I have seen the future and it is HiDPI monitors and laptop screens (what is known as Retina Display in the Apple world). My current laptop is the Dell XPS 13 (9360) which came out of the box with Ubuntu. The highest resolution is 3200×1800. This is astonishing and really puts Dell ahead of other laptop manufacturers who are still putting out non-Retina laptop displays.
3200×1800 = Tiny Icons, Tiny Text
Unfortunately, no one is really ready for the future with HiDPI in GNU/Linux! When I left the native resolution at 3200×1800, the GNOME3 theme was small and had to be scaled to a factor of 2, the icons in most GTK and KDE applications were also tiny.
To try and solve those problems I asked on AskUbuntu (a Stackoverflow/Stack Exchange off-shoot):
The ArchLinux wiki has a page for HiDPI screens and on it you will find ways to:
- adjust the scale for Qt 5 applications
- adjust the scale for GTK applications
- adjust the scale for GNOME and KDE
Downscale from 3200×1800 to 1920×1080
But what if you wanted to downscale rather than upscale everything? I thought of this idea when using the Macbook Pros at my job (every developer job seems to have consolidated on Apple Macbooks as the gear of choice, guess it’s less of a pain for the IT support department to deal with? or they get a nice volume discount?)
The Macbook Pro has a Retina screen with a high native resolution, 2880×1800. However, Apple has downscaled to a lower resolution, 1400×900 to be precise. Apple labels that as the best resolution, and this Anand Tech article explains that for every pixel at the lower resolution you actually four pixels (since the native resolution is so much higher). I have actually found it hard to go back to regular monitors after working on a downscaled Macbook and I wanted the same experience on the Dell XPS. Not only that, but downscaling would also fix my problems with tiny text and icons.
Here are the instructions on how to downscale a HiDPI GNU/Linux desktop to a scaled resolution, specifically on GNOME. Unity has its own tweak tool and there are instructions on the ArchLinux Wiki to downscale KDE.