Windows 8.1 getting 'extra large' DPI scaling improvements for PC displays

As we enter a PC hardware era where tablet and notebook displays have higher resolutions and desktop monitors can now reach the 4K level, more attention is being made to how text and applications scale with these high DPI displays. In a new blog post, Microsoft has announced that Windows 8.1 will feature some DPI scaling improvements.

The Extreme Windows blog states that one change in Windows 8.1 will offer a new option to increase the percentage of text and other items on a display up to 200 percent, or "Extra Large." This compares to the "Larger" upper limit in Windows 8 where you could only go up 150 percent on text and items.

If you have more than one PC monitor on your desktop, it's more than possible that the displays do not have the same DPI. In this case, Windows 8.1 will use per-display DPI scaling. The blog states, "By default, Windows 8.1 will choose the optimum DPI scaling value for each display based on the value chosen for overall scaling in the control panel." You can see an example of how that works in the image above, where each monitor has a different DPI but the calculator app appears to be close to the same size on all three screens.

Windows 8 app developers can also use Microsoft's APIs when they make their apps in order for them to have an optimal look when shown on a high DPI screen using the "Extra Large" scaling option.

Source: Microsoft | Images via Microsoft

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Microsoft is still nibbling around the edges, yet not fixing the fundamental UI problems for laptops and desktops. Why not do a complete "fix" and be done with it? Call it Windows-9 and give user the choice of UI to use.

InsaneNutter said,

Yes it would work fine. From what I remember the start menu is DPI aware.

It is, but it would be greatly under-utilizing that screen space.

Dot Matrix said,

It is, but it would be greatly under-utilizing that screen space.

Personally i have always liked the start screen on smaller displays, however on large screens like that it's always looked so messy to me. Even on my 24" screen i think its a bit "in your face".

I could use either but on a display that size would prefer something like the start menu.

Yet they've done nothing to improve the UI for DPI scaling. In my experience the useful options are mostly between 100 and 125 percent. Why not just make it a slider with some markers?

How did they just announce this via a blog post when they demo'd it at build?! Neowins news is so confusing sometimes, makes me feel like I'm the only one paying attention :-\

The problem is that it doesn't really change the fact that a large chunk of the Windows operating system (bundled applications, configuration control panels) aren't compatible with high definition hence you'll have strangeness and don't scale cleanly. Unfortunately this is the side effect when you hug on to legacy technology instead of moving all the components within Windows to new technology that is compatible with changes that are taking place.

Shadowzz said,
That's with software that did not properly follow win32 guidelines either. Most properly written software scales perfectly.

So you're saying that Microsoft cannot follow its own guidelines? that is a pretty sad indictment on Microsoft if they can't even be bothered following their own guidelines when it comes to writing the different components which make up Windows or their middleware applications that sit on top of Windows such as Microsoft Office.

Shadowzz said,
Yes even MS doesnt always follow its guidelines.

Never had issues with most of MS's software not scaling properly though.

If you try using an older version of Microsoft Office the scaling wasn't very clean - they really do need to go back to the drawing board and do something with Win32 because it is really showing its age.

The_Decryptor said,
Funny how they call it "Extra Large", when on a high DPI monitor it's just "normal".

The naming convention is a little odd. Why not just use numerical figures alone, rather than giving arbitary generalisations? Much like "HD / FULL HD / 4k": Just use actual numbers please!!!!!

"This compares to the "Larger" upper limit in Windows 8 where you could only go up 150 percent on text and items."

It was just a nominal limit, not a real one. You could always set 200% by hand on the combobox (that is writable), same on Vista and Win7.

Actually I have a customer in this position right now. They've put a full HD screen in an 11" tablet... madness!

Raa said,
Actually I have a customer in this position right now. They've put a full HD screen in an 11" tablet... madness!

Yet no one bats an eye when a 5" cell phone screen gets full HD. Specs wars are stupid.

siah1214 said,

Yet no one bats an eye when a 5" cell phone screen gets full HD. Specs wars are stupid.
How so? Higher resolution = higher pixels per inch which results in better image quality.

