How to Run PC Games at Resolutions Higher Than Your Monitor with Supersampling

What’s the best PC game resolution? Most gamers will say “Whatever your display can support” if pressed. Because it makes no sense to display images at a higher resolution than your hardware can handle and your eyes can see, right? … Right?

A Quick Primer on Supersampling

Maybe that’s not the case. There’s a new way to improve the visuals of PC video games now that game developers know how to get their games to operate at 60 frames per second on mediocre hardware and graphics cards under $200 are becoming insanely powerful and efficient.

To put it another way, the technique is called “supersampling,” and it works by rendering images at a resolution that is higher than the monitor’s native resolution, then scaling them down to match the monitor’s native resolution.

Various software-only solutions for this have been around for a while, but now video cards are powerful enough to brute force the technique onto games that don’t natively support it.

There is an advantage in that you can see considerably more detail in graphics, which helps you avoid problems like jagged polygon edges and artefacts caused by light sources. As a result of this, polygonal edges and lighting effects will look smoother and have a more realistic appearance on the screen than what your eyes are capable of seeing. More sophisticated anti-aliasing methods can accomplish this, but GPUs now have the power to display things much more clearly without resorting to subtlety.

Cons: Your graphics card will have to work harder while rendering high-resolution graphics and then downsampling the picture to suit your display. It is possible that the game may operate at a frame rate of less than 60 frames per second, resulting in decreasing returns in terms of visual performance.

Here’s an Overwatch character being rendered with standard, screen-matching resolution on the left and a 200% supersampling technique on the right. Both are displaying at 1080p, the maximum resolution of many standard monitors. But the image on the left is being rendered in the game’s engine at 1080p, while the image on the left is rendering at 4K (3840×2160).

There are fewer jagged edges around depicted items like Lucio’s goggles, and the shadows and flesh tones flow more smoothly. When the game played at 200 per cent of its usual resolution, I saw frame rates dip to the 40s and 30s during intricate combat sequences, when they had previously been rock-steady at 60 frames per second.

System and even game outcomes may differ when super-sampling methods are used. Older PC games and low-performance console ports are good candidates for this approach since they don’t demand the full capability of your gaming PC and lack more sophisticated anti-aliasing settings. Over-rendered, these games can still run at 60 fps without stuttering. Take creative snapshots or create high-quality movies if you’re like that kind of thing using the app.

Here’s a pretty good example of the fine detail that can be added by artificially boosting the resolution, in this case via AMD’s proprietary Virtual Super Resolution.

There are two basic ways to achieve this: through your graphics card’s driver program, or through the game itself. Note that only a few games support the latter option at the moment. We recommend trying both if they’re available to you.

Enable Supersampling via the Graphics Card

This method is going to force Windows itself to render images at a greater resolution than would normally be possible.

NVIDIA Graphics Cards

For NVIDIA GPU owners, open the NVIDIA Control Panel, then click on “Adjust desktop size and position.” Make sure that the “Override the scaling mode set by games and programs” option in section 2 is checked.

Now click on “Change resolution” under the “Display” column on the left-hand side. Click “Customize,” then “Create Custom Resolution.”

You want to make a new scaled resolution that’s higher than native, but scales with your monitor’s aspect ratio: 16:9 for most widescreen displays, 16:10 for some rarer “pro” displays, and 4:3 for older LCD and CRT monitors. So for example, if your regular monitor has a 1920×1080 resolution (which is a 16:9 ratio), you can add a new resolution at 2560×1440, or bump it up to a full 4K resolution at 3840×2160—both of which are also 16:9 ratios.

how to run pc games at resolutions higher than your monitor with supersamplingClick “test” to see if your monitor will accept the new resolution—some won’t, just displaying a blank screen or error message. If that’s the case, you’re more or less out of luck, and you need to proceed to the game-specific section below.

If the test is successful, you’ll now have a new resolution option in Windows’ Display Settings (right-click on the desktop, then click “Display Settings). You can simply set the resolution higher before beginning your game and adjust the rendering resolution as necessary. Note that with the NVIDIA Control Panel, it’s possible to add multiple custom resolutions in Windows.

AMD Graphics Cards

AMD’s implementation of these techniques is called “Virtual Super Resolution.” VSR is supported on Radeon HD 7790 GPUs and newer, at various boosted resolutions that shift based on the available power of your card—the Radeon R9 series can handle virtual resolutions of up to 4K.

how to run pc games at resolutions higher than your monitor with supersamplingAMD’s implementation is also a bit more user-friendly than NVIDIA’s: just open the Radeon Settings program, click “Display,” then switch the “Virtual Super Resolution” option to “On.” Games should then be able to be adjusted to resolutions higher than your maximum Windows resolution without affecting the actual system settings.

It’s possible to apply different resolutions and enable them in Windows on non-supported Radeon cards, but it’s much more difficult and time-consuming, requiring edits directly to the Windows registry, which can be risky. So, proceed on your own risk with proper backup.

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