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  • SodaAnt - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    This has always been one of my big issues with the surface pro. I really like it, and the high resolution display is great, but I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. I'd like to use 150% scaling to get the UI elements to the size I want, but I find that everything is just blurry and unusable then, so I have to stick with 100% and deal with the small elements. Reply
  • Imaginer - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Fortunately, I haven't dealt with the applications that needed 100%. Even at 150%, I am fine, but to actually fit more work, a compromise for me is a blanket 125%.

    Still usable for me in both direct touch, pointer cursor work, and pen work. Virtual mouse trackpad is also fine.

    I do not have the "fortunate" experience with Adobe's suites. So I cannot experience that "joy" with their software. Manga Studio possibly took some cues, being their window title bar areas are as custom sized and small at 125%, but everything else is usable. ArtRage, is one of the very good ones out the gate - from day one of the Surface Pro's release in pressure support for Ink.API and WinTab along with their UI elements.

    And long before that, when I sometimes tried to view things in CAD on my HDTV, the scaling was set at 150% and 1080p, but the behavior of AutoCAD wasn't up to par. I believe that is fixed a bit as I did not have problems when I used the software upon the default factory scaling of the Surface Pro.

    Some companies listen and go back to do things right, some do things right out the gate, some are more slower than others.
  • TimEMcGough - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    This is actually part of the reason why I really like my T100 and its 768p resolution. With a 10.1" screen, the ~155dpi to my eye is pretty darned good with 100% scaling. Much higher DPI and everything gets too small without scaling and, sadly, I use plenty of those Adobe applications on a regular basis. Reply
  • coastwalker - Sunday, April 20, 2014 - link

    Pathetic. We have a generation of morons who think that a 16:9 video display is suitable for writing documents on. They also seem to believe that swiping the screen actually has something to do with productive activity. Its all a bit of a laugh watching civilization go down the plug hole. Reply
  • eddman - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    "One of the problems holding developers back is that there have been few high resolution devices on the market"

    What?! Holding them back?! Nothing was/is holding them back except for their own laziness, incompetence and total lack of respect for windows programing guidelines; and they call themselves developers.

    Yes, the desktop aspect of windows is quite open, but it doesn't mean you should develop a butchered application and then even be proud of it.
  • YuLeven - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    And whist it's easy to accept 'developers' of freeware software being lazy to properly code their software with the current age of computing in mind, it's baffling to see Adobe charging hundreds of dollars for that rubbish UI of them, a problem that persists for years since the first HiDPI personal computers now. Reply
  • bountygiver - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    and at the same time high DPI actually benefits designers the most, but the largest developer for designers' applications is one of these lazy bums... Reply
  • beginner99 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Wasn't surprised Adobe is affected by this. Their software is general pretty bloated and crappy. I mean Acrobat is a 1 GB+ install for working with pdf's. WTF? Reply
  • gerz1219 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Adobe's software is the best on the market. Their problem has always been is that there's a huge disconnect between the needs of creative/design professionals, and the needs of casual users. They design for the professional market, even though a lot of more casual users may want to edit a PDF or Photoshop their friend's face onto a dog.

    Acrobat is a 1 GB download because it includes all manner of print production, image scaling, and text recognition features, which the casual user doesn't need to delete a page out of a PDF. So if you only ever use the software to merge two PDF's, it looks bloated. But it's not! Almost every feature of Acrobat has saved me time at one time or another.

    Regarding the scaling -- as a motion graphics and design professional, I *like* the small text in the UI. It gives me more screen real estate for my projects. The problem for anyone working in AfterEffects and Premiere is always that there's never enough screen real estate to see everything at once. Adobe has been slow to add in HiDPI scaling because their core market doesn't need or want it. It's a request from casual Photoshop users who only need the erase tool and the clone stamp tool to copy their friend's face onto a dog, and most of those users are still torrenting CS6.
  • chaos215bar2 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    As stated in the article, it's the professionals that are likely to be first to adopt high DPI monitors or (for a Mac example) case-sensitive file systems. It's rather telling that Adobe CS still don't work on case-sensitive filesystems after five major releases. All they have to do is make sure their apps always use the correct case when accessing a file! It's not that difficult, they just don't care.

    It's great that you like the small text, but you're always free to set Windows to 96 DPI. In fact, if Adobe properly supported scaling, you could even set it lower to get more working space if that's what you wanted..
  • pixelstuff - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Not to mention, apparently Adobe has created a HiDPI interface for OSX. So it's not exactly like they are having to reinvent the wheel on Windows. Reply
  • jamyryals - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Most developers are doing what was scoped for a project. DPI scaling was not very important for many years. It was difficult to assign resources to a problem when it was an issue that few encountered. Believe it or not, but most decisions in development are based on priority and not laziness. Go ahead and keep shaking your fist at them though, you'll show 'em! Reply
  • eddman - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Are you one of such developers, because I don't see how anyone can defend such practices.

    There are these things called guidelines. You don't need to have project "scopes" or resources to follow them. If a developer doesn't care to follow such basic things, then he/she doesn't deserve any respect.
  • npaladin2000 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    When your project manager says "don't bother programming for DPI scaling, we don't have the time, and we have to meet this deadline in order to get paid on time" then you skip the frigging DPI scaling. Get it? Reply
  • eddman - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    They would actually demand it?! Is it really that hard to code a DPI-aware program? I have a hard time believing the latter.

    If it is easy and yet they still ignore, then it is even worse than I thought.
  • inighthawki - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Again, I see you don't work in the software industry. Every feature takes time. If that time is not in the current milestone budget, it gets cut. So yes, it happens, and your project manager absolutely can demand you not work on it. Reply
  • Alexey291 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Sometimes I wonder if any of the people here have ever worked in ANY industry let alone as developers.