Anaron said,
How so? Higher resolution = higher pixels per inch which results in better image quality.

Better if you can actually see the difference. If you can't then it's just using power for nothing. It's not a lot of power but will make your battery time shorter.

Raa said,
Actually I have a customer in this position right now. They've put a full HD screen in an 11" tablet... madness!

I have a 2560x1600 res screen in my 10 inch tablet. Far from madness

Anaron said,
How so? Higher resolution = higher pixels per inch which results in better image quality.
...that You only notice if hold your phone inches from your face... and destroy your battery.

siah1214 said,
...that You only notice if hold your phone inches from your face... and destroy your battery.

A lot of people use their phone 1-1.5' from their face. It's already been studied and established that 'regular' people can tell the difference in a so-called retina display, so I'm not sure why you seem invested in a negative opinion about it.

siah1214 said,
...that You only notice if hold your phone inches from your face... and destroy your battery.

You can definitely notice the improved resolution without holding it inches from you face (in fact that makes the pixels more visible, even on a high density display)

siah1214 said,
...that You only notice if hold your phone inches from your face... and destroy your battery.

Going from 720 to 1080 was noticable on my Phone, without holding it inches away. when browsing the Web I no longer had to zoom in to read the smaller text on sites etc. I can read them fine on my 1080 phone screen.

Joshie said,

A lot of people use their phone 1-1.5' from their face. It's already been studied and established that 'regular' people can tell the difference in a so-called retina display, so I'm not sure why you seem invested in a negative opinion about it.

We're not talking about retina (226 PPI), we're talking about full HD (300+ PPI)
Full HD (1980x1080) has 0 benefit.

siah1214 said,

We're not talking about retina (226 PPI), we're talking about full HD (300+ PPI)
Full HD (1980x1080) has 0 benefit.

300PPI isn't full HD. To get 300PPI from a full HD resolution you'd have to have a 7.3 inch screen. 300PPI is just amount that Apple decided qualifies as their own "retina term".

They spouted some guff about "thats all people can see". If your vision is only a certain amount and you hold the phone a certain distance away. The fact remains many people can see past 300PPI. 1080p has many benefits.

McKay said,

Going from 720 to 1080 was noticable on my Phone, without holding it inches away. when browsing the Web I no longer had to zoom in to read the smaller text on sites etc. I can read them fine on my 1080 phone screen.


It sometimes weirds me out when I realize just how small the text is that I read on my phone these days. I would never read actual print that small, but for some reason it's perfectly comfortable on my phone.

I'd be interested in why that is.

McKay said,

300PPI isn't full HD. To get 300PPI from a full HD resolution you'd have to have a 7.3 inch screen. 300PPI is just amount that Apple decided qualifies as their own "retina term".

They spouted some guff about "thats all people can see". If your vision is only a certain amount and you hold the phone a certain distance away. The fact remains many people can see past 300PPI. 1080p has many benefits.

Unless your eyesight sucks you'll be able to see past 300PPI, what Apple said was at that density and a specific distance from the eye the individual pixels are below the observable resolution of the eye. There was some issues with that statement, but it's not just the PPI value you need to go by.

You won't need 300+ PPI on a desktop monitor to achieve "retina" quality, 192PPI would be more than enough for most setups.

The_Decryptor said,

Unless your eyesight sucks you'll be able to see past 300PPI, what Apple said was at that density and a specific distance from the eye the individual pixels are below the observable resolution of the eye. There was some issues with that statement, but it's not just the PPI value you need to go by.

You won't need 300+ PPI on a desktop monitor to achieve "retina" quality, 192PPI would be more than enough for most setups.

I said a certain distance away.

I wonder who uses his phone 1inch away from his face, no one I know does that, most are at least a foot away from their face, while they are often little over a foot away from their desktop/laptop screens.

And if you can tell the difference between 300PPI and a billion PPI on a 4,5inch phone at normal usage distance away, you should join NASA and find new planets with your bare eyes.

