9 Amazing Minecraft Shaders

Below, you will find image comparison if you don't want to waste 10 minutes

I recently decided to get a Minecraft Shader to get my blocky world experience to the next level. Shaders basically add, as the name implies, better shadows and lightning effects into the game, though most of them also have several other visual improvements and features. The drawback is that they have huge performance impacts, with the simpler one (with not all features enabled) decreasing FPS in half.

While trying to figure out which would be the best cost/effect (better looking/less performance impact), I decided to properly compare them. So I made a map with rails and a redstone timed system to switch time and weather, as well common affected blocks (lights, water, lava, reflections, sky, trees and so on) to make a proper comparison while recording the FPS reduction. This article is my observations and conclusions based on my system and most recent versions (this comparison was made in September 2017). 

Things to consider when checking which Shader looks better for you:

  • How the shadows and lightning look (too dark? too bright?)
  • How water looks (some are too transparent)
  • How rain looks (special focus on how the rain fog looks - some are too near, other don't have one)
  • How night looks (too dark?)
  • Sky and other minor options

Below is a list from the more resource hungry (more FPS reduction) to the least resource hungry (exactly half the FPS from my vanilla + optifine experience), then the images of all shaders together for quick comparison.

Vanilla Minecraft (with Optifine active)

Highlights to check: Distant terrain, lightning, lava, running water, water, sky, beacon, rail and redstone lamp (turns on as the rail cart passes). On the video mentioned above, the video starts showing the Shader settings, and a part of the terrain under the bridge for each shader, and a firework launch at the end.

9. Robobo1221's Shaders v7 high. (site)

The slower candidate at 24% performance, Robobo1221's doesn't display fireworks properly. Clouds are simple but customized and no lens-flare. A very positive aspect, however, is the water quality. Not too transparent.

8. KUDA Shaders 6.5.56. (site)

At 26% performance, KUDA shaders doesn't quite deliver much improvement compared to most Shaders. It doesn't display fireworks properly, have no customized clouds nor flare. Shadows are also not rendered quite close (or, more specific, it has an intense shadow effect near the user, making the lack of thereof shadow at mid-distance quite noticeable). While the water is quite transparent, the rain was quite nice.

7. Chocapic13's V7 Ultra RC1. (site)

While still a beta release, Chocapic13 manages not to be the slower nor weaker at 31% performance. While visually nice with custom clouds and flare, it is missing out on fireworks compatibility, the transparent water and the insanely dark night are serious drawbacks. To make things worse, there are almost no settings to choose, even on this "Ultra" version.

6. CaptTatsu's BSL Standard 6.1.1. (site)

Certainly the most visually impressive, at 34% performance, BSL has almost an across-the-board top quality, and is the first in this list to properly display fireworks. The most impressive feature (which might be the deal maker) is a customizable world curvature (you will notice a mild round horizon on the screens on top, and the two structures are slightly angled. This is a weak effect compared to the default setting, and you can go as far as get almost a sphere visual). A mild drawback is a noticeable too near fog on rain, but there are plenty of settings to tweak that. If you are up to the extra performance impact, it also feature some amazing clouds.

5. SEUS 11.0. (site)

SEUS is quite famous, and there is a reason why. Very feature and settings rich, and with a good enough performance at 36%, SEUS delivers across the board quality (though I seem to not have found lens flare). It has a somewhat blurred FoV which might be configurable but it misses me now if it is. The biggest draw back, and serious deal breaker, is a very weak compatibility with video drivers and manufacturers, being known to have a lot of artifacts (green/yellow/purple tints). I bumped into it several times and you will see it happening on the video when I tried to enable water caustics (refracted reflex of light sources). It can be fixed with finding the right drivers and which settings work for you, but any game, mod or driver update can break that.

4. Super Shaders. (site)

Super Shaders is actually really super, managing a nice 40% performance and delivering a good quality and compatibility. It has a visually great rain effect and good looking water, and is the first to not have any serious noticeable drawback. 

3. Sildurs Vibrant 1.164 High. (site)

Getting into the top 3 material, Sildurs delivers a very good performance at 42% and also a very good visual quality. It is not as good as BSL but it is near, and the extra performance is a nice addition. The rain is particularly notable. Unfortunately, it has issues with fireworks, and the water is too transparent for my liking.

2. ZiipZaaps V2. (site)

At an astonishing 48% performance, ZiipZaaps impressed with high FPS. It has certainly the best rain effect among all shaders tested, with a very fancy blue blur at a distance. 

1. Lagless Shaders Standard 1.10.2. (site)

It might not have the best features and visual effects, but it sure is optimized. Delivering 50% performance when compared to vanilla, Lagless lives up to its name. It displays fireworks, has custom clouds (although it also displays the basic clouds) and good enough effects, even though it is missing lens flares (if you care). If you want just the fastest Shader, this is the one you want.

Comparison across all shaders

A "side by side" (more like under by under) comparison of all. Also check the video.










The Test parameters

Minecraft was set for 16 render distance, and all optifine options where enabled on "Fancy". MipMap was left on 1 and both AA and AF disabled (Shaders require AF disabled anyway, and AA on FullHD displays have low impact, not to mention it is kind Minecraft's style to have jagged edges right?)

My spec at the time of comparison is an i7-3770 @ 3.4Ghz, 8Gb RAM, with Minecraft running on a SSD and a GTX 750Ti OC 10%, on WIndows 10 64 bits. I usually play pretty ok with over 30 FPS on 32 Render distance, but for this comparison, knowing I would get a FPS drop, the render distance was kept at 16.

nVidia Experience was used to record, so all FPS's have about 3~5% decrease compared to when I am not recording.

Baseline average FPS was 82 with over 90 FPS spikes and 75 slowdowns (usually during rain). Most Shaders had some features that can be disabled active to keep them similar and with a good amount of effects, so it is possible to get better performance from most of them. Some noticeable active features I remember that can be disabled are:

  • 1024 Shadow detail (most allow 512)
  • Water Reflection
  • Water Refraction
  • Water Caustics
  • Custom sky
  • Bloom
  • Normal map (Optifine itself can disable it)
  • 1x Shadow detail (Optifine itself can reduce this)
  • Lens Flare
  • Basic Ambient Occlusion

Disclamer

Remember: this is not an extensive list, there are other shaders available, and this list contains only shaders that can be installed by Optifine. Compatibility for your system or future Minecraft versions are subject to change, obviously.

A few other shaders worth testing (I might include here but won't redo the video): SFLP (Super for low end PC's), CUDA.