What is GPU scaling? GPU scaling is a modern technology used by GPUs that scales/render the images to fit the monitor’s resolution horizontally and vertically.
This technology is best for playing videogames that had a fixed native aspect ratio of 4:3 or either 5:4. Aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and height of an image.
An image with a resolution of 1280×1024 will have an aspect ratio of 5:4. An image with a resolution of 1920×1080 has an aspect ratio of 16:9.
The GPU scaling option, in general, allows the GPU to render the frames with a specific aspect ratio to fit on a display of a different aspect ratio.
For example, with GPU scaling, the GPUs are capable of rendering the frames of native 5:4 resolution to fit on a display that supports a 16:9 aspect ratio.
It is a decent technology that improves the gaming experience with an older game with fixed aspect ratios to fit newer displays with higher aspect ratios.
However, there is a catch. Turning on GPU scaling introduces a little bit of input lag in a fraction of a second. The lag is not noticeable in videos but can be observed in video games.
In our article, we will discuss key things about this technology and whether turning on GPU scaling in videogames is worth it or not?
What Is GPU Scaling? – The Overview
There is not much to talk about when talking about GPU scaling. It is a simple technology that allows the GPU to render a game with a fixed aspect ratio to fit in a monitor with flexible aspect ratios. It is excellent for older games and not so good for newer games.
Games released a few years back used to have a fixed native resolution, i.e., 4:3 or 5:4. In times when CRT monitors were used for work and gaming. These monitors had fixed resolutions, and a need for a flexible aspect ratio was not considered necessary.
So, older games came with native aspect ratios. Playing them on newer, advanced monitors is a pain as they do not fit the whole monitor until the GPU scaling technology was introduced.
Due to advancements in technology, developers develop their game with flexible aspect ratios that can fit on a display of any type or any aspect ratio. The alternative to this technology is the monitor scaling. With this technology, the games are scaled by the monitor instead of a GPU.
In simple words, using GPU scaling, you will have an option to choose between black bars and a stretched image.
There are three scaling modes available for GPU scaling that you can use:
- Preserve aspect ratio
- Full panel
Do You Need GPU scaling?
Depending on what types of games you are looking to play. There are many reasons why you should need GPU scaling and vice versa. If you want to play retro games with a fixed native aspect ratio of 4:3 or 5:4, these ratios were the standard ratios for the past games.
This technology will prove to be best for that. Sometimes a monitor does not support a specific resolution, which shows a jumbled, colored lines mess or either nothing. This technology is decent for such issues. If you are a video editor, GPU scaling might be the best new technology you might have.
However, when it comes to the latest games, GPU scaling will do more harm than good. The GPU will have to process more data to render the image to fit on the monitor’s display. More processing will take more time to render a frame.
More time in rendering frames means input lag. The input lag is a mere fraction of a second, which is not noticeable in the videos. However, in video games that require split-second decisions, an increased input lag will only result in frustration and a bad experience.
Competitive games and monitors should have the least possible input lag for maximum efficiency and lightning fast reactions. Turning on the feature will only add more input lag, which is not recommended for competitive games.
Overall, GPU scaling is beneficial for older generation games that had fixed native resolutions; it is pointless for newer generation games. However, it is great for displays with odd aspect ratios.
Main Types Of GPU Scaling
There are three types of GPU scaling. You might read different names across the internet or even in software, but the basic functionality does not change. These modes will render or present the image on the screen.
Below are the details of the main types of image scaling by GPUs:
Preserve Aspect Ratio: This mode will extend the image to the full size of the monitor without expanding the image to fill all of the display, i.e., preserving the aspect ratio of the image. This mode will leave black bars to fill the empty space on the right and left sides.
With this mode, the image will not stretch onto the main screen. The image will be presented in its normal height and width.
Center: This mode will turn off scaling and centers the image for non-native resolutions like LCDs. Black bars will surround the image to fill the whole screen.
Full panel: This mode will expand the full image on the monitor’s display with native resolutions. The image will stretch in the result. Turning on the scaling to this mode might ruin the image quality as the image is being rendered in a different aspect ratio.
Using full panel scaling often leads to poor image quality, due to image stretching (mostly horizontally).
Is There A Way To Use GPU Scaling Without Getting The Black Bars?
Sometimes during the process of scaling and the image analysis of the GPU, a minor delay occurs. Due to this delay, black bars surround the image. The “HDMI Scaling option” can resolve the black bar issue.
The HDMI Scaling option exists in the Radeon Settings and can be adjusted to the desired values. With the slider, the image can be scaled to fit the monitor’s native display resolution. Here is how you can remove the black bars with the HDMI Scaling option in Radeon Software.
