GPU Scaling and Related Gaming Computer Themes

May 14, 2021

For those who are particularly concerned with their graphics and image output needs within a gaming computer setup or any other high-powered computer, one theme that’s often worth investigating is known as GPU scaling. Referring to a process that allows for fine-tuning of graphics at different resolution levels, GPU scaling solves several potential graphics concerns, including stretched image output and blurred images, while also bringing you higher-quality graphics.

At Xidax, we’re happy to not only provide a wide array of the best gaming computers available, plus numerous other computing needs, but also expertise on how to best take advantage of the high-quality desktop, laptop and other solutions we provide. We’ve assisted our clients with numerous themes to help upgrade or improve their computing experience in several areas, including those like graphics and related themes – here’s a primer on GPU scaling and how it works, why it’s often particularly beneficial for gamers, and some variables that define whether you should consider GPU scaling.

GPU Scaling Basics

GPU scaling is not a requirement for any computer, but rather an optional feature that allows for the adjustment of an input’s aspect ratio based on a monitor’s resolution. The goal of GPU scaling is to rerate the highest-quality image output possible on the screen.

For those who have an AMD graphics card, the GPU scaling option can be adjusted via AMD Catalyst or via AMD Radeon Graphics. The monitor will need to be attached directly to the graphics card adapter, generally using a DVI or HDMI cord. There are also other makes besides AMD, which will have their own GPU scaling modes – our team will be happy to advise you on these as needed, and we’ll go over them further later on in this blog.

Much of GPU scaling and its benefits have to do with aspect ratios for graphics outputs. Our next several sections will look at this theme in more detail.

Scaling for Gamers

One of the primary areas where GPU scaling is often considered is within the world of gaming, where it’s often used to match up older or more primitive games with modern, upgraded monitors that have much different graphical capabilities. As we noted above, much of this has to do with what’s known as your graphics aspect ratio.

Many older games, plus also many older applications, are designed for different aspect ratios like 5:4 and 4:3 – these are largely defunct aspect ratios on the market today, as resolutions have improved significantly in the years since these were common. It’s still possible to buy some 5:4 monitors, but most of today’s gamers have moved well beyond this point and are using an updated display.

But when this happens and you try to play games running on an older aspect ratio, you’ll see stretched, awkward-looking images. In other cases, you may deal with heavily pixelated or blurred picture quality due to this stretching.

However, GPU scaling is the solution. It allows for adjustment of the old game or app’s ratio, matching it directly to your current monitor display. This allows gamers to utilize any game they want, including those from generations ago, and not worry about their ability to play on a standard, high-quality screen.

Do You Need Scaling?

The above is generally the primary factor that determines whether you require any GPU scaling. If you’re already aware that certain games you want to run are using a 5:4 or 4:3 aspect ratio, or if you have other applications running these ratios, and you own a 16:9 or 16:10 screen, you can predict aspect ratio issues early – and you should be considering GPU scaling. However, if the only games or applications you are running utilize the same aspect ratios as your current monitor setup, you generally won’t need to consider this option.

GPU Scaling Modes

There are three modes to choose from if you’re adjusting your GPU scaling using AMD Catalyst or AMD Radeon Graphics. They are as follows:

  • Maintain Aspect Ratio: This is a feature that allows for a full-screen game or application without any actual alteration to the aspect ratio as the graphics are being scaled up. Instead, the background will be filled with black bars, or perhaps with a different background pattern (there are ways to remove this – speak to our team for more information here).
  • Scale Image to Full Panel Size: This option involves stretching the image to fill the screen, and for those who care most about the quality of their output, this is the least-used format. This is because it often leads to terrible graphics output as the original aspect ratio is altered from its original.
  • Use Centered Trimmings: For this setting, you are able to turn the scaling off by placing original screen resolution in the center of the image, with black bars or a pattern placed around it.

Impact on FPS

One common question we get from gamers when it comes to GPU scaling: What impact, if any, will this have on my FPS, or frames per second? The answer is that there is a small effect on FPS, and this is due to input lag, or the time it takes for the original picture to pass through the scaling modifier to fit the monitor’s aspect ratio.

For those watching a movie or doing other basic online tasks, this lag of around 1ms won’t even be noticeable. However, some who play games will notice it, especially while playing at full speed. For this reason, unless it’s absolutely necessary, you might want to hold off on scaling if movements are a big part of your gaming experience.

For more on GPU scaling and whether it’s something to consider for your gaming or other computing needs, or to learn about any of our custom gaming computers, workstations and other solutions, speak to the staff at Xidax today.

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