    Every project in the damn world has a set of priorities and you don't "just decide" to throw something in unless you're told to.
  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Yes, it really is that hard to code DPI-awareness into a Win32 application. The API is horrendous. Reply
  • UsernameAlreadyExists - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Thus, since around 2007 (2006-2008?) writing Windows applications with WPF has been possible..

    "Windows Store apps require far less work from the developer in order to achieve this scaling. The app doesn’t have to be DPI aware, because by default all applications automatically are. Instead, things such as XAML layouts and SVG graphics allow the apps to be rescaled completely by the operating system."

    XAML, since 2008 or so has allowed the programs to be rescaled completely by the operating system. Might have been nice to mention this in the article.
  • Klimax - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    If it is hard for you and like, then don't do UI yourself and use bloody framework or toolkit.


    And I am sure similar docs were there for all those years...
  • inighthawki - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    I take it you're not a developer? Or else you'd understand at large companies you have a set of tasks, a time limit, and you have to cut certain features and prioritize them to customer needs. In Adobe's case, maybe, despite what you may think, their research showed that few people needed a high DPI UI, so resources were spent on other features first. Reply
  • npaladin2000 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Yes I am a developer, working for a large multinational ecommerce provider. And I just said exactly what you did only I was much coarser and simpler in my language in the hopes that it will penetrate some of the thicker skulls out there. But the bottom line is that you apply hours to the features that are either functionally required, contractually required, or will actually be used. If something's unlikely to be used or isn't a specifically requested feature, it's not going to get resources spent on it. Why would you? That would essentially be throwing away money. Those hours could be spent on something else that will actually generate revenue instead. Reply
  • Murloc - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    he was answering to eddman, not you, look at the comment indentation. Reply
  • inighthawki - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    I was replying to eddman. Anandtech's comments section could use a small upgrade. After like 4 levels of replies it's impossible to tell who is replying to whom. Reply
  • JDG1980 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    You're missing the point. You have to *actively do something wrong* for DPI scaling to not work properly. The standard guidelines for Windows API programming have included support for HiDPI for years. If you don't have time to program your own custom controls that support HiDPI, then use the standard controls. If you have time to reinvent the wheel for your project, then you have time to do it right. Reply
  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    "If you have time to reinvent the wheel for your project, then you have time to do it right."

    I wish this was true, however it's not. As deadlines loom, you do whatever you need to in order to get it to work. It would be nice to use standard controls for everything, but they aren't flexible enough for that.
  • darthrevan13 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Then why set the flag to true? So that there would be more problems? Reply
  • Zoomer - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    Same issue with VLC - fidelity in rendering the work is essential. Small UI vs your artwork rendered wrong - not hard to see what customers will choose. Many pros already memorized the keyboard shortcuts anyway. Reply
  • twtech - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    If you are ever involved with software development, one of the things you will learn is that there is always more to do, and there will always be more to do than you can ever get done. So you must prioritize what you're going to work on.

    If you want to devote the time to DPI scaling, that means something else that you could be doing is not going to get done. When most displays were all roughly around the same PPI, it just didn't make sense to prioritize DPI scaling highly relative to other work.
  • phoenix_rizzen - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Yeah. Everyone seems to forget that before LCDs took over and relegated us to a wasteland of 720p and 1080p panels, hi-resolution and hi-dpi monitors were commonplace. 1600x1200 was common in the 90s, and usually under/around 20". 1280x1024 was even more common at 14-17".

    Don't feel like doing the math on those, but they should be over 100 DPI.
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    You should do the math - 1280x1024 @ 17" is 96 DPI (called out in the article) and 1600x1200 @ 21" is also exactly 96 DPI.

    So not high DPI. Even going down a couple inches on screen size isn't going to change the DPI much.
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Interestingly enough, I had an Acer "Centrino" laptop circa 2004 that I believe had a 14" screen at 1280x1024. I remember needing to use 125% scaling. It was my first high DPI experience. Reply
  • solraun - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Great article! Thank you for calling out Adobe. But you are right, they are probably working overtime for a solution.
    One important point though:
    The resolution dictates how much detail any screen can display. The screen size determines how far away you want to be.
    Actual dpi is unimportant.
    The bigger the screen, the further away you will want to use it. The actual field of view, or angle, that the screen represents in for your eye stays the same. Sit in front of your monitor, then take out your smart phone and place it in the distance you would normally use it, but in front of the monitor. It will mostly match the outlines of the monitor.
    So for me, if I am using 1080p on my 24'' screen or 1080p on my 5'' smartphone: it is the same number of pixels per degree of my view.
    Similarly, I just bought a 4k 24'' screen, and while many people say 4k makes only sense on bigger displays, I disagree. I would have to sit further away from a 30'' monitor, and I don't have the space.
  • bountygiver - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    that's why windows 8.1 has a feature that solve this.
    It queries the dpi and screen size and calculate the viewing distance and decide how it scales.
    And I love how it scales real time when you move the apps across different monitors.
  • Taracta - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Adobe, with postscript and PDF (especially PDF which was meant to scale from the 10s of DPI on monitors to thousands of DPI on printing presses) in their portfolio that were meant to scale with DPI and their applications don't scale properly! RIDICULOUSNESS! Reply
  • bengildenstein - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    What? We're now giving Apple sole credit for the trend to improve mobile screen resolutions? Utterly preposterous.

    The DPI race did not "begin" with the iPhone 4. Screen resolutions (and by direct implication PPI/DPIs -- given a fixed screen area) have been steadily increasing over time, with Android devices showing a far smoother increase curve than the single iPhone "retina" release. Additionally the increase in resolution requires a larger industry of components to support them. And smartphone resolutions continue to increase while the iPhone screen remains stagnant at a sub-HD resolution.

