All modern 3D video cards support some form of hardware-based "anti-aliasing" for games. The idea is to render the frame bigger than the screen resolution, and then downsample it to get smoother images.

NVIDIA has a small description here.

Now, this might be expensive to do in a game (where the video card has a lot of processing to do), but on a desktop environment (think of Windows or any Linux graphical frontend (KDE, Gnome, LMDE, XFCE, etc.) performance shouldn't be a problem.

Therefore, one could then disable all software-based aliasing, and let the video card do the job. I guess that in several cases it would look better.

While this seems technically feasible, I couldn't find anywhere how to do this.

So, any ideas if this is possible? If not, why not?

  • I would say that any rendering on the desktop that could be improved by aliasing is already taken care of. i.e. you wouldn't see any difference at all even if aliasing (hypothetically) was enabled. You would only unnecessarily be taxing the gpu – Jasjeev Singh Feb 15 '13 at 16:17
  • I'd say it could still be improved, just look at tons of Windows XP out there (yes it's old, but still in use, and no, it doesn't look great). Or in case of Linux I've often seen issues like "application xyz won't render fonts correctly", forcing you to e.g. tweak configuration files. I know this is perhaps a bit utopic, but it seems a hardware-based solution provided by the graphics driver would work regardless of the underlying system. Finally, couldn't "unnecessarily taxing gpu" be seen as "conveniently untaxing the Cpu"? – E.Z. Feb 15 '13 at 18:55
  • I don't know about Linux but what do you find unpleasant about Windows XP? Like the animations? – Jasjeev Singh Feb 15 '13 at 19:26
  • In a way, since Vista everything we saw in Windows is already an actual 3D texture anyway. That Flip3D gimmick truly show the truth. However, to actually benefit from the GPU power the user control must be truly aware of the GPU power. That what WPF was expected to do. As for Linux, it's what they're aiming since the beginning, but lack of standard across already existing window manager just made yet another renderer to worsen the situation – Martheen Cahya Paulo Feb 18 '13 at 10:19

Unfortunately, with the currently available operating systems, you cannot use your GPU ("3d card") to improve the desktop rendering quality. The simple reason for this is that to use GPU and multisampling or supersampling, your OS would need to push the original (or high enough quality) data to the GPU pipeline. For example, the OS and graphics libraries would need to render all vector grachics as vectors, images with higher resolution than your display can render, position all elements with mathematical (subpixel) accuracy etc etc. Currently available operating systems do not do this because of historical reasons.

I'd guess Mac OS X is closest to achieving rendering the whole desktop on GPU with improved quality because their graphics APIs are close enough to required. Such graphics rendering would still need to be supported by 3rd party applications, though. Any 3rd party application designed to push pixels on actual display will not provide enough data for the GPU to improve rendering quality.

In addition, current display technology is still (on average) too poor to render e.g. mathematically correct fonts and we still need fonts that adapt to pixels, instead of rendering mathematically correct letter shapes (modifying fonts to match pixels is called "font hinting"). Once we have around 300 ppi displays for desktop use we can skip adapting fonts to pixels and we're one step closer to GPU accelerated desktops. Until we have high enough display resulution, rendering mathematically correct font shapes will result in somewhat blurred text.

Note that human vision is not limited to "300 dpi" despite what Apple Inc says in their ads. Human vision is limited by combination of distance of viewed object and the size of the viewed object. The "300 dpi" or "300 ppi" is the limit for one distance – if you move your head closer, you need higher display resolution to hit the limit of human vision.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.