GPU scaling vs Display scaling: Performance comparisons

by Vladimir Popescu
Vladimir Popescu
Vladimir Popescu
Managing Editor
Being an artist his entire life while also playing handball at a professional level, Vladimir has also developed a passion for all things computer-related. With an innate fascination... read more
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  • GPU and Display scaling is capable of upscaling and decreasing screen resolution.
  • GPU scaling thrives better with retro games with fewer graphics-consuming.
  • The gaming experience can be improved with scaling if done correctly.
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It isn’t uncommon for you to have heard about scaling before, especially if you are a retro game lover. Hence, that is the reason we want to enlighten more on scaling using this GPU scaling vs. Display scaling performance comparison review.

Scaling is the adjustment in the size of a displayed object to fit into a screen with a different aspect ratio. In this instance, decreasing or increasing the aspect ratio of your games to match your monitor’s resolution without display quality issues.

There are two main types of scaling: GPU scaling and Display scaling. Hence, this article will compare GPU scaling vs. Display scaling based on their performance and need.

GPU scaling performance guide

The Graphics processing unit is an in-built feature of both Nvidia and AMD graphic cards. The GPU is responsible for handling the graphics-intensive tasks when a game is actively running.

Hence, GPU scaling enables you to tweak game dimensions with a lower aspect ratio to fit the PC screen with a higher aspect ratio. GPU scaling ensures the preservation of the original size of the game while creating a border of black bars around it.

GPU scaling performs best when playing old or retro games on new-gen PCs. Since most of these games were not built to match the 16:9/16:10 aspect ratio of new gaming PCs, GPU scaling ensures the best performance without stretched or pixelated versions of the games.

Before proceeding with this GPU scaling vs. Display scaling performance comparison, let’s explore the three types of GPU scaling modes. The names may differ based on your PC’s graphics cards. They are explained below:

  1. Aspect Ratio: Using this mode, the game maintains its originally built aspect ratio when running. If the game was made for a 4:3 aspect ratio, that’s what will be displayed with borders on the spare parts.
  2. Full-screen: This mode forces the game to match your screen’s aspect ratio by expanding the dimensions. The result is usually blurry or pixelated. 
  3. No scaling: This mode turns off the GPU scaling and places the game displayed in the center with no interference.

When and why should you enable GPU scaling?

GPU scaling is enabled when you want to play a game with a disparity aspect ratio to your PC’s aspect ratio, especially when it is lower. 

Although, it can also be enabled to increase your screen resolution for improved display size and much sharper image quality.

GPU scaling is best when upscaling old/retro games or games running on emulators. Thus, you’ll need to enable GPU scaling for an optimal gaming experience. 

When and why should you disable GPU scaling?

It would be best if you disabled GPU scaling to prevent overworking the GPU. Since the GPU will be extra tasked during scaling, it can cause a decrease in frames per second. 

In addition, it should be disabled after running old games to prevent input lag on new games.

Display scaling performance guide

Display scaling focuses on adjusting the displayed frame on the monitor. It decreases or upscales the resolution by the monitor rather than using the graphics card unit. Custom Scaling Windows 10 Screen

It is more associated with the games with lower resolution but adjustable through EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) to the PC’s higher resolution. 

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With Display scaling, you can adjust objects like texts, fonts, icons, pixel quality, and others without losing the quality of the game running. This helps in enlarging the game elements on display for easier access to critical information. 

The game’s settings are tuned to align with the monitor’s default resolution while ensuring optimal performance. Hence, games run without glitches and input lags. 

Display scaling eases the burden on GPU, and it invariably improves the frame per second and overall gameplay performance. 

To change Display scaling is straightforward. But, first, check out how to change display resolution in windows 11.

When and why should you enable Display scaling?

If you have weak eyesight, it is good to enable Display scaling when playing games. Enlarging the screen display places less stress on your eyes, and you can access information much faster. 

Display scaling improves game performance because you access all the tools and information faster. 

By enabling Display scaling, the GPU takes fewer tasks. Hence, the frame per second speed is improved with lesser chances for lags and other display issues.

When and why should you disable Display scaling?

Disable Display scaling once the text and display of applications are blurry or pixelated. This may affect the performance of the application.

Also, if the scaling is too high, it may become impossible to navigate your PC. So, Display scaling must be disabled.

Benefits of each scaling mode on Nvidia / AMD setup for popular games

Games GPU Scaling Display Scaling
CS:GO 1. Improved graphics and better immersive gameplay.
2. Wider field of view to notice enemies faster
1. The fps is faster with improved chances of winning
2. Fewer chances of lags during gameplay
3. Faster access to on-screen details to note down progress in the game
4. Worse graphics but better focus because there are fewer distractions
Valorant 1. Aspect ratio 4:3 with Gpu scaling makes it easier to spot and shoot opponents. 
2. Other GPU scaling is unnecessary to avoid delayed fps and input lag.
1. Provides big player hotboxes for higher kills
2. The frame per second is increased
3. More focus is guaranteed with an increased vertical field of view
Fortnite 1. It is not advisable to Gpu scale Fortnite since it runs heavily on GPU. Scaling will affect gameplay speed. 1. Improves graphic and visual appeal of the game
2. Game rendering is faster and smoother
3. Fps boost of up to 15% is possible
COD: Warzone 1. It may cause input lags during gameplay. 1. Improved fps boost
2. Game rendering is smoother
3. Better access to basic on-screen details, icons, and in-game elements.

GPU scaling vs. Display scaling performance comparison has been done in this article, emphasizing why and when they are needed. 

Although most of the popular games are better suited when scaled on display scaling since they heavily rely on GPU to run in the first place. GPU scaling is more effective for retro games since they are not heavy on the graphics card. 

However, you can check out our article on how to fix AMD GPU scaling issues if you encounter the problem. 

Also, try these fixes for Windows 10/11 doesn’t fit the screen issues. Finally, you can also try our guide if GOG games don’t open in full-screen

We’d like to hear from you in the comments section if you found our review helpful.

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