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Two screens with wildly different DPI

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  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    My trusty old Dell XPS M1330 decided to stop working recently, so I got a new laptop, a Sony Vaio Z. It's a very nice piece of equipment, and particularly nice is its screen: 1920x1080 in a 13.1" package.

     

    Of course this means that in order to make text readable, I need to use at least 120DPI. That's not a problem (although of course some of the programs I use don't work particularly well with it).

     

    However, whenever I'm at work (which counts for about 90% of my laptop usage), I connect the laptop to a big external screen. However, this screen is only 96DPI. Using a setting above that just makes everything really big.

     

    This leaves me with three options when the external display is connected:

    1. Use 120DPI, meaning that everything's too big on my primary screen.
    2. Use 96DPI, so that the laptop's display is essentially unusable because everything is way too tiny. It also means I need to switch DPI settings every time I want to use the laptop without the external display.
    3. Use 96DPI and set the laptop's display to a lower resolution. This means everything on the laptop display becomes fuzzy and horrible looking but at least I can read it. And of course now I need to switch DPI and resolution when not using the external display.

    Currently I'm using number 3. It's not ideal but it's the most workable. At least switching DPI just requires logging off in Windows 7, unlike in XP where it required a reboot.

     

    DPI really ought to be a per-display setting rather than per-system or per-user. I know the technical reasons for why that's pretty much impossible; applications would have to re-layout when dragged from screen to screen, and what about if they're half on one screen and half on the other? I can see this work with WPF or Silverlight, but making this work with traditional Win32 apps would be impossible.

     

    How would you deal with this kind of situation?

  • User profile image
    Shining Arcanine

    If I were you, I would configure either my x server or Nvidia's drivers through its control panel to output to set different DPI settings for each screen. Unfortunately, you run Windows, so your only option appears to try fiddling with your graphics card vendor's drivers.

     

    By the way, have you tried using ClearType? It might help readability with #3.

  • User profile image
    ManipUni

    Shining Arcanine said:

    If I were you, I would configure either my x server or Nvidia's drivers through its control panel to output to set different DPI settings for each screen. Unfortunately, you run Windows, so your only option appears to try fiddling with your graphics card vendor's drivers.

     

    By the way, have you tried using ClearType? It might help readability with #3.

    How completely unoriginal of a troll reply.

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    Shining Arcanine said:

    If I were you, I would configure either my x server or Nvidia's drivers through its control panel to output to set different DPI settings for each screen. Unfortunately, you run Windows, so your only option appears to try fiddling with your graphics card vendor's drivers.

     

    By the way, have you tried using ClearType? It might help readability with #3.

    Although your reply is completely unhelpful and irrelevant, and is exactly why I said people don't like you anymore, I am curious. How does X server deal with DPI for different screens? How do applications change their layout when you drag them from screen to screen? Do you have any documentation on this? I'm genuinely curious how they solved this immensely complex problem.

     

    Even if I wanted to install Linux on my laptop (which I really, really don't) it wouldn't even be possible. The laptop has a hybrid graphics systems that requires custom drivers from Sony to work. Regular nVidia drivers don't work under Windows, so I doubt it'd be any different under Linux.

  • User profile image
    AndyC

    Sven Groot said:
    Shining Arcanine said:
    *snip*

    Although your reply is completely unhelpful and irrelevant, and is exactly why I said people don't like you anymore, I am curious. How does X server deal with DPI for different screens? How do applications change their layout when you drag them from screen to screen? Do you have any documentation on this? I'm genuinely curious how they solved this immensely complex problem.

     

    Even if I wanted to install Linux on my laptop (which I really, really don't) it wouldn't even be possible. The laptop has a hybrid graphics systems that requires custom drivers from Sony to work. Regular nVidia drivers don't work under Windows, so I doubt it'd be any different under Linux.

    I'd be tempted to opt for a somewhere in between DPI. It's not going to be perfect, but probably more useable overall.

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    AndyC said:
    Sven Groot said:
    *snip*

    I'd be tempted to opt for a somewhere in between DPI. It's not going to be perfect, but probably more useable overall.

    I would want to automate the DPI change using a script and/or hotkey combination.  Are you familiar with AutoHotKey ?  Might do the job.

     

    Herbie

     

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    AndyC said:
    Sven Groot said:
    *snip*

    I'd be tempted to opt for a somewhere in between DPI. It's not going to be perfect, but probably more useable overall.

    In-between isn't really an option. If you do the math, the screen's actually a lot closer to 170 DPI. So using 120 DPI means things are already rather small.

     

    I did automate the DPI change with a powershell script. Not that helpful because you still need to log off before it takes effect.

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    Sven Groot said:
    AndyC said:
    *snip*

    In-between isn't really an option. If you do the math, the screen's actually a lot closer to 170 DPI. So using 120 DPI means things are already rather small.

     

    I did automate the DPI change with a powershell script. Not that helpful because you still need to log off before it takes effect.

    Would you be able to get another screen for work?  One with a resolution that matches the laptop?

    I know it's the most expensive option, but you might be able to get someone else to pay for it Tongue Out

     

    Herbie

     

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    Dr Herbie said:
    Sven Groot said:
    *snip*

    Would you be able to get another screen for work?  One with a resolution that matches the laptop?

    I know it's the most expensive option, but you might be able to get someone else to pay for it Tongue Out

     

    Herbie

     

    Since they just paid for a new laptop for me, I don't imagine that request would go over too well. Tongue Out

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    I'm another 1080 Vaio Z user (as you know Wink ). I'm happy running my laptop is 96dpi mode and I can use it perfectly fine with my head a good two to three feet away from the laptop's display and I don't even have good eyesight.

     

    Initially I didn't think it would work, but eventually I got used to running it so high and now I've no intention of moving to 125dpi mode.

  • User profile image
    rhm

    IMO your best bet is to not use the laptop's display at all while you have the external monitor connected. I know it's nice to have two displays, but I hate it when they are different resolutions even if they're roughtly the same dpi.

     

    If you absolutely must have two monitors, maybe you can make use of one of those gizmos that drives two monitors from a single monitor port by setting the desktop resolution to something super-wide?

  • User profile image
    davewill

    [edit: lets see if it saves this time]

     

    Go with 96 DPI.  This way you take advantage of the external monitor realestate and since it is used 90% of the time it warrants priority.

     

    When on the laptop use the zoom utility to compensate when reading for extended periods of time.

     

    If the other 10% of the time is spent doing work stuff (just like in the office) then your work should return the laptop and get a new one that better meets the work conditions and needs.

  • User profile image
    CSMR

    You are right; it should be per-monitor.

     

    For the moment I would buy a monitor with higher dpi.

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    CSMR said:

    You are right; it should be per-monitor.

     

    For the moment I would buy a monitor with higher dpi.

    I have by now just decided to live with it. Sure, 96DPI is hard to read but usually I have only Outlook on the laptop monitor anyway when the external monitor is attached. Switching to a higher DPI setting when the external monitor is not attached is not such a big hassle.

     

    I just wanted to add that essentially the "buy a high-DPI monitor" option is impossible as well because that monitor, in order to have higher DPI, would have to be either smaller than my current one (which I wouldn't like) or have a resolution higher than 1920x1200 (which is very rare, very expensive, and my laptop's HDMI port doesn't actually support it).

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