Image Quality settings versus rendering quality
Image Quality settings
Within the game you can select four quality modes (or customize yourself), all settings have a direct effect on image quality from textures, shaders AA and AF. The four modes are low quality, medium quality, high quality and very high quality.
Our primary test will be based on Very High quality mode, as a PC gamer we think and expect you to use that mode. if you accept a lesser quality mode for graphics, we assume you are a console gamer -- riiiiight?
With the images scaled down it's hard to see the intricate quality changes, but even so you'll quickly notice the more extensive differences:
Very High Quality mode
High Quality mode
Medium Quality mode
Low Quality mode
The effect on both image quality and performance is dramatic. If we take a somewhat dated GeForce GTX 460 being a very mainstream graphics card we see the following results:
Now dropping back from Very High Quality mode towards High quality mode will allow you to play the game with a mainstream graphics card in 1920x1080/1200. Being an RTS, stuff like Anti-Aliasing matters less IMHO, to you might want to switch it off if you seek performance.
And once you pass high-quality mode the image quality will drop fast though. At low quality mode you feel yourself being in the Sim City graphics quality era again.
But let's startup the actual measurements...