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What is the difference between 3840x2160 scaled at 200% and 1920x1080 scaled at 100%?

I ask because I have a 3840x2160 monitor and when I (by right-clicking on the desktop and going to display settings) adjust the resolution to 3840x2160 (its max) and the scaling to 200%: adjust the resolution to 3840x2160 (its max) and the scaling to 200%

everything looks very crisp; but then I change that same monitor's resolution to 1920x1080 and 100% scaling:

change that same monitor's resolution to 1920x1080 and 100% scaling

and it is very blurry. Why is this, is there a difference in the DPI? I am running Windows 10 Creators Update (Version 1709).

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  • native resolution (4k in your case) is always more sharp compared to lower resolution. Mar 28, 2018 at 15:08
  • Yes, that's what I don't understand. It's 3840x2160 scaled at 200% so why would that look any different than 1920x1080 at 100%?...
    – Chris K
    Apr 3, 2018 at 18:38
  • is is a hardware limitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_resolution Apr 4, 2018 at 15:03
  • When the monitor receives a non-native resolution (1920x1080) is has to do math to stretch the pixels of the input over the pixels of its panel. When the computer is told to scale, it still send the native number of pixels the monitor expects (perfectly sharp picture), but the computer adjusts which of those pixels each UI element is comprised of (making things apparently larger/smaller). Feb 22, 2019 at 16:27

2 Answers 2

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Because it is not the resolution that is scaled, but the relative size of everything. So an app would specify font size 12 but windows would render it at size 24, but at double the dpi (because of the scaling).

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  • The font size isn't exactly doubled when you set it to 200%. How large the font is increased entirely depends on the font itself.
    – Ramhound
    Feb 22, 2019 at 17:07
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In Windows: Resolution defines how many pixels to be rendered on you screen. Scale defines how many pixels of the content to be enlarged. The difference is one applies to the screen. And one applies to the content.

For example, there is an picture of dimension 200 * 300. With settings Resolution: 1920 * 1080 and Scale: 100%. Under this settings, a 200 * 300 image will be displayed. Which may look blurry because of the low dimension.

With settings Resolution: 3840 * 2160 and Scale: 200%. Under this settings, the resolution does not affect the image dimension (Remember the Resolution only affects the screen). However, Scale will enlarge the image dimension by 2 times, which is 400 * 600. So, in this settings, you will see more details be rendered and the image will look crisp.

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