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A new kind of fullscreen!

One problem that has plagued PCSX2 since as long as most anyone can remember is it's general inflexibility and instability when flipping between windowed and fullscreen modes. This was something we really sought to address as we re-write the user interface in 0.9.7.

In 0.9.6 the situation was grim: The flip never really worked right in DX9 -- there's an "escape hack" that completely shuts down the emulator just to flip out of fullscreen mode. Hitting alt-enter is usually less forgiving (the plugin handles it, and doesn't allow PCSX2 to completely shut everything down and restart). In DX10 things were better: alt-enter typically works a couple times, but do it too often, or get an unlucky flip, and it'll still result in lost or corrupted video and possibly a crash depending on video drivers and (lack of) luck.

In 0.9.7 we've completely re-done our approach to fullscreen. Instead of using what Microsoft DirectX calls Exclusive Mode (you can read about the programmer-centric details of it here), we're taking a more modern approach and using a special type of maximized desktop window instead. Like anything there's some advantages and disadvantages to this new approach:

Advantages of the new fullscreen method:

  • Works perfectly in DX9 and DX10 alike.
  • No more risk of visual corruption or crashes, and no need to shutdown the emulator to avoid them.
  • Much faster and seamless flips.
  • Works with any GS plugin, regardless of how the GS plugin is implemented.
  • Always uses your LCD display's optimal resolution (assuming you have it set in the desktop as such, and you should).
  • Integrates better with your desktop -- Alt-Tab, TaskBar, popup errors, etc. are much less prone to being... annoying. (pulling up a strategy guide in a browser window, for example!)
  • Super-easy to implement, from a programming perspective!


  • A slight bit of extra window management overhead.
  • Always uses your desktop resolution on CRT displays (this is an advantage for anyone with an LCD display, but can be a disadvantage for people with CRT displays, depending on your setup .. however few of you are left)

The performance benefit of exclusive fullscreen is mostly related to Aero under Vista/Windows7. in which case the performance is sometimes better in a window over exclusive mode (this depending on video card/drivers/etc).

The thing that really sold us on it though is the fact that overhead of the non-exclusive fullscreen mode is minimal on modern GPUs. The only real advantage of using exclusive fullscreen is that it bypasses Aero and increases the "multimedia priority" of the app. If you already have Aero disabled, then neither of those apply anyway. And looking toward the future: the next generation of GPUs will reduce that overhead of Aero even further to the point where even that will likely not make a significant impact on performance. So the idea of a seamlessly working fullscreen flip for all DirectX incarnations on all incarnations of Windows over a rather iffy, unstable, and fragile fullscreen flip that might be 2-3% faster on legacy hardware ended up being a no-brainer.

We're still leaving the door open for adding optional support for exclusive mode fullscreen, since there could still be some use to it for special scenarios like CRT displays and TV projection; though there's no timetable for the implementation of the option -- and it would depend on the GS plugin to support it properly otherwise it'll still be the corruption/crash bomb that it's always been up to now.

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