What Is GPU Scaling? Why And When You Need It

With resolutions constantly getting higher and colors popping out more and more, computer graphics/visuals continue to become more realistic each year. However, aspect ratios are in the way of this, as it can make people and objects look like tiny dots from a distance; The wrong aspect ratio will stretch a picture and ruin the quality of it, but GPU scaling can resolve this issue.

 

Exactly What is GPU Scaling?

GPU scaling is a feature that most modern GPUs have, it allows you to fine-tune graphics and images being shown on the screen at any resolution. This helps you improve the quality of any graphics being shown on the computer’s display.

If you’re a gamer, you’ll want your graphics to look the best they can; This improves immersion in a story and helps you find enemies in a heated multi-player battle. However, technology is rapidly advancing and software has a hard time keeping up, as many older games will have stretched graphics or a sub-par resolution because the game can’t keep up with the high-resolutions from modern displays. GPU scaling is designed to solve these issues and keep graphics looking good.

GPU scaling basics

The Basics of GPU Scaling

GPUs are computer processors designed specifically for generating images on a display; They are mainly used with high-resolution videos and video games. GPU scaling is an option that GPUs have available in their settings, it compensates for the difference in aspect ratio between software and the screen’s resolution; An aspect ratio is defined as an image’s width corresponding to its height. GPU scaling is normally used to match the output of older software from an outdated 4:3 ratio to a modern 16:9 ratio. This prevents the picture and/or graphics from being stretched or blurry.

 

Will You Need GPU Scaling?

You won’t need to utilize GPU scaling if you’re playing modern games with 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratios, as those will match a modern display’s resolution. However, older games will run in much smaller 4:3 or 5:4 aspect ratios, which will cause the images to be displayed in a warped or poor fashion; Some indie games going for an older look will also use smaller ratios. Basically, if you’re playing older games and/or using software that isn’t displayed in a 16:9 aspect ratio, you will need GPU scaling to get the best graphics possible; It will get rid of annoyingly low-quality and iron out any issues you may be having with a widescreen display.

 

How to Enable GPU scaling on a GPU on a Display

There are various ways to enable GPU scaling and each GPU has different ways to do so. AMD graphics cards can turn on GPU scaling through the AMD Radeon’s settings or through the AMD catalyst control center. NVIDIA GPUs will have to use the NVIDIA control panel. Lastly, integrated Intel GPUs utilize the Intel HD graphics control panel to change their scaling settings.

 

Do I Want GPU Scaling Enabled? Is It Best to Turn on GPU Scaling?

GPU scaling can be helpful for older games, but there’s no point in using it with modern games that have the right aspect ratio. This is because GPU scaling will give you a slight input lag of approximately 1 ms due to the GPU processing images to fit the current scaling. This doesn’t affect most software, but in highly-competitive and fast-paced games it could mean executing an action too late and getting a “Game Over.”

Overall, you won’t need it and shouldn’t use if you’re only playing new games, but it’s very helpful for retro gamers.

 

I Keep Getting These Annoying Black Bars Surrounding my Display, What Do I Do?

These black bars are there to display a lower aspect ratio on a larger screen or display. Although they’re technically helping, they could cause images to cut off or you might simply find them annoying. These issues can occur when a GPU mismatches the scaling when analyzing and/or adjusting the image. However, there is a fix to this and that’s by using a GPU’s underscan and overscan settings.

 

Using Underscan and Overscan to Remove Black Bars

The “Underscan/Overscan” setting is quick-fix that most GPUs use to remove the black bars. This setting will scale the image appropriately and constantly adjust it to get a better output without the frustrating black bars surrounding an image. It will shrink or enlarge the image to fit the screen instead of just centering the original image.

 

There Are Three Different Types of GPU Scaling

If you want to enable GPU scaling, you will need to about the three different and unique modes you can use. These are:

  • Scaling the image to full panel size
  • Maintaining the aspect ratio
  • Using centered trimmings

 

Scaling the Image to Full Panel Size

This type of GPU scaling focuses on stretching an image to fit the display. Although it is certainly a option, the graphics on the display will have a poor or pixelated appearance; This is due to the fact that the game’s original aspect ratio isn’t being used. It doesn’t use black bars like the other modes, but you’re sacrificing beautiful visuals to do so.

Maintaining the Aspect Ratio

This option let’s you play the game in full screen without modifying the original aspect ratio. It will place black bars or a pattern where there is excess background.

Centered Trimmings

This mode centers the original image on the display with its original aspect ratio. Since it’s only centering the image, it won’t completely fit the display and black bars or a pattern will surround the image.

 

Utilizing AMD Radeon Graphics to Turn GPU Scaling On and Off

Here’s a step-by-step guide on enabling or disabling GPU scaling through AMD Radeon settings.

  • Right-click on your desktop and select AMD Radeon Settings
  • Select the Display button once the settings window opens
  • Select the GPU Scaling button to enable (Or disable) GPU Scaling
  • Choose your scaling mode by clicking the Scaling Mode button and opening the drop-down menu

Congratulations! You’ve enabled GPU scaling and you should be experiencing changes

Enabling and Disabling GPU Scaling With AMD Catalyst

Some AMD GPUs use the AMD catalyst control center instead of AMD radeon graphics settings. If you’re using one of these GPUs, follow this guide instead of the previous one.

  • Right-click on your desktop and select AMD Catalyst Control Center
  • Select the My Digital Flat Panels button once the settings window opens, it’s on the left sidebar
  • Select the Properties button, it should be below the My Digital Flat Panels tab
  • Find the text Enable GPU up-scaling, you can click the checkbox by it to turn it on or off
  • You can select the scaling mode you prefer by clicking any of the buttons under the Preferred Scaling Mode tab
  • Click Apply in the bottom-right to finalize your new settings
  • Your screen will shut-down for a moment to apply the changes, don’t be alarmed

Good job! You have enabled GPU scaling

Activating or Disabling Overscan/Underscan on Your AMD GPU

If you want to get rid of the black bars, you’ll probably have to utilize the overscan/underscan setting to do so. Here is how to do so with both pieces of AMD software.

Changing Overscan and Underscan With AMD Radeon Settings

  • Right-click on your desktop and select AMD Radeon Settings
  • Select the Display button once the settings window opens
  • Look for the HDMI Scaling slider near the bottom of the menu, it should be at a default of 0%
  • Move the slider to adjust the display until the image is fitting the entire screen
  • Once the image fits your screen, you’re done!

A quick note on this, it’s possible that the image can be underscanned at the default value of 0%. If you’re having this issue, make sure that your Image Size setting is set to either auto or normal.

 

Adjusting Overscan and Underscan with the AMD Catalyst Control Center

  • Right-click on your desktop and select AMD Catalyst Control Center
  • Select the My Digital Flat Panels button once the settings window opens, it’s on the left sidebar
  • Select the Scaling Options (Digital Flat-Panel) button, it should be seen below the Properties button
  • Use the slider presented on screen to adjust the image until it fits your display
  • Click the Apply button in the bottom-right to finalize your new settings
  • Your screen will shut-down for a moment to apply the changes, don’t be alarmed

Good job! You have successfully adjusted your overscan/underscan settings

 

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