    I'm not arguing whether Apple is influential. But I think it's high-time that we stop crediting them with creating innovations that have already happened and were trending at the time of their release.
  • Taracta - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Apple deserve the credit for the increase in DPI and screen resolutions. Without Apple you would not have had the Android device push ever higher DPI and laptops with now 4K screens. The only thing that was happening was the defaulting of resolutions to 1080p because of HDTV but DPI was actually going down as you were just getting bigger and bigger 1080p monitors. Actually 1080p was a regression from the 1920X1200 monitors that had existed before!

    So yes, Apple deserve the credit for starting the trend of increasing DPI and resolution.
  • evonitzer - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    In the phone space, not exactly. The OG iPhone, 3G, and 3GS were all 320x480 devices (165ppi). Meanwhile, Android phones had bumped their way up to 480x800 and 480x854 (265ppi @ 3.7"). The 3GS was released in June 2009, and 4-5 months later the OG Droid came out with a higher resolution. Then in June 2010 Apple released the iPhone 4, which further bumped up the resolution to 'retina', or 330 ppi. I'm not sure when the first 720P Android phone came out, but roughly 16 months later, Android phones matched the 330ppi and have kept going up.

    So I dunno. Perhaps the Android manufacturers would have stagnated without Apple countering them in 2010, but I would suggest that Android phones were pressuring Apple to improve and so they did. Push and pull from good competition. Who deserves the credit?
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    It's all about marketing. The "Retina" branding of the screens worked with consumers.

    You could say the same about the Touch ID. Not the first phone with a fingerprint sensor, but certainly the first one that average consumers would know about.

    In tech, it's rarely about who gets to market first, but more about who resonates with consumers with a product and in these two cases I'd argue Apple did that.

    They are not always the product innovators, but sometimes they are the ones that get average people to know enough to ask about an innovation.
  • hackbod - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    If you think us having high density displays in mobile today owes *anything* to Apple, you are delusional. This would have happened without Apple lifting a finger, it was *already* happening without them, and was actually happening long before the iPhone came out.

    Android devices were clearly increasing screen densities first, and in the Android world as soon as that happened, the platform had the full extensive density support it has today that allows seamless scaling down and up in density, to 320dpi and beyond, without changes to applications (once they were tweaked to be compatible with the implementation in Android 1.6, which was even a bit before the Droid). Nobody needed to push this along: screen resolution has *always* been one of those marketing numbers manufacturers use to convince people that their hardware is better, and in fact for the densities we are talking about here this is one of the more useful numbers because its impact is clearly visible right on the screen. The fact that they continue to push screen densities up to 480dpi and beyond pretty clearly shows that nobody needed Apple to make up a word and act like they were the Big Innovator in order to spur things on.

    But this was all happening well before Android or the iPhone. This increase in screen density actually happened well before that, in the Palm device world, with the introduction double density (160dpi) screens on Palm devices and support in that platform for scaling based on density. In fact this experience with how important it is to handle multiple densities on mobile devices had a big impact on the design of Android, planning for this from the start and thus having better intrinsic support for it.

    If you are actually familiar at all with the development of the mobile market, I think it is pretty clear that this increase in density is actually some intrinsic aspect to this market compared to what happened in desktops. There are probably a lot of reasons for this; for example, mobile screens can't really grow in size so increases in screen pixels need to be done as density increases rather than screen size increases, and these screens are starting at a much lower resolution so the simple 2x jump in density is a lot easier (keep in mind that 2x screen density means 4x the pixels to render, and when you are talking about desktop screens starting from their current resolutions that actually pushes you up in to resolutions that are pretty expensive to drive).

    Thinking that Apple had anything to do with pushing this part of the industry just shows a severe lack of knowledge about the history of the mobile market.
  • Taracta - Friday, April 18, 2014 - link

    I could say the IBM started the high density displays with the T220/T221 4K 22" monitors in 2001 with a ~200 DPI but I won't because these were not followed up on like the Sony laptop display you mentioned. I believe that it only counts when you follow up on it and make it part of your product portfolio, which is what Apple did, which forced the others to do it too.

    So I give credit to Apple and not IBM, for them mainstreaming HiDPI by requesting HiDPI panels from their ODMs suppliers. This in turn allowed the others to have access to the technology but Apple was the leader in mainstreaming it.
  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Apple didn't make the panels, they bought them off suppliers that were making them anyway. Often those panel suppliers were also Android manufacturers, so don't try to tell us that those screens wouldn't have made it to Android without Apple. Reply
  • yasamoka - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Hint, those displays were MADE for Apple. Upon Apple's request. Nobody cares who made the displays, they didn't appear out of thin air and then Apple went: OH PERFECT, this is a perfect fit! Reply
  • psyq321 - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    Sony introduced a 4" 1024x600 display (296 PPI) in 2007 --> look up Sony Vaio UX
    Sony also introduced a 13" 1920x1080 display (170 PPI) in 2010 --> look up Sony Vaio VPC-Z

    So, no, Apple did not invent high DPI screens. Apple invented a marketing name for them ("Retina"), though.

    By the way, Apple's notebook displays were low-DPI garbage before Retina Macbook Pro. I switched to Retina Macbook Pro since Sony stopped innovating and retired Vaio Z and Apple finally decided to produce a real high-end notebook. I could not even think of this before Apple decided to put a decent resolution display in their notebook.
  • psyq321 - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    Before I switched to 15" Retina Macbook Pro, I had all generations of Sony Vaio Z.

    Sony switched to 13" Full HD panels in 2010. Two years before Apple's switch to "retina" screens in their laptops. Before Apple Retina Macbook Pro, the DPI of their notebooks was pathetic.

