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I have a secondary monitor connected to my MacBook, which has a native resolution of 3440x1440.

When I go into System Settings > Displays the built-in display allows me to set UI scaling, like so:

enter image description here

But when I select the external display, it only allows me to specify the display resolution, like so:

enter image description here

How do I set UI scaling rather than resolution for the external display, is that possible?

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The interface controls that Apple shows you for your built-in display, with "Larger Text" / "More Space", is just a simplified version of the list of resolutions.

If you hover your mouse pointer over the buttons, you'll see a resolution value beneath each one.

enter image description here

If you click on the "Advanced..." button at the bottom of the panel, then there's an option for whether to display the resolutions as a list, or not.

enter image description here

This seems to only make hi-dpi retina displays shows as lists, but not to make other displays show as the buttons.

On my external display, whatever 'resolution' I choose, it still fills the entire pixel area of the display. If you choose 2560 x 1080 on your display, the OS still uses all 3440 x 1440 pixels, but it's making that smaller grid spread out over a larger screen, i.e. scaling it by 1.333.

If you switch the "Show all resolutions" switch ON, then you might get some more choices. But where it says "1720 x 720 (HiDPI)" -- that's a 2x scaling.

In short: there's no difference between "UI scaling" and "resolution".

Also, it's possible that macOS shows you different resolutions/scalings, depending on the pixel density of your display. If you display is larger than 27 inches, then some scalings might be less than satisfactory.

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  • "The interface controls that Apple shows you for your built-in display, with "Larger Text" / "More Space", is just a simplified version of the list of resolutions." - Is this entirely correct? On a 4K display, if I hover over the largest size it displays 1920x1080, but it's not actually setting the resolution to 1920x1080; rather, it's scaling the UI to 200%, effectively a 2:1 pixel ratio, which is how retina displays achieve such sharp images, so I wonder if a 3440x1440 display simply doesn't have the pixel density for UI scaling? Mar 10, 2023 at 6:47
  • @MatthewLayton That's exactly what I said: The OS scales the display to "map" to those resolutions, which in effect scales the size of the interface. The same thing will happen on your 3440 display; it's just that it might look blurry, because of the lower pixel density.
    – benwiggy
    Mar 10, 2023 at 7:45

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