What is GPU Scaling? GPU Scaling Explained For Beginners

GPU scaling is an important feature that can make the difference between your monitor displaying all of the content of an output versus showing a distorted mess. Problems like overscan (where parts of the video output aren’t visible since they are “off screen”) and underscan (the native resolution of the video output makes it too small for the screen) are often caused by faulty scaling techniques. GPU scaling can fix this. 

What is GPU Scaling?

While pretty much every TV or monitor worth its salt will come with its own scaling mechanism, this can often be inaccurate compared to letting your GPU do the scaling. A TV or monitor that doesn’t have its own scaling technology will have to rely on a GPU to do the heavy lifting, so it’s important that you take advantage of the option by correctly setting your GPU’s driver software. This can only be done by attaching the monitor directly to the graphics card adapter via DVI or HDMI cable.

What does GPU Scaling Do?

GPU scaling has a lot of benefits, especially when it comes to playing games that weren’t originally made for a 16:9 aspect ratio. GPU scaling will allow the monitor resolution to display the video output in a number of ways, using various scaling options. These include adding black bars horizontally or vertically or stretching the image resolution to fit the TV or monitors aspect ratio. The “black bars” option simulates widescreen letterbox format by adding black borders to mask the unused portion of the screen. The “stretched image” option doesn’t use black bars or black borders at all: it simply forces the graphics to stretch (or shrink) in such a way that the screen is filled by the entire image. Depending on the screen resolution versus the native resolution of the source image, the result can be pretty disappointing. Such stretching isn’t recommended if you care for image quality, though the option is there. GPU scaling in regards to old games that don’t support arbitrary resolutions is vitally important for those that use 16:10 aspect ratio monitors. The object is to maintain the settings that allow the GPU to properly display the output in a way that will not stretch the image in a way that ruins the video quality.

The only downside to GPU scaling is the introduction of a slight input lag. This is due to the extra processing time taken to render the image by the GPU. Provided you have a decent graphics driver with a high refresh rate, this input lag is largely unnoticeable and the benefits far outweigh the negative.  

How do I use AMD GPU Scaling?

On AMD cards the GPU scaling setting can be found within the “Display” tab in the Radeon Crimson driver. All you have to do is select the “GPU Scaling” button for the monitor or TV you wish to use the setting on. After a blank screen, the settings option will take effect and GPU scaling will be enabled.

What about NVidia GPU Scaling?

For NVidia users, open the NVidia Control Panel and go to the “Adjust Desktop Size and Position” tab in the side panel. You should then see your monitors listed and a tab underneath that says “Scaling”. There you will find a drop down box that allows you to set the scaling to be done by the GPU or display. Set this drop-down menu to GPU and apply the setting. GPU scaling will now be enabled and you will be able to choose the settings for three different ways for the GPU to scale the video output.

GPU scaling is often missed when trying to troubleshoot issues such as overscan and underscan; it is a vitally important setting that, when set correctly, will make viewing content properly at any aspect ratio and resolution a much more enjoyable experience.

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