    Also, Sony had Vaio UX with 1024x600 4" screen in 2007.
  • munim - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    These problems are why I won't be upgrading from my 96 DPI 24 inch monitor for the foreseeable future. Reply
  • jhoff80 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    "The Surface Pro’s on-device screen is set at 200% scaling which is necessary to make that resolution work on a 10” screen"

    No, it isn't. Out of the box, the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 are set to 150% scaling on their own displays. And for what it's worth, 125% scaling is completely usable as well - I've used it that way since release of the Pro 1 (since upgraded to the Pro 2).
  • bountygiver - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Exactly, even with only 125%, I have no problem navigating most legacy applications with touch. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Sorry about that - fixed now. Reply
  • darthrevan13 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    "Few high resolution devices"? That's no excuse! You can move the slider up to 150-200% even on your current low res display and then things will have to get 1.5-2 times bigger. It's not hard at all! I am a developer and I can't understand that. Microsoft released the API for this at the start of 2007, that makes 6 years not including this one.

    Most of all Adobe has no excuse at all! They should offer all of their next version apps which scale correctly for free!
  • JDG1980 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Adobe is a company full of whiners. When the Surface Pro came out, the pen didn't work in Photoshop because it used the Microsoft Ink API, instead of WinTab. (WinTab was supposed to be a free standard, but is tied up by a patent troll.) When Adobe was asked to fix this, they said "Waaaah, Ink API is too hard and we don't like it, so MS will have to support the old API instead." Unfortunately, Microsoft backed down instead of forcing Adobe to do the right thing. And we're seeing this same thing again with HiDPI support for Windows: "Waaah, it's too hard, we don't like the APIs, please Microsoft fix it for us". It's been pointed out to them multiple times that many other apps manage to do it just fine, but no, Adobe is a special snowflake and it has to be their way. Everyone else has to conform to them. Can't expect them to do any real work for the thousands of dollars per unit that they're being paid by graphics professionals. Reply
  • jhoff80 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    That had been a problem for nearly a decade. However, Adobe has now added Ink API support to Illustrator and Photoshop in their newest updates.

    And while I definitely fault Adobe for taking so long to add the Ink API, Microsoft still needed to get a Wintab driver. Adobe is not the only company that wasn't (at the time) using the Ink API. Even now, Photoshop is covered, sure. That doesn't help with Mischief, or 3D modeling programs, or any number of other Wintab-only applications.
  • Imaginer - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    You do not need to wait for a Microsoft WinTab driver. Wacom's FeelIT drivers for Tablet PCs has been updated for the Pros since last year around May.

    And, the drivers work for any Wacom pen-enabled displays. This driver, allows me to have two side buttons to assign functions and work with on particular pens out there (most definitely not the Surface Pen).
  • jhoff80 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Yes, that is exactly the driver we were talking about waiting for. That issue is fixed now on both ends. Microsoft/Wacom have their Wintab driver, and Adobe now also supports the Ink API. But when the Surface Pro first came out, neither of those things were true. Reply
  • twtech - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    In an ideal world, every huge old codebase like Photoshop's would be very clean, and adding another pen interface would be relatively straightforward.

    In reality, they probably had WinTab-specific code sprinkled in there in various places, which made fixing the problem more difficult, and includes the possibility that the WinTab stuff wouldn't work right afterward if any mistakes were made during the process of making that code generic.
  • JDG1980 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Well, that's why we pay them the big bucks. It's their responsibility to keep their code base clean and maintainable, not everyone else's responsibility to pander to their pile of spaghetti code. Reply
  • kasakka - Sunday, April 20, 2014 - link

    My experience with Adobe is that while the guys working on the image manipulation algorithms are absolutely brilliant, the folks behind the UI and QA are borderline incompetent. Adobe's software has been riddled with a shitload of small UI flaws (ranging from wrong fonts to incorrectly positioned controls to more severe stuff) for years and they don't seem to bother doing anything about it. These are probably the same people we can thank for not having proper DPI scaling. Reply
  • skiboysteve - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Great article. Kudos on writing this up so clearly Reply
  • r3loaded - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    The problem is that developers for the Mac are far more enthusiastic and invested in their platform, so when the rMBP was launched many of the big names rushed to add HiDPI support to their programs (either straight out of the gate or within a couple of months), giving a good user experience. There's also a general culture of following Apple's guidelines on UI design and UX best practices.

    On the Windows side, many developers can't give a crap about UX problems and blatantly ignore Microsoft's guidelines and best practices, preferring to do it their way. They still haven't got around to fixing their programs. I wonder if many ever will.

    Unless there's a big shift in culture and attitude, we're going to continue seeing scaling issues in Windows programs (issues that are in reality the fault of developers, not Windows itself).
  • jhoff80 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    To be honest, this is exactly why I feel that Metro needed (and still needs) to continue being pushed forward, as much as most power users hate it. Sure, there are some great desktop / Win32 apps, but they haven't really been relevant for years, and most developers just don't care enough any more to update them in really essential ways for the future (High DPI being the prime example). WinRT / Metro definitely still are rough around the edges, but in forcing developers to cut ties, it also forces a lot of progress on these fronts. Reply
  • microlithx - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Now if only the Modern environment wasn't a walled garden, I would support what you're saying. Unfortunately, I can't get behind ignoring the desktop for high DPI in the future so long as Microsoft tries to mimic Apple's lock down fetish. Reply
  • Imaginer - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    I have complained about AutoCAD not scaling properly under 1080p resolutions and at 125% scaling or even 150%. But I believed Autodesk listened since, because on my Surface Pro (and Pro 2), I haven't had an issue with their ribbons or layout.

