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The native resolution of my laptop's 15.6" display is 3840 x 2160. Unfortunately, I found that the graphics on many applications didn't scale appropriately for this resolution, and were pixelated/blurry despite checking or unchecking the option in the Compatibility pane for "Display display scaling on high DPI settings".

enter image description here

I changed the resolution of the display to 1920 x 1080, and from what I understand, if the scaling is correctly applied, the display output should be equivalent to 1080p resolution on a 1080p display of the same screen size, as 4 pixels on my display would correspond to a single pixel on that display. However, items on my screen appear to be very small, as you can see here:

enter image description here

I'm not sure if this is the intended size of icons, taskbar and windows, but when I set the scaling to 125% (medium), some applications begin to have pixelated/blurry images again:

enter image description here

Is the 100% scaling the default scaling for 1080p (4 pixels to 1 pixel), and why does the blurriness/pixelation sometimes occur when I increase the scaling? Is there any way of fixing it? This is an example of the blurring of some programs at 125% scaling, which is non-apparent at 100%:

enter image description here

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  • 100% is too small. there should be an option in 'Control Panel\Appearance and Personalization\Display' which says "Let me choose one scaling level for all my displays". make sure it's unchecked. and what is your graphic card? – Conspiria Nov 21 '14 at 8:27
  • I tried unchecking that option, but some programs (especially the text), while appearing larger (scaled to a larger %), still appear blurry to a minor extent. My graphics card is an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M 2GB. – amy Nov 21 '14 at 9:55
  • you can't get your desired result by changing scaling settings, that's for other purposes. the only options for you will be playing with graphic card settings and screen resolutions. your monitor's resolution is something between FULL HD and Standard UHD (4K) so unfortunately that kind of problems are prevalent because it is lower than the 4K industry standard of 4096 x 2160. – Conspiria Nov 21 '14 at 14:23
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Unfortunately, there's no good fix for this, as this kind of behavior is completely intended.

For a long time size of things on desktop PCs has been measured in pixels. For example standard desktop icon size is 48x48 px (or 32x32 px before Vista).

This was working well because back then the only reason to buy a higher-res screen was when you needed more workspace. For example my laptop has 15.6" screen with native resolution of 1366x768, but I also have a 23.6" 1080p screen. Both have roughly the same physical size of pixels, so 23.6" one has more pixels, but stuff looks like it's of the same size.

Comparison of folder icon size on 15.6" 1366x768 screen (bottom) and 23.6" 1920x1080 screen (top)

However, nowadays manufacturing smaller high-res screens is possible and quite cheap, and smaller pixels generally improve visual experience - if software supports them correctly, that is. Mobile operating systems (Android, iOS) measure things in pixel size-relative units, like dpi. It means that stuff will "grow" as physical pixels get smaller to keep final size roughly the same.

Windows wasn't built with this feature from the beginning. It was introduced at some point, but some apps still can't handle it correctly. That's why scaling doesn't work well for you.

Your 1920x1080 screenshot looks normal. Here is your Start button compared to mine:

Start buttons compared

As you can see, both have identical size in pixels. The problem is your physical pixels are smaller than mine, because my 1080p screen is 23.6" big and yours is 15.6". That also makes all stuff on your screen smaller.

You can either enable scaling or decrease resolution even further. Both will affect graphics quality, but scaling will probably be a bit better.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer. I was wondering if you know if this feature (measuring in pixel size-relative units to scale objects) will be introduced in Windows 10? – amy Jun 4 '15 at 2:03
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    @amy I believe scaling is their solution and it's the best they can do, because they have to maintain compatibility with older versions of Windows. 3rd party developers can decide whether they will make their apps "DPI-aware" or not and Microsoft can do nothing about it, so don't expect any improvement in Windows 10. It's not an issue with Windows, it's specific programs that are broken. However, modern apps (aka Metro apps, introduced in Windows 8) use DPI for sizing from the very beginning, so these should (in theory) look good on all kinds of screens. – gronostaj Jun 4 '15 at 17:39
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Buying a higher res screen doesn't make the images a higher resolution! They are blurry because you are scaling them up. I suspect that 200% will be better if that doesn't make things too big.

What you are finding is a fundamental issue of having a monitor with an inappropriate resolution:physical size ratio. Some app UIs will be vector based and scale well to any res but image based ones have a native pixel size. So your choices are to put up with smallness or blurriness or replace the monitor, there is no magic fix.

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