Up For Debate - Full Screen Vs Borderless Full Screen Vs Windowed PC Gaming

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Feb 14, 2015 4:00 PM

When feverishly tweaking all the settings for optimal performance and graphical quality in the latest games, I often find it’s easy to gloss over something so simple as fullscreen options. To play a game in fullscreen seems like an absolute no-brainer, I mean why would you want anything to interfere with your gaming experience?

The advantages of a full screen set up are pretty clear to us all. As gamers it allows us to focus on the gaming, and the rest of the system is basically forgotten about behind the scenes. However, things aren’t necessarily so cut and dried, and there’s a lot to be said for Windowed PC gaming, or that altogether rarer beast - Borderless Full Screen.

Full Screen is the standard method by which all games run, but you’ll also more often than not find the option to run in Windowed mode tucked away in the video options screen. The advantage with Windowed mode is that you can of course run two or more things simultaneously on the same screen.

Obvious benefactors for Windowed settings are MMOs, where you can plough through some Netflix to ease the grind, or pull up a walkthrough to read alongside, rather than having to constantly alt+tab out. Windowed mode means that switching between windows is easy, so if you want a quick Google search it can be right at your fingertips.

Because the desktop is still running alongside the game you can also instantly switch between programs, rather than the lengthy pause when it seems like your PC is dying as you tab out. This is usually because the game’s textures are stored in your graphics card’s cache, so the desktop needs to be reloaded. Instant tabbing out can also be great for tracking performance data while playing a game or keeping track of video recording.

Living the dream

The disadvantage of Windowed gaming is the atmosphere is well and truly ruined. That moment you first step out of the prison in Oblivion becomes oh so much less impressive when you get a pop-up telling your PC needs to restart in four hours for Windows updates. Some games suffer more than others obviously, particularly those that rely on a sense of place an immersion. By that same token, if you’re struggling with a horror game that’s just too damn scary for its own good, putting it into Windowed mode can make it a walk in the park.

Moving on to Borderless Full Screen Windowed, and this is quickly becoming the weapon of choice for many PC gamers. As with Windowed, the benefits of Borderless Full Screen include seamless task switching, with no delay and barely any performance cost, but its key thing is it still appears as if it's full screen. So it looks like Full Screen but has all the seamless switching of Windowed. As a side benefit it also eliminates screen tearing without the use of in-game Vsync by making use of the operating system’s own tools.

It sounds too good to be true, but obviously there are some downsides. Firstly, AMD does not currently support CrossFire in conjunction with Borderless Full Screen Windowed, so your clock speed is going to get hit hard if you attempt it.

Secondly, multi-monitor set ups can prove a bit of a nightmare. The way borderless often works is by not locking your cursor to the game screen, so if you were to move it off the edge of the screen you could out of the game. Lastly Borderless is sadly not an option in many games, although it is possible to force it in some.

Choices, choices, choices, but which is your favourite? Are you full screen or nothing, or do you prefer to multitask during your gaming sessions? 

Which is your preferred way to game?

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14:34 Feb-16-2015

borderless, way easier if you are multitasking you can alt-tab out of the game without your screen flashing.

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09:01 Feb-16-2015

I prefer fullscreen but there are games that work good windowed too, games whiteout action, for example I play Hearthstone and watch a video or check my email.

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06:56 Feb-16-2015

borderless is best for performance I find, first place I saw that was ghosts, tried it, worked great, never looked back! if the option is availabe, of course

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17:13 Feb-15-2015

I like fullscreen, but since i bought my new rig, it doesn't work well with my monitor for some reason, so im forced to play borderless then it works fine, but on fullscreen my whole image moves to the right, my left side of monitor is black and it's like 7-8cm long, some games work fine, some don't.

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16:52 Feb-15-2015

I prefer full screen, but on some games I get better performance with borderless full screen. An example is Tomb Raider 2013. Any game that has Tress FX runs better for me in borderless window when Tress FX is enabled. On Tomb Raider I gain 10 to 15 fps just swapping from full screen to borderless full screen..

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16:10 Feb-15-2015

Huh, wat? You can play windowed mode? Hersey I say!

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15:22 Feb-15-2015

Full screen versus spanned multi monitor. Can there be more than full screen?

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15:07 Feb-15-2015

Depends on the engine in my opinion. In some games they perform the same but in some I noticed border-less really boosted the fps in certain games

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13:22 Feb-15-2015

Borderless for it saves GPU power off Vertical Sync and it is also great to operate background applications like ongoing downloads and other things you might want to use without sucking the essence of game play.

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10:17 Feb-15-2015

I'm not sure if this is true, but does fullscreen give you less fps than borderless windowed mode on the same resolution?

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10:07 Feb-15-2015

It is easier to control spotify (in example) while using multiple monitors and gaming when using borderless

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09:56 Feb-15-2015

Borderless means no need for Vsync and you can quickly switch between tabs

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06:26 Feb-15-2015

Don't worry guys, the poll will be fixed as soon as Jon or Felix gets online ;)

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06:09 Feb-15-2015

Let us vote maybe?

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05:39 Feb-15-2015

Full screen unless am looking at my download window

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01:48 Feb-15-2015

thats what i call a Poll!

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01:46 Feb-15-2015

I had no idea people used borderless THIS much. Ive considered trying it but I dont know if it has any benefit performance wise. It seems good for multitasking like watching a stream.

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00:34 Feb-15-2015

Depends on the game and the mode I'm in... fullscreen for games that use all 3 screens is fun... Full windowed is great for multi tasking. (since I have nvidia no problem with SLI working). It just depends really.

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23:22 Feb-14-2015

Depends on the game. If I want immersion then of course fullscreen headset etc, but if I play let's say a Total War game or as depicted Dying Ligh (while it's day, not night) I put it on windowed if possible borderless. I have a second screen that I use for extra space to help me with my work but also to watch movies and series while gaming. I finally found out that I am not alone.

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22:50 Feb-14-2015

Why doesn't he just you know reupload and change the poll timing

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Can They Run... |

| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Core i5-9400F 6-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II 2GB OC Edition 16GB
0% No [2 votes]
Pentium Dual Core B960 2.2GHz Radeon HD 6950M 4GB
0% No [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Athlon II X2 245 GeForce GTS 250 4GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
| 60FPS, High, 720p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB
| High, 720p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Medium, 720p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 10GB
| 30FPS, High, 1080p
Core i3-8100 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1060 3GB 16GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 32GB
100% Yes [5 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 980 4GB 32GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i5-10400F 6-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Ti MSI Ventus 2X 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [9 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i7-10700F 8-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 970 Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB Edition 16GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-11400F 6-Core 2.6GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 980 4GB 32GB
66.6667% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]