When possible, use in-game controls to change 3D settings: Changing settings inside a game is the best way to control image quality and performance. GPU control panels let you tweak various 3D settings, but the settings they may be impractical and imprecise. Consider antialiasing, which eliminates jagged edges but tends to reduce your frame rate: The game's designers have optimized in-game antialiasing settings for the game, applying antialiasing algorithms only when they consider those adjustments necessary. But turning on antialiasing from your dektop's GPU control panel may apply it to every pixel of every frame at all times, dramatically reducing (in some cases) the frame rate your system can deliver.
On the other hand, sometimes you may benefit from using the GPU control panels for 3D settings. We'll discuss those situations in the section on 3D graphics.
Know your controls
The display control panels are available by either right-clicking on the Windows desktop or by clicking on the tray icon in the lower right corner of your task bar and then clicking the icon for the control panel.
Bringing up the tray icon and then right-clicking the control panel icon yields additional options. With Nvidia, the only practical option is to update your drivers or check for updates. But AMD provides a cascading set of menus that amount to a mini-control panel.
Following the cascading menu choices can be a little daunting, however. Unless you know exactly what you want to tweak, however, you'll probably do better to bring up the entire control panel and then navigate the choices in a more visual way. Let's do that, starting with basic display settings.
Your GPU has one crucial job: to drive your PC monitor through analog (VGA) or digital (DisplayPort, DVI, or HDMI, for example) interfaces. Performing this duty gets a little tricky in a system that runs multiple monitors simultaneously; but even if you have just one monitor, you may want to adjust some important settings. For example, if you're connecting via HDMI to an HDTV panel, you'll probably want to set a custom resolution to avoid overscan, a problem that arises when the GPU doesn't correctly match its display resolution to your display's resolution, causing the edges of your screen to get cut off (so you can't see the Start menu in Windows 7, for example.) Old standard-definition TVs, many older HDTVs, and even some current models are susceptible to overscanning an input signal; to compensate, you must instruct your GPU to kick out video at a custom resolution. Both Nvidia and AMD let you do so via their graphics control panels.