – Water Quality

Finally, I just wanted to point out an area of interest to me, and that was the water quality.  Taking a shot from the “d1_canals_09” map, right at the beginning, gave me a clear view of what I was recognizing. 

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 171

Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 172

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Notice in the reflection of the hill that is on the water that the aliased edges of the hill also appear on the water and kind of take away from the effects the water shaders are doing to IQ. 

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Half-Life 2: Performance Testing - Graphics Cards 174

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Looking at these shots, you notice there isn’t any aliasing on the hill anymore (or at least it is greatly reduced) and the water reflection doesn’t have it either.  What it does show is a much different picture where in the water ripples are accurately portraying a reflection.  This is one instance in which turning on AA and AF can have an improvement on gaming quality and experiences not just on edges and lines. 

Overall, I would say that both NVIDIA and ATI are doing a damn fine job of rendering the HL2 engine, and I couldn’t find any noticeable differences in image quality between the two cards.

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