GPU Scaling – Nvidia vs AMD

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GPU scaling is mostly used in gaming computers and even then when gamers are using emulators to run older games and also in other scenarios.

A Graphic Processing Unit, graphic card or GPU is a circuit designed to accelerate the creation of graphic images basically by shifting and changing memory. For this, accelerated calculations relating to device graphics are done by the GPU. GPUs are found in devices such as computers, mobile phones and gaming consoles. In computers, a GPU can be found in the graphic card or inside the motherboard.

At the start of the 21st century, two companies; Nvidia Corporation or commonly known as Nvidia, and AMD Radeon Technologies Group or commonly known as AMD, took leading roles in designing and developing GPUs. This created a fierce rivalry between them which has lasted till today, with each company pushing the other. This competition has yielded better products with each passing year and as a result the quality of graphics especially in video games has increased drastically from only a decade ago. These two companies have a duopoly in the GPU market today.

What is GPU Scaling and why it is needed?

To obtain the best output in terms of graphics, the processor creating the graphics (GPU) and the display (monitor/screen) must be in coordination. For this to happen, the display screen must have the same resolution and aspect ratio as the image created by the GPU. Resolution is the length and width an image and the aspect ratio is the ratio of the two. For example, if an image has a resolution of 1280 x 1024, then its aspect ratio will be 5:4. If a monitor can display an image of 5:4 aspect ratio, the GPU must produce images in this ratio to be viewed on the monitor flawlessly. Most GPUs are designed to support multiple resolutions with different aspect ratios.

A GPU is able to scale an image, meaning it can change the resolution and thus aspect ratio of the image. The aspect ratio of an image maybe changed from say, 4:3 to 16:9. In case there is a display with a different aspect ratio to that of the image, then GPU scaling of the image is needed. Sometimes, the monitor will scale its resolution to match that of the image; this is called display scaling. But the effects of GPU scaling produce a better output than display scaling.

Types of GPU Scaling?

GPU Scaling usually has three types; 

1.      Maintain the aspect ratio

An image fills the screen but the aspect ratio is maintained. If an image with 5:4 ratio is displayed, the image maybe enlarged to fill the screen but to maintain the ratio, black bars will appear on the left and right side of the screen.

2.      Stretch the image to fill screen

The image is enlarged vertically and horizontally to fill the entire display screen and this may result in uneven graphics as images may be stretched beyond their preferable aspect ratios.

3.      Centralize the image

In this case, the aspect ratio of the image is not changed and it is placed in the center of the screen while black bars will cover the remaining of the screen on all four sides.

How to Enable GPU Scaling?

To enable GPU scaling, the display must be connected to the graphics card or GPU through a digital connection. A digital connection maybe:

  • HDMI connection
  • DVI connection
  • Display Port 

Both Nvidia and AMD offer GPU scaling options and the method to enable GPU scaling in both is given below.

GPU Scaling in AMD

AMD offers three options of GPU scaling; maintaining aspect ratio, filling the screen and centralizing the image. To enable GPU scaling in AMD, right click on the desktop screen and open AMD Radeon Settings. On the ‘Display’ section, toggle the ‘GPU Scaling’ to “On”. The option of ‘Scaling Mode’ will be enabled and here the user can choose the type of GPU scaling; ‘Preserve aspect ratio’, ‘Full panel’ or ‘center’. When the GPU scaling is enabled, the screen will go black for a moment.

GPU Scaling in Nvidia

Nvidia offers two options of GPU scaling; maintaining aspect ratio and full screen. To enable GPU scaling in Nvidia, right click on the desktop screen and open Nvidia Control Panel. On the ‘Display’ section, select the ‘Adjust desktop size and position’ and in ‘Scaling’ option, choose the type of GPU scaling; ‘Aspect ratio’, ‘Full Screen’ or ‘No Scaling’.

Conclusion

GPU scaling is mostly used in gaming computers and even then when gamers are using emulators to run older games but GPU scaling may also be used in other scenarios. A user may experience a brief lag when GPU scaling is enabled and this may be irritating when gaming but there will be no image distortion. Both Nvidia and AMD offer easy methods to enable GPU scaling to coordinate between the images and the display screen. Most modern games and programs don’t require image scaling as they are able to run on 16:10 or 16:9 ratio display monitors which are mostly used today.

Image by Abigail Diseno from Pixabay

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