Explain like I'm 5: Interplay between resolution and scaling

Discussion in 'Software' started by Mr. Boosh, Oct 11, 2015.

  1. Mr. Boosh

    Mr. Boosh Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    I'm pretty knowledgeable when it comes to a lot of computer stuff, but displays and resolution related tech I'm still unsure about.

    I've read posts that talk about scaling and effective resolutions. I can do the math, but I'm still unsure about the effects and what exactly is happening when you mess with software scaling on a set number of hardware pixels.

    Enlighten me.
     
  2. ATIVQ

    ATIVQ V⅁O⅄ Senior Member

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    Left: scaling done well (Explorer). Right: scaling done poorly (Group Policy Editor). Windows set to 150% scaling.
    [​IMG]


    Old user interfaces were designed for low-PPI displays (roughly 90 PPI) and now their user interfaces are tiny and illegible on high-PPI displays. For example a 16x16 pixel icon is no longer 1/36 of a square inch, it's less than 1/100 of a square inch! To get old software to be legible on high-PPI displays, the OS multiplies the size of the interface.

    "Effective resolution" a convoluted way of saying you have less room on your display if you scale up the user interface. If you have a 3000x2000 pixel display but everything is twice as high and wide, it's "as if" you have a 1500x1000 pixel display, but not really, since everything will look better except for old software that supports scaling poorly, and even then, if you use integer scaling (2x, 3x) everything should look fine. It's only non-integer scaling (1.5x like the example at the top) that makes things blocky and blurry.

    Scaling used to be a big issue when high-PPI displays were new, but scaling has matured and is becoming less and less of an issue.
     
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  3. Mr. Boosh

    Mr. Boosh Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    So if you had the 3000x2000 display set at a scaling with effective resolution of 1500x1000 and a 1500x1000 display running the same image, they would be the same size? Only difference is being able to (possibly) distinguish the physical pixels on the screen?

    So really, what's the point for general day-to-day tasks of running these massive resolutions if we're immediately bumping the scaling from 100% up to 150% or 200%? If we scale up, don't we lose quality for things like media if we, let's say, played a video that was shot in 3000x2000 (using our example)?
     
  4. Mesosphere

    Mesosphere Geek. Senior Member

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    If scaling, the advantage comes for new or updated software written with high DPI displays in mind using the new scaling features. Also there are large screens like my 40" 4K display where the resolution is used for more real estate rather than higher PPI.

    Some apps will ignore desktop scaling. This can be a problem or a benefit. In the case of video players which ignore it, this is a benefit. The built in video player will ignore desktop scaling. So a 4k video will still be 4k. For some apps this can be a problem though where there is no way to scale them up and things appear too small. Usually though, non PPI aware apps will simply look fuzzy (with non integer scaling).
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
  5. Mr. Boosh

    Mr. Boosh Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    I don't get this though. It's the same "real estate" as any other 4K display, except the larger screen means everything will appear larger as the same image layed out on a smaller display? Right?
     
  6. Mesosphere

    Mesosphere Geek. Senior Member

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    No, because it is the same PPI as a "normal" display. For example, my QHD 27" monitor is 109 PPI vs. 110 for the 4K display, so I use my usual scaling of 125% on both. On a laptop 4K display I'd have to set a much higher scaling level (probably ~200% AND sit much closer to the screen).

    For super high PPI displays on a laptop/tablet, the goal is for a super sharp display. You can't actually fit more stuff on your screen (unless you have super human eyesight or hunch in very close). With super high resolution displays without increased PPI you can actually buy a lot more screen real-estate (like multi-monitor, but with less bezel interruptions).

    Of course this case where you don't have to use high scaling isn't what you were originally asking about ... so it is a bit of a tangent, but I wanted to respond to "what is the point of massive resolutions". For small displays it is a super sharp image (where supported by the software). For large displays, it is real-estate.

    Edit: although if you are talking about image as in literally a picture (or a video) where scaling is ignored, then you are right. If it is regular program windows, then what I said above applies.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
  7. Mr. Boosh

    Mr. Boosh Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Ok, so to boil it down, a good way to think of it is: I'm gaining real estate as the physical PPI of the display increases, but I'm subsequently losing that real estate as I increase the software scaling?
     
  8. Mesosphere

    Mesosphere Geek. Senior Member

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    Yea, I think of it as increasing PPI increases "sharpness" (for software that plays well with high PPI). Because the nessisary increase in scaling cancels out the increase in real-estate.

    Increasing resolution without an increase in PPI (larger screen at constant PPI) is what can give you more realestate. However, if you are willing to lean in really close to the high PPI screen and don't increase scaling that can increase realestate as well, but thats not to comfortable =)
     
  9. Kumabjorn

    Kumabjorn ***** is back Senior Member

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    So what would the equivalent be for a Windows display if the new iMac 27" 5k display was used? Would it be so small on a full HD 23"monitor to be illegible?

    Twitter is to communications as haiku is to literature.
     
  10. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    In response to an earlier question of yours, yes – there is not really a whole lot of purpose to a really high resolution on a small laptop screen if all you are doing is editing Word documents and what not. It's basically about not seeing pixels.

    However, when you are doing things with images, the higher pixel density has more value. Looking at pictures or watching video or drawing all benefit visually from a higher pixel density. But, in my opinion, there is no functional benefit to a higher pixel density for a great many programs-- exactly because of the fact that we use scaling to make the tiny print same physical, legible size it used to be when we had a lower resolution screen. Higher PPI with scaling just creates a sharper image for viewing purposes. And good marketing!

    I still work on an x230t with 1366 x 768 resolution. Can I see pixels if I look closely? Yeah, sure . But are my words the same physical size as a lot of higher res screens with 200% scaling? Yes. Images and movies would look sharper, which would be nice, for sure, but there comes a point when a super high res screen would only really have functional, work-focused value on an actually bigger screen size... Unless you work with images.
     

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