GPU scaling is a feature that comes with most modern Graphics Cards, otherwise known as the GPU, which scales the image output to fit the monitor perfectly. This feature is used for when you want to game on a newer monitor with an aspect ratio of 16:9 (Widescreen), or 21:9 (UltraWide), and want to play an older game which was originally created with a square 4:3 ratio.

GPU scaling lets you choose if you want to stretch the picture, view the picture with black bars on the sides, or cut some of the image off so it shows full-screen without stretching distortion.

If you have ever watched a movie on a standard 16:9 Widescreen TV, you may be familiar with the black bars on the top and bottom of the image. This is similar to GPU scaling, but this is actually known as display scaling, which is scaling done by the screen, not the GPU.

Gamers who play shooter games may prefer to have the image shown in fullscreen or stretched, as it makes their image larger allowing for easier viewing of the enemy/targets. Regardless, GPU scaling is found on most GPU’s, and even some monitor have this feature built in for consoles which may only output in a 16:9 ratio.

GPU Scaling Options
An example of a NVIDIA GPU’s scaling options.

GPU Scaling vs Display Scaling (What has lower Input Lag?)

As noted by many observers, GPU scaling will be slower by 1ms or less – so it will be very hard to notice. That being said, you should use your monitor’s scaling method which would be faster than the driver-based GPU scaling. It’s only recommended to use GPU scaling if your monitor lacks display scaling.

GPU scaling it’s only there for devices that lack scaling or have very bad scaling methods like some TVs or if you want to run content without any scaling but your monitor lacks the option to disable scaling.

A good way to test GPU scaling vs Display scaling is to run a game in 640×480 resolution scaled (with either method) to 1920×1080, and compare them both. Either one will look worse or both similar since I believe most displays and driver scaling uses bilinear image scaling which is very fast.

Some monitors have poor scaling chips, and GPU scaling is preferred. However if you are gaming on a high-end monitor, chances are you will get the lowest input lag by using the monitors scaling chip rather than having your GPU do the work.

How to Enable GPU Scaling

For AMD graphics cards, there are two main ways to enable GPU scaling:

How To Turn On GPU Scaling with AMD Radeon Settings

  1. From the desktop, right-click anywhere on your wallpaper and select AMD Radeon Settings in the menu that shows up.
  2. When the AMD Radeon Settings window shows up, click on “Display” at the top of the window.
  3. A bit down, you should see the option for GPU Scaling, and can click it to On
  4. Finally, choose the Scaling Mode for the resolution or aspect ratio you want to achieve.

How To Turn On GPU Scaling with AMD Catalyst Control Center

  1. From the desktop, right-click anywhere on your wallpaper and select AMD Catalyst Control Center in the menu that shows up.
  2. When the Control Center opens, look for “My Digital Flat Panels” on the left side and open it.
  3. From there, click Properties (Digital Flat Panel).
  4. From the Properties screen, click the check-box to Enable GPU up-scaling.
  5. From there, choose the Scaling Mode for the resolution or aspect ratio you want to achieve.
  6. Finally, don’t forget to click the Apply button. For more information, see this guide from AMD’s support page.

If you have a NVIDIA graphics card, you can enable GPU scaling by doing the following:

How to Turn On GPU Scaling with NVIDIA Graphics Card

  1. From the desktop, right-click anywhere on your wallpaper and select “NVIDIA Control Panel” from the menu that pops up.
  2. When the NVIDIA Control Panel shows up, click on “Adjust desktop size and position” underneath the display tab on the left-hand menu.
  3. In the ‘Adjust desktop size and position’ options, click the drop-down menu under ‘Perform scaling on’ button and select GPU.
  4. From there, select the scaling method and accompanying options for the resolution or aspect ratio you want to achieve.

Conclusion

For most of your modern gaming, you will be able to use the native resolution and won’t have to rely on any sort of scaling. Modern games support many resolutions, including those weird ones found on the UltraWide and Super UltraWide monitors of today.

But for those of you who enjoy playing older titles that are limited to a certain aspect ratio – like 4:3 or even 5:4 – you may not have a choice other than to use GPU scaling to comfortably play the game on your newer monitor.

Enabling GPU Scaling or Display Scaling will increase the Input Lag time – because either the GPU or Scaling chip in the monitor has to work harder than it normally would to output an

image. Users have found that using the monitor’s scaling chip (Display Scaling) vs the GPU’s Scaling produces less input lag, but the differences are sometimes negligible (less than 1ms).

We recommend to test out the differences between the two to see if there is any visible difference in lag.