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The ultimate guide to tweaking your GPU's most arcane settings

Loyd Case | Feb. 6, 2013
Understand the weirdest, most complex options of your graphics control panel, and start tweaking your display like a pro.

To adjust the aspect ratio, open your GPU control panel and find the radio buttons that control this setting. The top button leaves the source materials' aspect ratio unchanged, but enlarges the image to use as much of the monitor space as possible (meaning that you'll probably have gray or black bars on either side of the image, if your source material is 4:3). This is the preferable setting.

Normally, the 'Scale image to full size' option is switched on by default, but you'll want to avoid this option if you're having scaling issues.

The third option--which Nvidia calls 'no scaling' and AMD refers to as 'use centered timings'--prevents the image from being scaled at all. If you try to display a 640 by 480 image on a 2560 by 1600 display with this setting enabled, you'll end up with a tiny picture at the center of your screen. Though this may represent the most accurate image possible, you probably won't find it a pleasing option.

Your graphics control panel has a few more-specific aspect ratio settings that you can tweak, but you can ignore these if you're using a widescreen monitor manufactured in the past five years.

Desktop color settings

The two types of color settings in GPU control panels are desktop color and video color. The latter term refers to color settings for video playback. The different panels exist due to differences in the way that PC graphics and video playback handle color. We'll discuss video color settings in more detail shortly, but first let's look at desktop color.

A single control panel handles desktop color settings for Nvidia-based graphics cards.

You can set the application to control desktop color, or you can make the changes in the graphics card. Aside from specific color calibration tools, most applications don't tinker with desktop color. Nevertheless, if you have a high-end monitor with sophisticated color controls, it may be best to use them. If your display offers no color controls--as happens both with very cheap and with high-end 30-inch monitors--you'll want to enable color setting changes with the Nvidia controls.

AMD splits its desktop color controls into two different panels.

The left panel deals with general color controls, and works even if you have an analog (VGA) connection; the color changes are internal to the card. The panel on the right, listed under digital flat panels, alters the values in the digital output signal sent via DisplayPort, DVI, or HDMI. You also get controls for such variables as color temperature. Setting the color temperature to 6500K (degrees Kelvin) is generally appropriate for video. However, this adjustment changes only the output color temperature to 6500K; you may still need to calibrate your display to achieve accurate color temperature settings.

 

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