    The only minor complaint, is their help and search minibar cannot be moved and it obscures the minimize and maximize buttons on their main AutoCAD window.
  • nportelli - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    PC screen DPI took a hit when "HD" TV's came out. I had a 15" 1920x1200 laptop, after HDTV became popular I could barely find a 15" 1080p laptop. My old CRT monitor ran in a '4k' resolution. None of this is new, we've just been set back about 10 years due to people thinking 768p screens are acceptable. Reply
  • phoenix_rizzen - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Exactly. There's a reason Windows 9x, WinNT 4-XP all came with two default values for DPI: 96 and 120. 120 DPI screens have been around since the CRT days, and using 120 DPI setting in Windows on a 120 DPI CRT was a very pleasant experience. Granted, some of those displays were 75-100 lbs behemoths, but they were around.

    Once LCDs started taking off, 720p and 1080p with <100 DPI become "the norm" and everything stagnated there for a decade or so. :(

    Considering the timelines, there's really no excuse other than laziness for why things don't work in a resolution-independent fashion ~30 years after the release of Windows 95.
  • azazel1024 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    This is actually part of the reason why I really like my T100 and its 768p resolution. With a 10.1" screen, the ~155dpi to my eye is pretty darned good with 100% scaling. Much higher DPI and everything gets too small without scaling and, sadly, I use plenty of those Adobe applications on a regular basis.

    I certainly wouldn't mind if my laptop and desktop displays were a wee closer to 150dpi also (14" 768p and 23" 1080p respectively). Or, say, 140ish dpi for the laptop and 120ish dpi for the monitor would probably "perfect" to my eye, until MS/Windows gets around the scaling issues with legacy applications.
  • Imaginer - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    One other thing about UI adherence, is that some software developers may not take advantage of the touch scrolling aspects that I found you can do with things like File explorer windows and some browsers (Opera).

    I am giving you the evil eye Valve's Steam. Your UI for the longest time only had a fixed scaling, not being able to keep with the OS's DPI scaling. Thus your excuse for that "Big Picture" mode that is SLOW (at my initial trying and at times still is now). If you could just tune that scaling, it would be fine for a wireless trackball and keyboard HTPC setup (and maybe some mouses that work on couch cushions...).
  • yhselp - Friday, April 18, 2014 - link

    Yes, Steam. Steam... The UI is so small even on a 23" 1080p monitor that it's practically unusable. Hundreds of thousands of people strain their eyes on a daily basis and Valve haven't done anything about it, all these years. Given how much money they make off it and the high profile of the application it seems ludicrous. Reply
  • eSyr - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    > APIs to retrieve monitor DPI No No No No Yes
    Ehrrr, WHAT. How about GetDeviceCaps() ( ) with nindex set to HORZSIZE or VERTSIZE. This is part of WinAPI since. like, forever.
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    That's the old XP style - you need to read your entire link:
    Note GetDeviceCaps reports info that the display driver provides. If the display driver declines to report any info, GetDeviceCaps calculates the info based on fixed calculations. If the display driver reports invalid info, GetDeviceCaps returns the invalid info. Also, if the display driver declines to report info, GetDeviceCaps might calculate incorrect info because it assumes either fixed DPI (96 DPI) or a fixed size (depending on the info that the display driver did and didn’t provide). Unfortunately, a display driver that is implemented to the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) (introduced in Windows Vista) causes GDI to not get the info, so GetDeviceCaps must always calculate the info.

    So it's a calculated value and not always accurate. The new API uses Extended display identification data (EDID) to provide the actual screen size. This specific API for the monitor DPI rather than system DPI is new to Windows 8.1.
  • bji - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Why couldn't Microsoft have updated the old GetDeviceCaps API to use the EDID data internally so that it could be more accurate in more situations, as well as providing a new API with more detail as well? Or maybe it did and its documentation is now out of date? Reply
  • kasakka - Sunday, April 20, 2014 - link

    Many monitors and TVs have reportedly messed up EDID data so it's probably not completely reliable. Reply
  • invinciblegod - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Now that I think about it, how would you side swipe with a windowed modern app (to access settings)? Would you sideswipe the application or the edge of the panel? If it's the edge of the panel, that would be sort of weird since it's not part of the window (ironically, Mac users would not find this dichotomy confusing as they already have one in the Menu bar). Reply
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Always swipe the right side to access settings.

    If you have two metro apps (or more) open an snapped, it will do settings for the active (last used) window. If you're not sure which is active, the bar in between the two (or more) metro apps will have three dots and a bar, with the bar always on the side of the active app.
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    To specifically answer your question about windowed - obviously we're not sure yet what they will do but I imagine it will be the same as now with the active window having the settings but we won't know until we see some bits from Windows 9. Reply
  • Laststop311 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    poor dpi scaling has kept me away from high dpi notebooks. I'm hoping for an alienware 18" m18x with gtx 980m 20nm flagship maxwell in sli and a 4k ips screen. Even tho my personally upgraded m18x r1 is still goin strong with 4.2ghz core i7-2960xm + gtx 680m sli the massive battery gains i will get going to 1st gen 14nm broadwell + 1st gen 20nm maxwell from 2nd gen 32nm sandy bridge + 1st gen 28nm will make it worth it. Just hope sli gtx 980m is enough to game in 4k on at least 1 step below ultra settings Reply
  • Antronman - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    If you actually want an alienware, you don't the first thing about technology.
    Here, let me fill you in:
    Alienwares = Overpriced, underperforming Dells.
  • bznotins - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    I tried running Win8 in VM on a 13" MBP and even with the tweaks noted in this article, Chrome still doesn't look half as good as it does in OSX. I have no idea if this is a Win8 problem or a Chrome problem (or both), but regardless it keeps me from considering a high DPI Windows laptop. Or even running Win8 fulltime on my MBP. Hopefully they get it fixed at some point in the future. Reply
  • Accord99 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Chrome probably, it used to work well in HiDPI back late last year but something that Google did broke Chrome completely for a period of time, then only partially fixed.