Note: Before getting into the solution, make sure your display is set to its native resolution and refresh rate.
- Open Radeon Settings by right-clicking desktop and selecting “AMD Radeon Settings”.
- A new window will open, and from the new window, select “Display”.
- Find “HDMI Scaling” and adjust the slider until the image fits the whole display.
- Close Radeon Settings after you are finished adjusting the slider to the desired value.
When you press a key from the keyboard, if the action is performed with a little delay, this hindrance is called input lag. In basic terms, it is the delay between an action performed in a video game and an input from a mouse/keyboard.
An increase in input lag can cause many issues in video games especially, multiplayer games. There are many ways to reduce input lag in video games when GPU scaling is turned on; it will add more to the input delay.
If you want to get rid of the input lag, turning off the GPU scaling is the only option you will have. The reason behind this lag is the extra time taken by the GPU to render the image with a native aspect ratio according to the aspect ratio of the monitor’s display.
The delay is around one-quarter of a second. For any competitive game, the less the input lag there is, the better the experience will be and the faster you will react. Turning on the GPU scaling is not recommended for such games.
Pros And Cons Of GPU Scaling
GPU scaling is a brilliant technical feature that turns pictures with native aspect ratios into images that can fit the screens with flexible aspect ratios. It is an impressive feature and can have multiple advantages, but it does have its set of issues.
Below we will discuss the pros and cons that come along with GPU scaling.
- Preserve aspect ratio: This mode will extend the image to the full size of the monitor without expanding the image to fill all of the display.
- Center: This mode will turn off scaling and centers the image for non-native resolutions like LCDs.
- Full panel: This mode will expand the full image on the monitor display with native resolutions.
- Excellent feature for retro and old games with native resolutions like 4:3 or 5:4.
- Great for videos.
- Images can get jumbled and pixelated due to stretching.
- Images can lose quality after using this mode.
- Increased Input lag: Due to the extra amount of work that the GPU has to perform to scale the native aspect ratio image into the monitor’s aspect ratio. The GPU takes more time to render such images, which causes input lag. The lag is a fraction of a second.
- Not recommended for competitive games due to increased input lag.
- Black bars around images might ruin immersion for some people.
Old games are still fun, and with this feature, a person can enjoy their favorite classic titles on their bigger displays without seeing black bars on the sides. Overall it is decent for retro and old games with native aspect ratios.
How To Enable GPU Scaling
With the introduction and overview of the features is out of the way, let us get to the guide to enable GPU Scaling if you are using AMD GPUs. There are two ways to enable GPU scaling on your computer.
The first method is by using AMD Catalyst software, while the other method is by using the AMD Radeon Settings. Without wasting any time, let us get to the guide.
#1 – By Using Method 1: Turning Your GPU Scaling On Or Off Via AMD Catalyst
The AMD Catalyst is the old software for a system using older operating systems and older AMD GPUs. If you are using Radeon software, feel free to skip this section.
If you have the AMD Catalyst software installed on your system, here is how you can turn on or off the GPU scaling on your system.
- Go to your desktop, right-click and select “AMD Catalyst Control Center”.
- After opening the software, find and select “My Digital Flat-Panels”.
- Select “Properties (Digital Flat-Panel)” from the list of settings on the left hand side.
- Then find and check “Enable GPU up-scaling”. Upon checking the box, the software will present three scaling modes.
- From “Preferred Scaling Mode:” select your desired mode out of the three modes.
- After selecting your preferred scaling mode, click “Apply”.
- Close the AMD Catalyst Control Center when done.
- Restart the computer if necessary.
The screen will turn blank after this procedure. The blink will ensure that the settings have been applied.
#2 – By Using Method 2: Turn On GPU Scaling Through AMD’s Radeon Settings
For people who are using the AMD Radeon Settings, which is the software for the latest and recent AMD GPUs, you can turn on the GPU scaling via the Radeon Settings. The procedure is straight forward and simple.
Before getting into the solution itself, make sure to update the driver to the latest version to avoid any inconveniences and just to be on the safe side. Here is how you can turn on the GPU scaling via Radeon Settings:
- Open your desktop, right-click and select the AMD Radeon Settings from the menu.
- After selecting, a new window will pop up.
- From the new window, find and select, “Display” tab. The tab will be located on the top side of UI.
- After selecting “Display”, the software will display a bunch of options. Find and turn on the “GPU scaling” option.
- After turning on the “GPU Scaling”, select the right option, “Scaling Mode” and a drop down menu will appear.
- From the drop down menu, select your desired scaling mode.
- After selecting, close Radeon Settings when done.
