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Imagine I have a Thunderbolt Display (2560x1440) and a game I like runs better at Full HD (1920x1080).

I imagine that if I use the full screen, the upscaling will make the image worse than if the monitor native resolution was Full HD.

Is there any way to use only the pixels I need leaving a black border?

Is this an monitor dependent setting, or it will depend on the OS?

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You could try running the game in window. This wouldn't give a black border and you might have issues when the mouse leaves the window. –  ChrisF Oct 10 '12 at 11:52
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This would usually be a monitor dependent setting. Some monitors have settings like this in their on-screen-menu, but since you are mentioning a thunderbolt display, I guess you have an apple monitor and these to the best of my knowledge don't have settings like these (nor an on-screen-menu in the first place).

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In full screen mode, the game will look it's best at the monitor's native resolution. The next best scenario would be running the game at a resolution that divides evenly into the native resolution i.e. 2560/2 x 1440/2 = 1280x720. In this resolution, each perceived pixel will be made of 4 of the monitor's actual pixels.

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