Make a Reti­nalike dis­play

Make OS X look sharper on a regular mon­i­tor by turn­ing on HiDPI mode

Mac Format - - POWER UP YOSEMITE! -

Many Ap­ple fans covet the Retina dis­play found on the iMac and Mac­Book Pro. What many don’t re­alise is that the spe­cial ren­der­ing mode OS X this uses to draw the desk­top in finer de­tail is avail­able on Macs with regular dis­plays, too, and that it can have prac­ti­cal benefits. HiDPI mode is en­abled by de­fault on Macs that have a built-in Retina dis­play, and that’s why the desk­top is drawn at sen­si­ble pro­por­tions. You won’t see any ref­er­ence to HiDPI in Sys­tem Pref­er­ences’ Dis­plays pane on th­ese Macs. Rather, click­ing the Scaled op­tion re­veals set­tings sim­i­lar to ‘Looks like 1440x900’. The dis­play it­self has many more pix­els than that. The scal­ing op­tions tell OS X to draw things at the same pro­por­tions they would ap­pear on a non-Retina dis­play, and to use the ex­tra pix­els that are avail­able to draw things in much finer de­tail. That’s why you see in­creased de­tail in icons and text has a much smoother ap­pear­ance on a Retina dis­play.

If you connect an of­fi­cially-sup­ported, ex­ter­nal 4K dis­play to a Mac, the desk­top should ap­pear at sim­i­larly sen­si­ble pro­por­tions. How­ever, some dis­plays cause OS X to dis­play things at a very small size, mak­ing text dif­fi­cult – if not im­pos­si­ble – to read. In this case, it’s es­sen­tial that you en­able HiDPI mode.

HiDPI on low-res

HiDPI mode isn’t only avail­able on dis­plays that gen­uinely have a high pixel den­sity. It can be en­abled on any Mac us­ing a sim­ple Ter­mi­nal com­mand.

What this won’t do is in­crease the num­ber of pix­els in your dis­play be­yond what’s there in the first place. How­ever, when en­abled on a 27-inch iMac with a regular dis­play, on which the dis­play has a 2560x1440-pixel res­o­lu­tion, HiDPI en­ables ev­ery­thing to be drawn at twice the size but with in­creased fidelity. In ef­fect, this halves the us­able workspace on the desk­top, so ev­ery­thing is pro­por­tioned like it would be on a 1280x720pixel dis­play. You might find this un­com­fort­able at the dis­tance you nor­mally sit from your Mac. Less fits on the screen – you won’t be able to see as much of a web page or a doc­u­ment at once, for ex­am­ple – but things look clearer. You might find this trade-off be­tween space and clar­ity is ben­e­fi­cial if you find things are nor­mally a lit­tle too small or you have trou­ble dis­tin­guish­ing char­ac­ters. You could switch to a lower res­o­lu­tion with­out en­abling HiDPI mode, but OS X will draw the desk­top at that res­o­lu­tion and then up­scale it to fill the screen, which can make things fuzzy.

En­abling HiDPI is as easy as run­ning a Ter­mi­nal com­mand (see be­low), log­ging out and back in again, then pick­ing a new dis­play res­o­lu­tion.

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