To check if the option is applied, the screen might blink for a second, which will indicate that the scaling has been applied.
Should You Use GPU Scaling?
GPU scaling is a very decent technical feature in the AMD Radeon Settings and AMD Catalyst Control Center. It helps in scaling the image with native resolutions or aspect ratio like 4:3 or 5:4 into an image of aspect ratio according to the ratio of your display that has flexible aspect ratio.
GPU scaling can be turned on with the help of the AMD GPU driver. The alternative to this feature is the monitor scaling that is done by the monitor rather than the GPU. These days people have monitors with flexible aspect ratios in the past, we did not.
Due to that, the developers developed their games with a fixed native aspect ratio. Due to that, it is a pain to play retro games with native aspect ratios. This problem can be resolved by GPU scaling. It allows a person to enjoy the retro titles on their full screens.
But there is a catch. Upon using GPU scaling, the GPU stretches the images according to the aspect ratio of the monitor. Due to the stretching, the image sometimes loses its quality and often appears mixed up colors and pixelated.
The other issue with GPU scaling is the input lag that comes with the feature due to the extra processing the GPU has to do to scale the image to the full size of the monitor.
GPU scaling is a very decent technical feature that has many advantages as well as disadvantages. This feature allows the GPU to render images with native aspect ratios (i.e., 5:4 or 4:3) into images that will fit the monitor with non-native resolutions.
It is decent for older and retro games that have native aspect ratios. There are three scaling modes from which a person can choose from. The first is the Preserve aspect ratio. It expands the current image to the full size of the monitor without losing its aspect ratio of the image size.
The second mode is the Center mode. This mode turns off the scaling mode and renders the image on the center of the screen for non-native resolution monitors. The last mode is the Full panel mode.
It expands the current image to the full size of the monitor for non-native resolutions. The image might lose its quality and might appear pixelated due to the stretching. Using this feature is beneficial for older games as they had native aspect ratios.
However, using the GPU scaling also induces input lag. For competitive games, the input lag should be as less as possible. So, if you are going to play competitive video games, consider turning off the GPU scaling feature from the AMD or Nvidia driver software, respectively.
Frequently Asked Questions
#1 – Is GPU scaling good or bad?
It is a very decent technical feature that can be utilized for older games, games with native aspect ratios. Turning on the GPU scaling induces an input lag of a quarter of a second, and if you plan to play competitive games, GPU scaling is bad for such games.
#2 – When should you use GPU scaling?
If you decide to play any old or retro games due to their native aspect ratios using GPU scaling is a good idea. Using GPU scaling will allow you to enjoy the game on full screen on your big display. If the monitor does not support some of the aspect ratios and does not show the image or the video with such aspect ratio, turning on GPU scaling will be good.
#3 – What is GPU scaling on AMD?
AMD GPU scaling is the scaling technique that converts images with fixed aspect ratios into the resolution of your monitor. You can turn on this feature with the AMD Catalyst Control Center software (driver for older AMD GPUs) or the AMD Radeon Settings (Drivers for latest and relatively newer GPUs).
#4 – What is GPU performance scaling?
It is a feature that is used in laptops. The feature is available in the BIOS and can be enabled or disabled depending on the requirement. Turning on GPU performance scaling will allow the GPU to run at a higher performance level and the CPU to run at lower clock speeds to level out the thermal and power levels of the laptop.
#5 – Should I override the scaling mode set by games and programs?
This option is available on the Nvidia Control Panel. Select the option with GPU scaling. This option will allow the GPU to scale the images as per the monitor’s display, and it will ignore the scaling mode that is set by games and programs. Resulting in a much faster and quicker response.
#6 – Does scaling cause input lag?
Yes, using scaling will increase input lag, but the display itself is very small such that it can be ignored. The input lag increases due to the extra work the GPU has to do to scale the images.
Monitor scaling, on the other hand, is more beneficial and reduces input lag. Scaling is generally suggested to use for retro and older games.
#7 – What is full panel scaling mode?
This mode expands the image to the full size of the monitor’s display. For example, you have an image of resolution 1280*1024 (5:4 aspect ratio), and you have a monitor of resolution 1920*1080. turning on the full panel scaling mode will stretch the image and will convert into 1920*1080 (16:9 aspect ratio).
#8 – Does Windows scaling affect games?
This depends on the game. If you are playing games with full screen resolution, the performance will not be affected by the scaling. However, if the game is played on borderless or borderless windowed mode, Windows scaling will likely affect the games.
In terms of DPI scaling, the Windows scaling also might affect games. This issue can be resolved after using the compatibility mode options occasionally.