I am using my Macbook Air M1 2020 with a new external 32" 4K monitor I just bought since the file names' character size, or the Chrome bookmark text is too small.

Hence, I noticed I could just use in System->Display a "scaled" resolution in the middle between "Larger text" and "More space" (by default, it was set as "More space").

It seems that images, videos, and text are still in 4K (text is just larger as the resolution was the one I chose in the middle among the "scaled" resolutions, but it is crisp exactly like it was 4K).

Question: Could you please confirm that the "Lager text" VS "More space" trade-off indeed does not affect the 4k resolution of an external monitor?

1 Answer 1


First, a history lesson. The very first Apple computers had displays with 72 pixels per inch. This is the same size as 1 point (a unit of 1/72 inches), so 1 point = 1 pixel. Text at 12pt would display on the screen at 12/72 = 1/6 of an inch.

Modern display screens have much smaller pixels, so you get more of them to an inch. This makes the display of images very clear, but means that objects (such as text) are correspondingly smaller.

Your 32-inch 4K display has a pixel density of 150 pixels per inch. So 12 point text will display at less than half the size of the old 72ppi screens!

The solution is for the computer to double the size of everything. This is called "scaling". So when the computer measures the size of something, it 'pretends' it is twice as big, and then it lays it out on the screen.

So your display is using all its 4K pixels, but the objects are twice as large. So a 1 pixel object now uses a 2x2 pixel square, and those pixels can be slightly different colors, to give greater clarity and shading.

The option in System Preferences lets you choose a scaling size. You can make things smaller, and consequently get more of them on the screen; or make things larger, and thus (like zooming in) see slightly less content. But the actual number of pixels used is the same.

So you are indeed benefitting from the clarity and sharpness of the 4K display, but with objects scaled to a size that is more comfortable.

  • Great and clear answer! Thank you a lot! Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 11:49

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