    I don't care too much because I prefer using Firefox which works well.
  • darthrevan13 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    It also could be the VM driver. It looks okay on a native windows machine with high DPI Reply
  • rxzlmn - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    How about the other side of the high DPI development, hardware scaling? I have read multiple times on forums that high DPI screens would often not be able to properly scale down to a lower native resolution (i.e. that is an exact fraction of the original resolution), due to internal electronics still doing some kind of interpolation instead of pixel binning.

    For instance, I plan to buy a 4K laptop in the near future (the Lenovo Y50 probably), and one point why I want 4K and not 3K or something else is, that 4K would be able to natively scale down to both 720p (for games) and 1080p (for desktop stuff that is not usable via Windows DPI setting, yes, I'm looking at you Adobe).

    Does anyone have any insight on whether a 4K display on a notebook would use pixel binning to scale down? Or not? And if so, why, and will this be an issue that is intrinsic to the monitor, or somehow be tweakable by SW?
  • Antronman - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    4k display on a notebook would have to be achieved with top-end mobile graphics.

    The display would likely need a 30Hz refresh rate to avoid screen tears. It would really only be something practical for 2D artists who do a lot of their work on the go.

    As far as scaling, I imagine it would work exactly the same as on an external monitor.
  • darthrevan13 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Being a week before the Toshiba Satellite P55t no one has any answer but looking at their 65L9300U UHDTV with 60hz and real HDMI 2.0 that launched not too much time ago things aren't looking so bright because when put on a lower resolution things get a little blurry. The scaler is hardware based (to keep up with the enormous resolution and refresh rate) not software based so until someone makes a silicon that viably handles 4K, 1080p and 720p you'll be stuck. Reply
  • B3an - Friday, April 18, 2014 - link

    I don't know why people like you think that 4k is hard to do. An average GPU can easily handle 4k @ 60hz. It's only for gaming that requires something more powerful. Reply
  • B3an - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    Brett - nice article. One thing i wanted to point out though is that the workaround you mention for Chrome does not work. Turning on HiDPI still has issues. The UI is messed up and pixelated, and text still isn't rendered correctly - the spacing of the letters is messed up. You can also see this in your text screenshot, look at the word "committing", the two M's are too close together. With other letters some are too far apart (depends on the word). Chrome is just screwed up, it's best you FF or IE. FF has small issues though but the text atleast renders correctly. Reply
  • Tujan - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Perhaps the ideas about a notebook,or a tablet concerning the displays are somewhat different than a standalone monitor with different manufactured possibilities. That is a Hi ppi on a notebook is not 'exactly' a PNP device. It may even be moreso (not pnp) presently when graphics cards,and monitors have several different plugs available HDMI,Display Port,VGA,DVI ect. . At least more presently,the high PPI for purposes of updating applications might be considered something other than PNP - to that requiring a driver from the manufacturer. Or that would provide a foundation for its feature set.

    I say this not necesarily as a priority. But in a role model that would consist of running with the display driver,and would as well become consistant with the programming coordinates.

    The System wide DPI thing as with XP,this was one example of a the difference in application independent resolutions. The application itself,the system menus,title bars,start menus,desktop fonts as well as default texting was something wich was system wide among ALL applications.

    You also said that Apple applications are PPI aware. And that exactly takes the coding to create applications for the PPI in use.

    Then that the 'SetProcessDPIAwareness',a setting in the Windows newer application programming base is something that can do pretty much the same.

    Funny thing about VLC,is that I'm wanting to ask what file type the video was which had anything to do with the DPI.

    And with this,most of the modern day programing I'm suspecting is the standardization of,and off of the XML type 'Webbies coding. And this is a complete modernized code based from the W3C,type and formerly HTML type standards. Then those standards would be instilled to the screen programming.

    Thus not C+,C++,python etc.

    With the Adobe,the picture there,it isn't said if the screen was a 24"4K,or a 12" hi PPI screen.

    I'll wrap my comment up with what I noted at the first, is the monitors they are PNP (are they not ). Or are they just 'not exactly pnp'. There is video drivers but not a monitor driver.I'm just looking to show where you would 'map the platte',for /from .

    So where am I going ? With Windows code base as XML - the webbies. There is still the matrix of the PNP monitor. That perhaps isn't pnp- or shouldn't be. Now there are graphics drivers for other programming (Try OpenGL) . That are plenty more than just page elements.

    Windows also has some apps which is Dirx capable. That is perhaps a solution. But I suspect there is some fantastic code that needs to run independent DPI/PPI. That is requiring the metrics to do so. With whichever/whatever operating system is being used. Or what monitor is being used.

    Try running for example,a legacy 640x480 dimension ,that scales in leisure on that 4K monitor. You can of course turn on ,and turn off whichever monitor pixel you want. But look,it scales in inches. The application.

    Try running a legacy 800x600 resolution to the same. See it is the 'monitor',that is stuck in its resolution . It is somewhat might be the same,as having a virtual in a virtual window for a different second virtualize op.sys. .

    You can run virtualized monitors,in application space,that scales to suffice the viewing logistics.

    MOst of this article has put across the independent applications space. But not yet the independent resolution of a the application in the monitors dynamic space. And everybody needs those numbers.

    I would say the monitors must be able to use independant low resolution in dynamic space .

    Just saying.