I cant tell the pixels apart on my 920, even at less then an inch away I can not find any curbed edges on fonts. And my eyesight is 100% on both eyes. no issues what so ever (I can see pixels on my monitors at <25cm).
Anything more is just a waste of GPU power and battery.

siah1214 said,
...that You only notice if hold your phone inches from your face... and destroy your battery.
No. You can definitely notice it from using it normally. Not only do you see more, things like text and sharp shapes look more crisp.

Shadowzz said,
I wonder who uses his phone 1inch away from his face, no one I know does that, most are at least a foot away from their face, while they are often little over a foot away from their desktop/laptop screens.

And if you can tell the difference between 300PPI and a billion PPI on a 4,5inch phone at normal usage distance away, you should join NASA and find new planets with your bare eyes.

I cant tell the pixels apart on my 920, even at less then an inch away I can not find any curbed edges on fonts. And my eyesight is 100% on both eyes. no issues what so ever (I can see pixels on my monitors at <25cm).
Anything more is just a waste of GPU power and battery.

It's not about noticing the individual pixels. For that, you'd likely need a magnifying glass. It's about noticing a crisper image. Text is something that benefits the most from a high-resolution/high-PPI display. Also, 1080p phones usually have large displays (e.g. minimum 5" or more). The "waste of GPU power and battery" thing makes no sense because those phones have better battery life than ones with 720p displays. Why, you ask? It's simple. A larger display allows for the use of a larger battery. Go take a look at the battery life of the Galaxy S4 or even Samsung's Note line of smartphones.

I wish "Extra Small" was a choice. The standard "Smaller" setting still makes everything look fugly on my monitor, and not sharp at all. That is with a 0.2652 pixel pitch, 1920x1080, 23" monitor. Microsoft still has a long way to go to match Apple displays in this regard.

Microsoft still has a long way to go to match Apple displays in this regard.
I don't see how. Apple lets you choose between 100% and 200%. Microsoft gives you anywhere from 100% to 200% as a slider.

Unless I'm missing something?

RottGutt said,
I wish "Extra Small" was a choice. The standard "Smaller" setting still makes everything look fugly on my monitor, and not sharp at all. That is with a 0.2652 pixel pitch, 1920x1080, 23" monitor. Microsoft still has a long way to go to match Apple displays in this regard.

I'm curious... Why would you want to go less than 100% at 1920x1080?

I'm using 125% at 1920x1080 @ 24". 100% is far too small for me, let alone something smaller.

RottGutt said,
I wish "Extra Small" was a choice. The standard "Smaller" setting still makes everything look fugly on my monitor, and not sharp at all. That is with a 0.2652 pixel pitch, 1920x1080, 23" monitor. Microsoft still has a long way to go to match Apple displays in this regard.

Upgrade your res.

I hook my Macbook Pro (non-Retina) to this monitor (through HDMI), and what I get on the screen is super crisp graphics and text. I hook my brand new PC with much better video card to this monitor (through HDMI), and I get decent graphics and slightly blurry text. Any more non-helpful comments to an obvious shortcoming on Microsoft's part?

RottGutt said,
I hook my Macbook Pro (non-Retina) to this monitor (through HDMI), and what I get on the screen is super crisp graphics and text. I hook my brand new PC with much better video card to this monitor (through HDMI), and I get decent graphics and slightly blurry text.

Any more non-helpful comments to an obvious shortcoming on Microsoft's part?

Here's a helpful comment...

I use a laptop to a 40" TV through HDMI pretty often and the picture and text are great. It's probably the graphics hardware in your PC, no matter if it's a better spec than the Macbook or not, or the driver.

It might even be that the screen dimensions and characteristics sent from your PC are different than sent from the Macbook, and the monitor is the problem, or your display settings.

It's not Microsoft.

In any case, going from say 100% DPI down to 85% wouldn't help anyways.

Edited by thomastmc, Jul 17 2013, 10:41pm :

Sweet. Can't wait to have this, as I have one monitor that will support 125%, but another that works best at 100%.

Windows 8.1 FTW