Most bang for your pixels!

Posted: January 27, 2014 in Developer Tools

Running Windows 8/8.1 on a high resolution display? May be you have one of the new 4K monitors or the ultra high DPI laptops. Are you sure you are getting the most of your pixels?

I recently put Windows 8.1 on my last remaining laptop, one with resolution much more than 1080P (1920×1080). To my dismay, several desktop applications looked plain blurry! Font text was inconsistent in size between applications and icons/imagery appeared pixelated around edges. However, a lot of the native Windows applications, like IE or File Explorer, looked fine. So what’s the deal? If you are ever stuck with less than crisp displays while running Windows 8/8.1, read on ..

  • First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Make sure you have the latest Windows uppdates and running the latest drivers for your video/graphics card. Lot of OEM vendors have updated their Windows drivers and there is no excuse not to be running the latest.
  • Once you know it is not a driver issue, it must be something software. Turns out, Windows caters to a huge number of screen sizes and there has to be some compromises made in terms of defaults. Most of the non-geek population isn’t as concerned about screen real estate like we developers. So, Windows defaults to a bit of display scaling if the native resolution is much higher than 1080P. Much like what OSX does for the MacBook Retinas out of the box.
  • If you trust your eyes and want to shut off this automatic scaling for high resolutions, Windows gives you granular as well as blanket options. For me, Chrome browser, for instance, looked really blurry. So, right click on the program (either from the Taskbar/Desktop or the actual EXE in Program Files) and get to the Properties. Then switch to the Compatibility tab.

ChromeProperties

  • See the checkbox for “Disable display scaling on high DPI settings”? That’s the one you want to have checked. The result – smaller fonts, bigger real estate & crisp edges/icons/imagery.
  • Now, you can do this one at a time for applications you select, or one time for every application in a sweep. Head to the Display settings in Control Panel and turn on the custom scaling for all displays with appropriate text size. Once set, automatic scaling will be turned off and all applications display native resolutions. You can always fine tune magnification inside individual applications.

GlobalTextSetting

Result – ultra high resolution DPI nirvana and more stuff on screen with the increased real estate! Your eyes are your responsibility though 🙂 . Hope this helps.

Adios!

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Comments
  1. Under Chrome://flags there is a setting for HiDPI displays too. Might want to try that.

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