    P.S.Thanks for the charts.
  • Tujan - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    mean if you need 96 ppi . You have it . If you need 640x480 in 24 inches . You have x amount of dots/pionts per inch to address. Either use those pixels. Or dont use them. You may in fact have a window doing x amount of hrz. . Then another window doing a different hrz . Just to make things easier to understand . Reply
  • Pinkynator - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I have a reasonable idea: don't invent custom DPI.

    If an old 23-24" monitor is 1920x1080 (that's 96 DPI, IIRC), a new model should be 3840x2160 (which should then be double, 192 DPI, and that's more than enough for a desktop monitor for anyone in the world not to notice individual pixels).

    Don't have a high-DPI app? Just scale assets in both dimensions by exactly 2. Your toolbar icons don't get blurry due to resizing. Fonts don't get blurry, either.

    Have a high-DPI app? Okay then, let the app give Windows its new high-res icons and let it render fonts with greater accuracy.

    Movies and games? They can render at 1920x1080 and will look exactly the same as they previously used to. No blurring because of resizing algorithms: every pixel gets quadrupled, plain and simple.

    With this "solution", everything looks just like it used to (no compatibility issues whatsoever), except when app developers explicitly decide to make things look better - and handling a straight-up 2x scale is a lot easier than today.

    "But wait!", I hear you cry, "I like my 125 DPI on this screen! It shows more of the UI!"

    Let me know how that goes in a few years, when your vision starts deteriorating due to aging, and you find even 96 DPI to be a wee bit too small.
  • DarkXale - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I really recommend you actually, you know, read the article? Reply
  • Pinkynator - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I did. You didn't understand what I wrote :)

    You're not looking at the big picture. Handling DPI issues is insanely hard on legacy systems, which is why the only painless solution is to quadruple everything - based on 96 DPI. Then you get 192 DPI (or 288 DPI) "for free".

    Everything else is going to be hacks. We're still not truly in the era of high-DPI Windows machines, so there's STILL time to just unhack everything and go for easily-dealt-with multiples of 96.
  • UsernameAlreadyExists - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    >"Handling DPI issues is insanely hard on legacy systems, which is why the only painless solution is to quadruple everything"

    And this here is the reason for the Retina display (and also the rather crazy current iPhone resolution), as the iPhone apps do not handle scaling at all. This was probably the cause for the rather low resolution with the last Symbian phones, 4x would have required 25% more pixels than iPhone 4, and would have been too expensive at the time of their release.

    However, I think going forward and just breaking things is the correct way. Winforms have their problems, but XAML makes rather many things easy. (The paradigm shift is rather big though)
  • Lundmark - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    People who like image quality should get a MacBook. Reply
  • wwwcd - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    This numbers of DPI or/and PPI(which is the same thing) didn't make me satisfaction. I will wait for 8K(+) resolution for my next large dimensional PC/TV display. Reply
  • aron9621 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Per display DPI scaling in Windows 8.1 is a joke. Try connecting a 180ppi Dell U2414Q and a 96ppi Dell 2413 to your computer, Windows is so dumb it doesn't even detect the correct DPI setting for the monitors, and worse, it doesn't allow you to change it. Oh yes, you can increase/decrease the DPI, but only for BOTH screens simultaneously, it doesn't matter if you have "Let me choose one scaling for all my displays" checked or unchecked, the only difference that setting makes is the way it breaks DPI unaware applications. So you are either stuck with one screen with normal elements and one with tiny ones, or with normal elements on the other screen and giant ones on the former one. And I yet have to figure out how Windows chooses which screen it opens the application on. Reply
  • caywen - Friday, April 18, 2014 - link

    This. Windows seems to have no idea how big my 24" samsung monitor is. I even have samsung's monitor driver installed. In display settings, Windows thinks my Yoga 2 Pro's 13" screen is 4x larger than my 24", presumably because it's still assuming resolution == size.

    I really hope Microsoft fixes this. They should at least provide a way for us to say, "Windows, this monitor size is this big" and for Windows to say "righty ho, now I totally know this display's real DPI."

    I feel like Microsoft is fumbling the ball. They give developers every gun to shoot their foot with, and give users useless tools to mitigate it.
  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    "This application is the worst example of usability on a High DPI system that I’ve seen."

    I'd pick small elements over element cropping/overflow any day. It's especially annoying when OK/Cancel buttons on dialogs are off-screen because their location wasn't calculated correctly.
  • aeeroO - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    960x480 WHAT KIND OF SORCERY IS THAT? Every apple fanboy knows it's 960x640...Anand, where are you? Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I find it especially baffling how could people even defend DPI mid 2014.

    What, you don't like progress, or are you still living in 2000?
  • valhar2000 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    So, once again, Microsoft gets blamed for the mistakes of other software developers. If only Adobe had a letter "s" in their name that could be easily replaced with a "$"... Reply
  • e_sandrs - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    You could use the Euro sign for the e and/or the Thai Baht for the b and/or the Vietnam Dong for the d? That's the best I could do. :)

