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Recently I was forced to switch from Linux to a MacBook Pro and I am suffering from the font smoothing. I use an external monitor in its native resolution which worked fine with my previous Linux OS. Text on the MBP are unreadable for me.

I found this command defaults -currentHost write -g AppleFontSmoothing -int 0 to disable the smoothing via Terminal.

However all text remains blurry and my eyes keep trying to focus the text correctly which is very annoying.

Is there any way to make the text sharper or or perhaps a better font not using the anti-aliasing at all?

Edit:

An example of font anti-aliasing. The screenshot is taken from a Chrome application the bookmark bar with a folder named with uppercase alphabet. I attached the original size of 100 % zoom and 800 % zoom on the same image.

All letters have a kind of shadow. Example is the letter H or M where left vertical line has shadow and right vertical does not have it. And letter E with the horizontal lines where middle has shadow and top / bottom does not have such shadows.

enter image description here

Second screenshot is from Finder with folder named with all the letters. Same condition 100 and 800 % zoom on single picture. The shadows are a bit different but very same blurred effect.

enter image description here

Edit 2

I took another screenshot from my RedHat Enterprise Linux with Gnome desktop environment & Chrom application bookmark folder to compare the difference.

Apparently Gnome is using smoothing as well but the letters are symmetric with almost same dark colour that makes the text much consistent and easy to read.

enter image description here

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  • What is the size and resolution of the display, and how is it connected?
    – benwiggy
    Nov 25, 2022 at 15:41
  • I use USBC to HDMI adapter with support of HD 4K/30fps, HDMI 2.1 premium cable Ultra HD 8K@60hz, 4K@120Hz and monitor Lenovo ThinkVision p24-10 2560x1440 at 23.8"
    – ino
    Nov 28, 2022 at 7:22
  • I'm not sure it should be that bad with a monitor like that. (All things are subjective.) Perhaps it's the USB-C adaptor? It's worth changing the cheapest component first.
    – benwiggy
    Nov 28, 2022 at 7:45
  • Yes, it is that bad. I have updated my original post with a screenshot with all alphabet letters with its shadowing. Even single letter has/has not the shadow that makes the letter half light grey and half dark grey. Kind od crazy.
    – ino
    Nov 28, 2022 at 9:42
  • I added a screenshot from linux to see the difference between Mac and Linux. IMHO Linux has better readability. Mac uses weird way of smoothing combined with lighter colour that make things even worse and painful for reading.
    – ino
    Nov 28, 2022 at 12:52

1 Answer 1

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macOS is designed for use on 'hi-DPI' displays, with a high pixel density. It no longer supports "sub-pixel rendering", which is required to make text look sharp on lower-density displays.

If the density is less than about 150ppi or so, then text will look pretty blurred.

E.g. a 4K at 27" gives a density of about 163ppi. A 2K display at 24" is 125ppi, so borderline.

By contrast, the Retina displays on a MacBook pro have a density of between 220 and 260ppi. The 5K 27" Apple Studio display is c. 220ppi.

It's possible that other factors may exacerbate matters: bad cables; certain combination of ports or adaptors at each end; intermediary hubs.

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    Wow, I'm glad I learned that. I was already borderline on buying a Studio Max [or waiting for the new Pro] because basically I'd have to spend over 10 grand to effectively 'stay where I am'. This just went up another 3 grand to 'upgrade' to retina displays I don't otherwise need. Decision made. I'm not 'upgrading' until this one fails terminally. </rant> sorry ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 25, 2022 at 16:06
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    @Tetsujin It should apply to any Mac on Mojave or later: surprised this is news to you. I upgraded a TB display to a Studio, and the difference is incredible!
    – benwiggy
    Nov 25, 2022 at 17:41
  • Hmm, OK, thanks. I'm still on Mojave with an old cheesegrater Mac Pro & 2 x 27" 1440p screens [Dell, supposedly the same physical 'glass' as the Cinema displays of the time, 2013, but non-reflective] & see no issue. We also have an M1 iMac here… can't see the point of the higher res screen that just takes more effort to drive. [btw, this <rant> is not at you, of course, I'm shaking my fist at a half-buried Statue of Liberty, Charton Heston style ;))
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 25, 2022 at 17:48
  • Thanks for your post @benwiggy . Apparently the "problem" is with my external display Lenovo ThinkVision p24-10 with 2560x1440px resolution at 23.8" that gives 123.41ppi "only" accroding to one of many online ppi calculator. I am gonna mark your answer as accepted even I cannot technically verify it due lack of high ppi device here.
    – ino
    Nov 28, 2022 at 7:31

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