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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.

Multiple monitors

Using two or more displays can significantly improve productivity. If you just want to configure two displays for independent use as spanned or cloned displays, the Windows display control panel generally produces adequate results.

On the other hand, both AMD and Nvidia offer feature support for multiple displays beyond what Windows does. AMD's Eyefinity lets you locate the Windows 7 start button on either display. If you configure an Eyefinity group, it treats multiple displays as one surface, with a single resolution that combines the span of multiple displays. For example, you can configure two 1920 by 1080 displays to behave like a single 3840 by 1080 monitor.

Nvidia doesn't offer as much flexibility for desktop spanning as AMD. However, Nvidia's control panel makes it easier to create a surround gaming setup, if you want to have stereoscopic 3D gaming over three monitors. The downside? The three displays must be essentially identical, and must have high refresh rates (120Hz or greater.)

Video and video quality

Both AMD and Nvidia offer controls to improve your video viewing experience.

Here again, if you're using a third-party video player, such as CyberLink's PowerDVD, you may want to use the applications' controls to manage video hardware. Most users, however, don't use sophisticated tools for viewing online or downloaded videos, so being aware of how the GPU control panels handle video is useful.

Both AMD and Nvidia offer controls for tweaking video playback color. Nvidia spreads its video color controls over three tabs: one for basic color, one for gamma, and one for advanced color.

If you aren't sure about what you're doing, proceed with care; Nvidia's control panels are sparse, and don't provide much guidance. Make changes in small increments, and be especially cautious about changing gamma settings. (Gamma alters the color tonality based on differences between video signals and human perception of color in a well-lit room.)

AMD's video color controls offer even more-granular control, though they replicate the controls you might see on an HDTV display. For example, presets labeled 'vivid', 'theater', and the like are available. Again, tweak on the basis of what looks pleasing to your eye, and avoid large scale-changes where possible.

Video quality settings let you deal with problems such as noisy video shot in low light. Both AMD and Nvidia offer tweaks for edge enhancement.

Nvidia's video quality settings are quite basic. You can set edge enhancement, noise reduction, and inverse telecine. Inverse telecine takes care of de-interlacing video; you may see this called "3:2 pulldown," which refers to converting film shot at 24 fps into 30-fps video--an operation that involves inserting extra frames into the video stream to maintain smooth video playback and maintain audio sync. Because video plays at various different standard rates in different places around the world, your GPU has to be able to handle a range of frame-rate conversions.

 

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