  • berger0 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Anyone know a work around to fix Chrome? In Chrome 35 they removed the HiDPI flag. I found some post that had me put the flag in the registry, but chrome looks really bad now. Anyone else running Chrome Beta or Canary seeing this issue? I am running the YogaPro 2 Reply
  • weebnuts - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the Google Chrome tip, it used to scale fine until a month or so ago, they must have changed things in the new versions when the new windows 8.1 update was released. Reply
  • Icehawk - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I just ran into this issue this week when I added a Dell 27" to my family of older 19x12 16:10 monitors - aside from the aspect ratio change in order to use the new Dell as my main monitor I need scaling or the text is too small - now my old monitors are cartoonishly large. Was hoping to skip W8 but will try W8.1U1 and see if it works better with the different DPI levels and doesn't drive me insane with Metro, ahem, I mean Modern. Reply
  • kgh00007 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Cheers for the tip on Chrome, it looks way better now on Win 8.1 on my 40" 1080p TV! Reply
  • fokka - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    i'm really thankful for the article shedding more light at this topic, maybe this will bring more developers to update their programs to feature better hidpi-skaling. Reply
  • vlad0 - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    Great talk on DPI @ build2014
  • liffie420 - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    This is not really a comment on the article itself but something that the screen shots bring up dealing with web pages. This does not apply to all pages however, but with most people using a widescreen display (we are talking at least %95 at this point) regardless of actual resolution why is it that we page developers can not manage to scale the page elements to wide screen?? Having done a very small amount of hand coding html back in the day (16ish years ago) I know you want to aim for the LCD to be sure your pages load correctly on all browsers and across connection types. But why is it you can't fill the sides os your browser window with the actual site. Im in the newest chrome browser with a 22" lcd at 1080P yet the site itself only falls in the middle leaving a couple inches of screen empty. Yes you can F11 in most browsers and full screen but that still rarely fixes the issue. Just a pet peeve of mine is all. Reply
  • dorekk - Saturday, June 21, 2014 - link

    Because very wide lines of text are extremely awkward to read, so it's much better to make the text area of a website look roughly like a portrait-oriented piece of paper. Reply
  • Androidtech - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    I find it rather perplexing that a mobile operating system like Android is more capable at scaling resolutions than something as old as windows. I thought things are supposed to get better with age and experience. Oh well at least this summer we will have some new code for websites to scale properly ! Reply
  • caywen - Friday, April 18, 2014 - link

    In actuality, IE11 on Windows 8.1 isn't clear of these problems when doing multi-monitor. I have a Yoga 2 Pro connected to a 24" 1080p display. IE11 looks beautiful on the Y2P display, but when moved to the 24" display, the whole UI becomes enormous. The title bars are almost 1" thick! Clearly, Microsoft still have a few hurdles.

    Other windows, when dragged between displays, instantly snap to their "normal" size on that display, but the effect is strange.

    I think what they ought to do is:
    - Support high-DPI virtualization where applications can advertise that they support, say, 200 or 300dpi. The author can then write their app specifically to that. Windows could then do the same DPI virtualization, but the scaling would then be much sharper (and almost always downwards).
    - Draw *only* from the virtual buffer to each display. That way, there would be no snapping effect - just the app always being the right size even when between displays.
    - Create a virtual buffer at the highest DPI of all the connected monitors and have 96dpi apps draw scaled-up into that buffer. The difference would be that text draw calls would draw at the native size rather than at 96dpi. At least the text in these apps would be razor sharp, if not the icons and other things.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, April 19, 2014 - link

    The name "retina display" doesn't even make sense, because a retina senses light. Apple just went with "[some word associated with vision] display". Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    "but in almost all cases a better solution was to simply lower the resolution of the monitor, even if it introduced blurriness to the LCD image." - I worked at a local computer store back before Vista came out, and long after when we were still selling mostly XP and the client base was largely senior citizens. That quote was the bane of my existence. "Great, now they can see what they're looking at and my eyes are about to explode from the strain of looking at this shit image". Reply
  • Silma - Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - link

    A few remarks:
    - IBM offered high dpi monitors years before Apple did.
    - the dpi scaling isn't per monitor in Windows 8.1 for the user. Windows 8.1 somehow adapts the scaling you choose for monitor A to monitor B. As a user of a 15.6 3200*1800 laptop and an external 2560*1440 27' monitor I can guarantee you the results are absolutely subpar. I am praying for the day where Windows recognizes I know better than it does what dpi scaling I want and let me specify individually dpi scaling per monitor.
    - As for Adobe it is a disgrace. If you want to feel how many CS customers are pissed do a search for dpi scaling in their support forum. The official answer is that it is all Microsoft's fault and they are working with them. However 1. They refuse to give any timeframe. 2. It may be that the API needs fine tuning but by and large the problem lies with bad old programming from Adobe. There are many many desktops applications that scale perfectly with Windows 8/8.1 including some Adobe applications. To me it is unacceptable that PhotoShop still hasn't been fixed despite the astronomical upgrades prices (and now the cloud subscriptions extortion). That's why I switched to gimp, which sucks as much scaling-wise, but at least it's free.
  • Netscorer - Friday, May 09, 2014 - link

    My Windows 8.1 laptop alternates as desktop or HTPC, driving 3 very different monitors: the low res laptop built-in display, high-res Desktop monitor and 1080P huge 65'' TV screen. I am sick and tired tweaking resolution and scaling settings every time I connect to different monitor. I wish MS would allow to simply remember monitor profiles and automatically switch to the best settings. Maybe it's there somewhere but I have not found it yet. Reply
  • drgadgetz - Sunday, February 01, 2015 - link

    Just had a new Toshiba P50T - hi-res 3200x2160 laptop. As an app developer, I find it disturbing that the UI scaling is not adapted by most of the developer tools like SOAPUI and Adobe CC Applications. I also find it annoying that large corporations like Adobe will release massive distributions of their software without testing their products with the mainstream technologies - in which UI scaling is a mandatory. Yes, they tried to solve the UI scaling of Photoshop, so why dont they do it for all their product offerings that I pay a subscription for in advance for a year. If they have resolved it then why not implement it on all their products.
    Another fault I find in the new hi-res laptops is the ability to be backward compatible. Could it be because the new Windows 8.1 is not completely tested as well.
    I guess the only good news to these big UI Scaling fiasco, is that this companies like Adobe can use the help of some of us expert developers in fixing their UI problems. And maybe so that they can speed up their releases and bug fixes.
    Common now, someone in Executive management listen to the people in these forums...Get this fix now or Donald Trump will tell you, ' You're FIRED!'.

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