Simple question, can't find a single simple answer on the entire internet. Although from what I have read, this might be a driver or hardware limitation.

My problem
I have a 1440 x 900 native pixel resolution. I want to run at a 1280 x 800 scaled resolution.

I know you can change this in the display settings, but then you see a horrible blur because of the hardware upscaling. OS X has built it DPI upscaling, and has been resolution independant for a while now. Why can't I change the perceived resolution at the software level?

My attempts
I've force enabled HiDPI modes via Quartz Debug and it has given me one HiDPI mode. 720 x 450 PX @ 2 DPPX. I've installed SwitchResX and although I can add custom resolutions, I can't force it to use the graceful scaling I want, and I can't see a way to manage the DPI or DPPX.

To summarise
I want to run my native MacBook Air 13-inch display at 1440x900 PX and have OS X upscale to this from 1280x800 PX @ 1.125 DPPX, still 128 DPI, using the same DPI scaling technology that makes "retina" displays look so clear.

I would love this option but I appreciate it may not be possible. I love my MacBook Air and don't want a rMBP, but I also have terrible eyesight and would prefer a 1280 width, but not with the horrible upscaling that is currently my only option making me squint even more.

  • Surely better to increase font sizes etc as the screen will always be best at native resolution
    – mmmmmm
    Dec 6, 2014 at 12:50
  • 1
    I've the feeling there are more effective ways to solve your problem caused by bad eyesight. 1) Get glasses, this will help you in more ways than just reading your screen 2) You can increase the system font size Dec 6, 2014 at 12:52
  • @BartArondson even with glasses you won't have perfect eyesight - I end up sitting very near the screen
    – mmmmmm
    Dec 6, 2014 at 13:24
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    @Mark I have the font sizes increased in all apps that support it, but it's bad you can't change it in the UI. Menus, tabs, Finder, all have no support for font sizes. Even OS X's own accessibility settings guide you to change resolution. If it's always best at native resolution, why does Apple ship products with different DPIs? rMBP 13" @ 1280w, MBA 13" @ 1440w, etc. All OS X products have inconsistent DPIs. It's pathetic.
    – Jack
    Dec 6, 2014 at 13:30
  • 1
    The fonts can be changed e.g. use Tinker Tool to change entries in the defaults
    – mmmmmm
    Dec 6, 2014 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


Not sure if this will help some people, but I figured this out for myself

I have a 27" LG WQHD (2560x1440) display connected via HDMI to my 2014 13" Macbook Pro Retina.

  1. Enable Mirror Displays

enabled desktop mirroring

  1. On the external monitor, select Optimize for: Built-in Retina Display

optimize for retina display

The final result isn't perfect, but it makes my 27" external display look like a beautiful retina display.

Two downfalls:

  1. the macbook has to be open in order for the external to continue running in HiDPI mode.

  2. the external monitor has an aspect ratio of 16:9 but the laptop is 16:10. There are thin vertical black bars on the left/right of my external monitor.

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