What is GPU Scaling? – Full Guide

Having the best gaming experience is important for many gamers. For a good in-game experience, high quality graphics plays a major role. However, it is common to encounter various issues like blurry images or poor image resolution while gaming. The good news for gamers is that these problems can be solved by using GPU scaling.

GPU Scaling enables the user to enjoy fine-tuned graphics and image-output, irrespective of their screen’s resolution settings. The graphical experience is significantly improved, this will increase the user experience in many different situations, primarily gaming. Modern games provide the option to choose the best screen resolution to play them at. However, you may not be able to select a suitable resolution with older games or applications. This can may them uncomfortable to play and use.

This feature works by allowing many Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) graphics cards to scale the image effectively to fit the screen perfectly both vertically and horizontally. Older games usually have an aspect ratio of 5:4 or 4:3. When you play on an advanced/modern monitor, they typically have an aspect ratio of 16:9. Therefore the game or application will not fit the monitors aspect ratio. The image may get stretched or blurred , which can result in poor visuals. This is where GPU scaling comes in. 

The GPU scaling is an option that is available in the configuration menu of many GPUs (Graphics Processing Units).

To adjust GPU scaling on your computer, you need to ensure that your monitor is directly attached to the graphics cards output. You can achieve this by using either the DVI port, HDMI port, or DisplayPort’s. Each Graphics card with have different output ports available for use.

Graphics card output ports

Should I Use GPU Scaling?

GPU scaling allows you to stretch or compress the image output. This can mean having black bars on the sides of the screen, or have black borders all around the screen. You can choose the option which is best for your gaming style and preference.

Some gamers might prefer to have a stretched or ironed out image output. This makes their targets appear larger, therefore, easier to hit. On the other hand, gamers may not like this output. Some will prefer black borders on the sides of their screen as it helps them focus on the game. 

In the end, it is all up to you. Your gaming preference matters in this decision. Playing games that are old or not mainstream is pretty common. The overall choice is up to you, but there is no denying that GPU scaling helps you to have a better gaming experience.

Graphics card installed in a PC

Now you may want to remove the black bars if you feel like they are ruining your experience. Fortunately, there is an option to remove those black bars from the screen. The solution to this is by adding a background of your choice. On specific applications, you have the ability to choose different colors for the sidebars or an image that are already available to you. Ensure that you do not select patterns with intricate designs as that might lead to eye strain or distraction. This is done by utilizing the option called “Overscan/Underscan”. This scales the images for the scaling options and makes some adjustments to the image accordingly to attain a better output.

When Should You Opt for GPU Scaling?

Suppose you are the type of gamer who enjoys playing old or indie games. Again, these usually run on 5:4 or 4:3 aspect ratio or even applications which run with such aspect ratios. In this case, its image output will be poor or pixelated if you have a monitor with an aspect ratio of 16:9. You may even have a monitor with a larger aspect ratio depending on what monitor you play games on. This can impact your gaming experience as the image may lose color, get blurred out, or appear grainy. This can make the game unappealing to play.

Old gaming console needing gpu scaling

How Do I Enable GPU Scaling?

If you own an Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) graphics card, you have the ability to adjust the GPU scaling through AMD Catalyst or AMD Radeon Graphics.

It is super easy to turn GPU scaling on / off with the AMD catalyst.

Method One – AMD Catalyst

First, let’s see how to turn on/off GPU scaling through AMD Catalyst.

Here are the steps:

  1. First and foremost, you need to choose the AMD Catalyst control center. You can do this by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting AMD Catalyst Control Center.
  2. A page will pop up on your screen. Here, click on My digital Flat-Panels Option. You will be able to find this on the left-hand sidebar. The program will begin to update, and it might be elsewhere, but mostly it should be present on the initial page.
  3. Just below the “My Digital Flat-Panels” option, you will be able to locate the “Properties (Digital Flat Panel) Option.” Click on the (Properties Digital Flat Panel) Option.
  4. A checkbox will be present right next to the sentence “Enable GPU scaling.” Check the checkbox by clicking on it to run. If the checkbox is already clicked and you want to turn off GPU scaling, you have to uncheck the checkbox.
  5. A prompt will appear, and you will have to select your preferred scaling mode. Once you have decided the mode you want, select it by clicking “Apply.”
  6. Your screen will turn blank and will shut down for a second to apply the selected changes. Once it is back, depending on whether you turned GPU scaling on or off, it will be successfully applied.

Method Two – Radeon Graphics

Let’s now look at how to turn on GPU scaling on or off with AMD Radeon Graphics.

  1. First and foremost, you need to select the AMD Settings Menu. You can do this by right-clicking on your desktop and clicking on the AMD Radeon Settings.
  2. Find the option, “Choose AMD GPU scaling on/off.”
  3. Now, you have to select the Display Tab. This can be found in the AMD Radeon Settings window.
  4. You will find the GPU scaling switch.
  5. You will get a prompt to select your preferred scaling mode from the drop-down menu. Once you have decided the mode you want, choose it and click on “Apply.”
  6. Your screen will turn blank and shut down for a second to apply the chosen changes.
AMD graphics card in computer

Different Types of GPU Scaling Modes

You would have noticed that enabling GPU scaling via AMD Catalyst and AMD Radeon Graphics involves choosing your preferred scaling modes. 

You will be see three different modes in the prompt when you go to adjust your GPU scaling settings.

The three options or modes are:

  • Maintain Aspect Ratio
  • Scale Image to Full Panel Size
  • Use Centered Trimmings

Each of these modes comes with its own benefits, which will provide you an overall improved gaming experience.

Maintain Aspect Ratio

The maintained aspect ratio enables you to experience the game in full-screen mode without changing the aspect ratio when you scale the image upwards. This mode fills the empty background on the screen with a background image or pattern of your choice or black bars. Choosing patterns with intricate designs can lead to eye strain, ensure that you choose what is best for your eyes. I personally recommend just using black bars and borders as it will allow you to focus on the game.

Scale Image to Full Panel Size

Scale image to full panel size is the mode that will provide you the full-screen experience while you are gaming. It stretches or irons out the graphics to fit your screen. This can cause a poor or bad image output as the game’s aspect ratio is not maintained. Some gamers prefer this setting, as their targets appear larger.

Use Centered Trimmings

This mode turns off the scaling you have turned on and places the screen resolution of the image in the center of the screen. This uses the same mode as the setting “maintain aspect ratio,” inserting some solid background, patterns, or black bars on the sides of the image.

Conclusion

Overall, GPU scaling is turned off for modern games with the same resolution as that of an advanced/modern monitor’s resolution. By turning on GPU scaling, an input lag will be introduced, which usually is about 1ms or less. This is because the GPU now has to process the images further to fit them to the chosen scaling mode.

This may not be visible while playing videos but can be noticeable when you are playing video games. In some games, the lag will not be much of a bother. It depends on the games you play and monitor you own. 

To conclude, if you are playing a game that uses an aspect ratio different from your monitor’s aspect ratio, you can go for GPU scaling. If you are playing games with the same aspect ratio as that of your monitor, then disabling GPU scaling is the best option. The choice is yours. 


If your current graphics card does not support GPU scaling, you may want to consider upgrading to a new one. Check this guide out on selecting the right graphics card.