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I bought a Samsung U32r59 4K screen for use with my new Mac mini M2 (16GB). The default display resolution is 1920x1080. Switching to 3840x2160 makes everything tiny and reduces the refresh rate to 30Hz.

I am using the HDMI cable provided by Samsung. All in all, I can't see an improvement compared to my 5 year old Samsung screen (not 4K). Is the problem with the Mac or the screen?

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    It’s tough to say whether an undesired resolution/refresh rate is a problem or not without some additional details and/or diagnostics. I would start with a quality USB-C to DisplayPort cable rather than HDMI. Next, evaluate the picture quality of a genuine 4K image/video rather than just random images. A 2K image will be 2K even on a 4K screen
    – Allan
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 15:58

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As a rule, the cabling is usually the issue with a screen that can run at 4K and a Mac that can run a 6K display. Also, after reading this excellent other answer - I wonder if you have no problems at all and just need to absorb how resolution works on macOS with scaled and effective resolutions and actual 4k results. The concept of resolution independence isn't communicated well from the System Preference pane alone on macOS.

I prefer DisplayPort (or it embedded via Thunderbolt) over HDMI as it's far easier to troubleshoot and get reliable signal, but your HDMI connection should work - try a new cable and be sure the display settings are what Samsung recommends for macOS.

  1. Disconnect everything from the Mac and Display after powering it down.
  2. Connect only power to the display and the Mac.
  3. Connect only HDMI (or whatever display cable you want) from the Mac to the display.
  4. Power on the display and validate the input settings are correct for the cable. Optionally turn off any advanced features on the display.
  5. Power on the Mac and watch closely the display. (is the backlight on or off, is the screen drawing or not)
  6. Once you are sure the Mac is booted (3-4 minutes) - connect a mouse and keyboard and try to log in (hopefully you have a signal - but you hopefully can do that from knowing how your account / password are arranged)
  7. Wait another 3-4 minutes and optionally connect network to the mini and try to log in using VNC or a screen sharing app if you can't see the display to validate the Mac is logged in. You can use Android, iOS, iPadOS, Windows or Mac to run the screen sharing app - see this site for recommendations if you need any.
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    +1 for the statement “I prefer DisplayPort” alone. Too bad we can’t upvote more than once!
    – Allan
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 16:15
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    It wouldn't be wrong to BOLD THAT DisplayPort love, @Allan - such a great protocol and cable quality combo.
    – bmike
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 16:18
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The default display resolution is 1920x1080. Switching to 3840x2160 makes everything tiny and reduces the refresh rate to 30Hz.

When you say "the default resolution is 1920 x 1080" - I presume that means the SCALED resolution. (Otherwise it would only use half the screen.) A screenshot of your System Settings would confirm this.

enter image description here

Here's my 5K display, which is listed as 2560 x 1440. But it's using all the 5K pixels, no matter which size I choose.

Your Mac is making everything twice the size by pretending that it's a 1920 x 1080 display, to avoid the tiny-ness of the actual native resolution.

In short: that's what you want, and everything is working correctly. You'll not have more real estate than than your old 1080p display, but everything will be twice as sharp. If you want a bit more space, then try an intermediary resolution, but things will be correspondingly smaller.

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  • Well said! Not seeing what the OP is seeing, this might be a much better answer than mine. I didn't even consider they didn't get the way resolution is presented with 2x / 3x and Retina display of fine lines / controls and equivalent pixels. I'm going to link to some of your other posts here and this one - resolution independence is not obvious - especially to people used to exclusively 1x display software.
    – bmike
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 16:45

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