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I have a late 2013 Retina Macbook Pro which drives a Dell P2815Q 28" 4K monitor (at 30Hz). What I would like is to have scaled UI components whilst retaining the resolution of the monitor, rather than having to either:

  • Use the full resolution with tiny fonts and UI components
  • Use 1920x1080 scaled HiDPI mode, which doesn't provide enough screen space (although the text is lovely and clear).

The options I currently have for the external monitor are:

external 4K monitor display options

What I'd like is to be able to scale the display as I can for the Retina MBP screen:

Retina MBP display options

I've found plenty of posts explaining how to enable all resolutions under the 'Scaled' tab. This is not the solution I'm after because it doesn't make the font/UI components smaller whilst retaining a crisp resolution.

  • I am not sure if any of the old scaling modes still work. Prior to Apple releasing Mac's with Retina displays they had released a number of versions of OS X that had HiDPI available to developers. You could force your system into these modes even though you did not have a real retina screen. Take a look at here to see if any of this works stackoverflow.com/questions/12124576/… – Lee Joramo Jun 3 '15 at 14:01
  • Um - I'm confused - the "scaling" really is just scaling the UI elements - while maintaining actual 4K resolution still. Could you post a picture to demonstrate what you are unhappy about when using scaled mode? – Jeef Jun 3 '15 at 17:48
  • Hi @Jeef, I'm not happy with the lack of space afforded by the 1920x1080 scaling (UI components and text is too large so I can't fit everything I want on the monitor), but the next step up is full 4K 3840x2160, where the text and icons are squint-inducingly tiny. What I'm after is 4K resolution, but with the scaling somewhere in-between those two extremes. – spikeheap Jun 8 '15 at 7:37
  • My experience with a 32'' Samsung Display via Displayport/Mini Displayport is as follows: Native 4k resolution works but is unusable since the interface is tiny. The HIDPI setting to 1920x1440 is no solution either, then it is very good resolution (full 4k) but the interface is huge, unusable... So as it stands I am unable to find a display mode with full resolution that has a decent interface size, scaled to 150% as it is possible with Retina Displays... Did anybody solve this? – Lars Dec 6 '16 at 20:57
  • Hi @Lars, unfortunately it's a limitation of the hardware. It seems OSX refuses to give you the option of a half-way house because of your graphics card. Using a 5K iMac I get an additional 'Scaled' option of 1440x2560, which is what I was after, but I never got this working on my 2013 13" MBP over either DisplayPort or HDMI. If it's any consolation, the scaled resolution doesn't look amazing: text is a little softer than the full or 1/2 resolution (1080p), and it's really noticeable next to the 5K screen. – spikeheap Dec 8 '16 at 8:34
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I have found the MacBooks to be rather flakey when it comes to multiple monitors. However, I have found that if you hit the option key while selecting the scale radio button you get more options for the 4k monitors.

Also unplugging the HDMI cable seemed to reset the Mac to recognize that the monitor supported more resolutions.

  • Hi @Don, I've just seen the same for my 5K iMac, so it seems it's dependent on your graphics card. Thanks for pointing it out. – spikeheap Dec 26 '15 at 12:21
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It's possible to get the Larger text...More Space scaling slider for the Dell P2815Q by using the HDMI input rather than DisplayPort. I'm not sure why, but swapping the connections over yields this settings panel:

Dell P2815Q over HDMI

That's a good start, but is also the end of the road. The scaled options are (unknown) -> 1280x720 -> 1920x1080 -> 3840x2160, so that mode doesn't provide any additional resolutions or scaling modes over the mini-DisplayPort and DisplayPort inputs.

It looks like (for now) there is no automatic way to scale the UI components in between 1920x1080 and 3840x2160, which is quite frustrating as one is too big while the other is too small. It's worth pointing out that this is only a problem if you're on the larger 4K screens and needing screen space: the P2815Q at 1920x1080 (scaled) is a great resolution to write on, but not so great as a software developer needing many windows on the same screen.

A (pretty poor) workaround is to alter the font size of the applications you work with, but if you frequently unplug and work on the MacBook Pro retina screen you then need to switch them back.

  • 1
    Any new findings 3 years later? The HDMI cable trick does not even work on my Mac Mini. – Sébastien Sep 28 '18 at 12:55
  • Unfortunately not, I ended up with a 27" 5k iMac & 24" 4k Dell monitor which have close-enough DPIs not to grate, but I never found a good solution with the MacBook Pro – spikeheap Oct 2 '18 at 10:10
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It seems that it depends on the model of the mac https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT206587

It might be a marketing strategy to allow this feature on certain brands. My MacBook is retina, so it has "HiDPI mode" capability. Yet apple doesn't allow me to use this ready feature. They certainly know about it.

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