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Display Scaling and Text Size

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The core issue with a 4K display offering 3840 X 2160 resolution is pixel density: on a 24-inch display, 12 point type is tiny. A 4K display of 3840 X 2160 is exactly twice the linear dimensions of a 1920 X 1080 display, hence the pixels must be half as large linearly (1/4 in area) in order fit into the same screen area.

To work around this issue, Apple supports pixel doubling (display scaling) on 4K displays as of OS X 10.9.3, which means that menus and text that previously would draw at screen resolution (tiny) are eminently eye friendly. But at the same time, images drawn with enough resolution use the full resolution for stunning results.

A 32-inch 4K display offers 33% larger pixels (78% larger in area)—still small but much more eye friendly. A 32-inch 4K display is thus a very appealing size but intermediate sizes like 28 inches might be acceptable for many users.

Full-resolution vs pixel-doubling

It is possible to run a 4K display at full native resolution of 3840 X 2160 with no pixel doubling (option-click on Scaled in the Displays control panel).

Run at full resolution, the working area is huge but there is no text scaling (it’s tiny). It might be OK for some users and tasks but for most the text will be too small. It is also possible to use intermediate scaling, such as 2:3 scaling of 2560 X 1440.

Toggle to compare the full display resolution (no scaling, no pixel doubling) to the 1920 X 1080 pixel-doubled mode.

View larger or view full screen resolution.

Full screen resolution vs pixel-doubled “Best for display” mode

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