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I have a Chromebook Pixel 2, which has a HiDPI screen. My external monitor has the same resolution in width, but only about half the pixel density. I use Gnome's scaling settings to make things look right, but that only works well when using a single monitor.

Is it possible to scale my laptop display so that its effective resolution is half of the native resolution, but it still fills the screen? I've tried xrandr --scale 0.5x0.5, but that just seems to shrink the screen without filling the display.

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Only scaling wont help. I have yoga 2 pro with resolution 3200x1800 and external FHD monitor. In my case i use xrandr panning option:

xrandr --output eDP1 --auto --output HDMI1 --auto --panning 3840x2160+3200+0 --scale 2x2 --right-of eDP1

Basically if your hidpi monitor is AxB pixels and your regular monitor is CxD and you are scaling by [ExF], the commandline for right-of is:

xrandr --output eDP1 --auto --output HDMI1 --auto --panning [C*E]x[D*F]+[A]+0 --scale [E]x[F] --right-of eDP1

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