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I'm having a rather strange issue. When I opened my 13-inch 2020 MacBook Pro, right out the box everything seemed rather small. I went into the display settings and noticed the display setting was set to the "default." However, poking a bit further into this, I saw that the "default" software resolution was being recognized as 1440x900, which corresponds to a 2880x1800 panel @2x. This happens to be the panel resolution of the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

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However, my MacBook is the 13-inch variant, which has a panel resolution of 2560x1600. The software resolution should as a result be displaying 1280x800 as default, as that's exactly half of the panel's 2560x1600 native resolution.

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I checked on my late 2012 13" Retina MacBook Pro (which has the same resolution display panel resolution and size), and it correctly identifies the default software resolution as 1280x800.

I was having some display issues related to True Tone being intermittently enabled/disabled, so I called Apple Support. I brought up this issue and escalated it to a senior advisor. I tried to show these numbers to him, but he simply stated that the default is "scaled higher than the panel supports since customers complain about text being too small." Which seems to be the opposite of my issue, since everything appeared smaller than it should be.

I reset my NVRAM, but these issues still occur.

Is my display panel faulty, communicating to the OS that it's a 15-inch panel instead of a 13-inch one? Could this possibly be related to the True Tone issues that I'm having?

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  • Check out this discussion: discussions.apple.com/thread/7737175 Native resolution is not the same as default resolution. (Having the same "looks like" resolutions for my MacBook Pro 13" 2017 on Catalina) – felice Jul 4 '20 at 18:55
  • I don't believe this is the same issue—I understand that scaled resolution ≠ resolution of the panel. However, it seems as though the default scaling is wrong. Is yours also 1400x900, instead of 1280x800? – Skeleton Bow Jul 4 '20 at 22:08
  • Yes. All screenshots I found of that preference panel show these numbers for Macbook Pros – felice Jul 5 '20 at 9:05
  • I see, thank you – Skeleton Bow Jul 5 '20 at 21:00
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So it looks like all modern 13" MacBook Pros do this. It has been confirmed in this MacRumors thread.

  • This change was likely made with the recent thunderbolt 13" MacBook Pros.
  • This was most likely done in order to allow the user to "fit more" into the relatively small 13" screen by default.

I find it strange for this to be the default resolution, because it is a fractionally scaled resolution. This means that the virtual pixels do not map perfectly to physical pixels. If the default scaling was set to the second box, as with older 13" MacBooks, then a 1x1 block of virtual pixels would correspond exactly to a 2x2 block of physical pixels. With the new default scaling, this is not the case.

This leads to text which is slightly less sharp if you look at it up close. Why this change in default scaling was made, I don't know—perhaps Apple determined the loss in sharpness wasn't significant enough to discount it as a default option. Oh well, it's good to know anyway. At least my display isn't having an identity crisis.

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  • Is there a link to the MacRumors thread? Just change the setting to whatever value you prefer, defaults be damned. – benwiggy Jul 8 '20 at 11:48
  • My bad, I added it in. Haha, you're right—I was just fearing that my display had a 15" "controller" or "chip" in it or something. – Skeleton Bow Jul 8 '20 at 15:08

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