Last year it was tough to find a Windows laptop or a desktop computer with a display resolution higher than 1920 x 1080 pixels. This year they seem to be popping up all over.
Sasmung, HP, Asus, Acer, and Fujitsu are just a few of the companies bringing laptops with higher-than-1080p screens to market this year. A number of desktop monitors with resolutions as high as 3840 x 2160 pixels are also popping up.
But there’s a catch – up until recently, Microsoft Windows hasn’t played very well with higher-than-HD screens. Microsoft is taking steps to make things a bit better with Windows 8.1, which is due out by this fall.
First up, the company is letting users scale the user Windows 8.1 user interface up to 200 percent of its normal size. This makes text, buttons, and other graphics larger than they would be if displayed at their native resolution.
Earlier versions of Windows offered 125 percent and 150 percent settings, but Windows 8.1 will be the first that allows for full pixel-doubling, which should lead to better looking graphics on ultra HD displays (also known as 4K, or 3840 x 2160 pixels).
The company also now supports per-display DPI scaling. In other words, if you have a 1366 x 768 pixel laptop and you’re using a 1080p or higher-resolution monitor as a second display, you can now have your DPI settings on the notebook at 100 percent while the second monitor can be scaled up as high as 200 percent.
This means that apps, text, menus, and other items can effectively look the same size on each screen. Dragging a calculator from one screen to another won’t make the app physically shrink — although if you take a screenshot of the app it’ll be clear that it may actually be using significantly more pixels on your higher-res display.
Microsoft is also providing developers with APIs which will allow apps to automatically adjust settings depending on the screen resolution. For instance, Internet Explorer’s default zoom level on an ultra HD display is 300 percent, which means it’ll show about the same amount of web content on a 4K screen as it does on a 1080p display.
It’ll still be up to app developers to update their software to take advantage of the new features. While it’s likely that many big name apps will support WQHD and 4K displays in the not too distant future, Windows has been around for decades — and there’s a decent chance that if you’re relying on software developed years ago which has seldom (if ever) been updated since, it may look funky on a higher-than-1080p display, no matter what you do.