Google Earth V4 – New Terrain Detail Option

Terrain Quality in Google EarthYesterday’s story on Ayers Rock in Australia helped me realize (thanks to some commenters to the story) that there’s a nice new feature in Google Earth V4. In the story, I was mentioning the detail level of the terrain was too low to see the shape of Ayers Rock (or Uluru). Two commenters pointed out that Google Earth V4 has a new option in the “Tools->Options->View” pane called “Terrain Quality“. Pushing the slider to the right will increase your terrain quality level (more detail for the terrain). NOTE: this is enhancing the 3D terrain, NOT the quality of the satellite/aerial photos. The drawback to this is that since you will then have more detail in your 3D model for terrain, you will slow down your graphics update rate. If you have a lot of memory and a good graphics card, you will probably find the maximum quality is acceptable. However, if you load lots of models and see an impact, you should remember to set the terrain level back to normal.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Michael Schaap says:

    Although this setting does seem to improve the accuracy with which the terrain is drawn – especially in the distance – it doesn’t seem to make a difference for the granularity.
    See for an example of a fjord running up the mountains, for instance…
    – Michael

  2. FreeTheTrail says:

    Michael, when you say “granularity”, do you mean “accuracy”? This Terrain Quality slider does improve granularity; in fact, that is exactly what it does Try different settings with this option while viewing the Grand Canyon from a tilted perspective.
    The placemark you included indicates a lack of accuracy in the terrain database or imagery database.

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