HiDPI on Windows 10: Post 1 – my eyes are bleeding

So, new Windows 10 laptops at work.

My history as a Windows 10 user:

I’ve used Windows 10 for a while now, I have an older Core i5 at home that I use in the Ham Radio shack for some applications that are PC-Only (AGW-PE and the like) and use some VMs for programming radios that have windows-only programmers.

I don’t have “awesome” LCD displays at home, so my DVI-driven 23″ LCD (not a 16:9 widescreen, just a nice simple 1280×1024 display) works well.
As a VM Win10 user, VirtualBox has done a great job delivering an integrated display onto my Mac (primary), Linux and Windows Virtualbox hosts.

The Mac has “Retina” display (trademarked HiDPI) and as a Mac user I can tell you this technology is refined enough that I rarely notice it. The only thing I noticed about having a HiDPI MAC is that when I take screenshots on the mac and then view them elsewhere they are “friggin’ HUGE” because really they’re twice the resolution a normal display would generate. Definitely not an issue with most respects.

Enter me, coming from this blissful MAC realm, into a realm with a Lenovo ThinkPad, Core i7, pretty “nice by current standards” PC laptop running Windows 10 enterprise.
The native display is a 3840 x 2160 display and when it’s the only active display in Win10, is sharp yet almost unreadable even by my keen eyes at 100% (no scaling). To make things usable, the default 250% is nice, and I can even happily function at 200% scaling.

So, no worries, right? after all, the MAC did the same thing – has a NICE retina display at 2880 x 1800 and I generally run it scaled so I don’t have to get too close. Nice and sharp. Connect a few external displays and I have a triple-head workstation that is sharp, beautiful and readable. On all three displays. Seamless moving of apps/windows from one to another.

This is what I expected with Windows 10.

Oh, my, how my eyes now bleed.

The external displays I use at work are *NICE* Dell U2415 displays. Not “HiDPI” but really “nice” monitors. They’ve worked GREAT with my mac and assorted other laptops.

Enter this StinkPad. I connect them, and notice that “all text everywhere” looks like complete crap. Doesn’t seem to matter how I set aliasing/anti-aliasing, everything just looks “janky”.

In fact, the only way I can get things to look somewhat-OK is to disable the built-in display, and reboot. And then “things aren’t too bad” unless I need to actually take my laptops somewhere and disconnect, then return and reconnect the displays. If I don’t reboot, things just look trashy.

I attribute this to Windows 10 needing to “make use of” the built-on HiDPI display and enabling scaling. Once it starts down that path, visual tolerance exits.

And with the internal display enabled? Dragging a window (even notepad) from the native display to the external results in a “Balooned” 2x-huge version of the window on the external monitor until you “drop” the window by releasing the mouse — now tell me Microsoft, how did Mac get around this, and not you guys? Can you not handle on-the-fly scaling of windows from one display to another? Mac seems to have figured it out. All of the fancy graphics adapters in the world won’t help you if you don’t bother to try to handle things correctly at the OS level. You’re called “Windows” for pete’s sake. This is an issue dragging a window from one display to another. Could you get this right? No?  Hm.

It’s no wonder there’s a subreddit called “were HiDPI displays kept secret from Microsoft?”

So since two weeks ago when my eyes started bleeding from 8am to 5pm, I’ve come across a couple tips I want to share so that your eyes might not bleed as Windows 10 users who have “nice displays that are not HiDPI” if your native display is.

Tip 1: SOME (not all) applications can be fixed by tweaking the “Compatibility” settings:

1: right-click your app shortcut and take note of the application path and executable.
2: Next, Example for PuTTY: “C:\Program Files\PuTTY\putty.exe”
3: Browse to that location, right click on putty.exe and click Properties.
4: Click on the “Compatibility” tab, check “Override high DPI scaling behavior” and select “System” from the dropdown.

Voila. Next time you launch PuTTY it won’t look like garbage on your NiceDisplay™

NOTE: not all programs have a “Compatibility” tab. (Sorry, Outlook.exe users!) so you won’t be able to undo the damage that Windows 10’s damaged HiDPI scaling will do to native Microsoft applications. Noted that you also can’t do this for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or IE or Edge. Chrome? yep. Firefox? yep.

Fun Fact: I’ve noticed that the speed of Putty, SmartConsole, and NotePad++ have also all improved since I’ve overridden the HiDPI scaling in Windows 10.

(Don’t ask me how in 2017 with a Core i7 that you can notice a speed difference in “Notepad ++” but try it yourself before you call me a liar.)

 

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