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A few months ago, Samsung announced the Ativ Book 9 Plus, a pretty cool ultrabook with a screen resolution of 3200 x 1800 pixels (QHD+).

The device ships with Windows 8 until Windows 8.1 is released and Samsung declared that only Windows 8.1 will be able to deal with this ultra high resolution.

Now I ask myself if any Linux distribution is able to deal with such a high resolution. Especially font rendering is a point to regard. According to some early reviews of the Ativ Book 9 Plus, Windows 8 is not able to render fonts properly so that you can read text without having to put the screen just in front of your nose. That's why they say Windows 8.1 will be able to do better.

But what's with Linux? Can Linux deal better with this ultra high resolution? Maybe anybody has some experience regarding other ultrabooks with comparable resolutions.

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  • 1
    What's wrong with turning the screen DPI up? – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Sep 1 '13 at 12:09
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    @IgnacioVazquez-Abrams Even on Linux, many programs don't handle that very well, in the worst case scaling some elements and not others. Larger fonts help readability, but buttons and other things you might need to click can be left as comically tiny. – mattdm Sep 1 '13 at 13:02
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    +1 @mattdm And if only it was that fact about them being "comically tiny!" I ran into certain cases when important checkboxes in settings were OVERLAID by tab bars, menu headers and such, due to "unexpected" DPI settings. (Typical developer's answer: "Hardly any user would ever do that.") Yes, hardly any person would ever think of touching a power line, but there's a sign mounted there anyway! ;) -- Of course, the Settings window was fixed-size, and the trick of just expanding it vertically to double size didn't work! So be VERY careful tweaking with the DPI settings, especially on Windows. – syntaxerror Sep 5 '13 at 11:54
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The Gnome / Wayland / X developers are working on this. As with OS X and Windows, the solution will probably involve decoupling applications' idea of a "pixel" from physical pixels. This is kind of silly, but solves the problem for software that makes assumptions about DPI and the relative size of a pixel.

There's an update on this from Gnome developer Alexander Larsson here: HiDPI support in Gnome.

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    Note that the discussion of GNOME and explicit HiDPI support does not mean that explicit HiDPI support is required to scale the interface up. "HiDPI support" in this sense is just an abstraction meaning "we will do it in a slick and easy to use way" (e.g. by "decoupling applications idea of a 'pixel' from physical pixels"). It would not be a requirement. – goldilocks Sep 1 '13 at 13:21
  • @goldilocks Yes; I haven't been following Windows very closely, but I assume that's also what's meant by "Samsung declared that only Windows 8.1 will be able to deal with this ultra high resolution." – mattdm Sep 1 '13 at 13:30
  • I'd presume that's to deal with what appears, in that "review" linked in the question, to be a serious botch job with Windows 8 not scaling up well -- or not scaling up period. Spin: "Sorry we forgot to implement this in the last version" -> "Look how awesome the new version is". ;) – goldilocks Sep 1 '13 at 13:36
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Please excuse my poor English. I want to share the experience I had regarding the high screen resolution and linux OS, since the information on the internet is quite scarce so far. I am an happy owner of the Dell XPS 15 Haswell 9530, with a screen resolution of 3200x1800. I have tried Debian, Ubuntu (Kubuntu/Cinnamon/Mate/Unity/Cubuntu etc.) and Mint other the last week; all of them were not satisfactory even though I spent some time configuring them. I finally got a very nice display and experience with Gnome 3 (very beautiful) and since it really improves my computer experience, I think that I should share my configuration :

Here the steps I suggest :

-Use the UbuntuGnome distribution (I have tried to install Gnome 3 alongside with Unity but it was a disaster) : https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGNOME/GetUbuntuGNOME. After installing it, update it (sudo apt-get dist-upgrade)

-Use the default Gnome 3 and not the classic one

  • Alt+F2 : "gnome-tweak-tool". Modify ONLY the text-scaling-factor (I personally use 2.5). Don't modify the other fonts. The window size will adjust automatically

  • Firefox : install the extension Default Full Zoom Level (extension). I personally use 250% No need to tweak the font, else it will distort webpages. The zoom solution is very clean.

  • Icon size for nautilus : use dconf-editor (org-gnome-nautilus) to tweak the size as you prefer (largest for me) and also the thumbnail size

  • To improve gnome 3 experience : using gnome-tweak-tool again, activate the gnome extensions "show applications", "show places" and download and activate "frippery bottom panel".

  • Generally speaking, try to use as much as possible the gnome applications (nautilus/evolution/etc.), as the font adjust automatically

I hope it will be useful.

Kind regards,

Romain

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  • I am curious. What is your battery life like with this setup? – Christian Fazzini Jan 4 '15 at 17:13
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This is largely a matter of driver support (in the kernel and the Xorg server). Samsung (or whoever makes the GPU) will not write one for linux, so somebody else will have to do it. Possibly there already are such that will work here.

There is no maximum size of the X root window -- you can already set it that big if you want, then you have to pan around somehow (some window managers can do this).

So if there's a driver, everything else will be fine. I guess you'd need to set big font sizes, but that is pretty simple; they can size up far enough. Icon sizes might be more limited depending on your WM/DE.

Vis. "HiDPI support", this would be a nice way to target devices like this with extra slickness, but I do not think it would be necessary to make the display usable.

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  • @mattdm : That's my point about fonts and icons. Widget sets (GTK, Qt) scale the interface up based on font size. Bigger fonts == bigger title bars, buttons, etc. DE's then include configuration tools for the default widget set (and they can be configured in other ways as well). Individual applications do not have to deal with the issue. Consider also how a screen zoom works -- individual applications do not even know about it. Your GNOME link is about exactly this. They are just adding polish. – goldilocks Sep 1 '13 at 13:12
  • @mattdm : Point taken, will edit. – goldilocks Sep 1 '13 at 13:25
  • So there you have it! It's simply an "alibi statement" by Samsung! Don't take it too literally, everyone. It doesn't necessarily mean that it will actually fail on some OS less than Windows 8.1 or Linux, but it means that Samsung can only guarantee flawless functionality on the OS version mentioned. It basically means: if you do want to get this working on Linux, or on Windows 7 or 8. you'll be on your own. But still, it's not necessarily a "mission impossible." Samsung just don't want to get any bad press about something they promised but couldn't hold up. – syntaxerror Sep 5 '13 at 12:00
  • @syntaxerror : Discounting android, "you are on your own" with linux on the vast majority of hardware, or at least, you are without any support or promises from the manufacturer. No particular machine is different from any other in that sense. There are very very few computers you can buy that are approved for use with linux by the manufacturer, and AFAIK, none of those are Samsung. – goldilocks Sep 5 '13 at 12:10
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I think Linux Mint 17 with cinnamon 2.2 is the best bet for hi resolution and retina displays. It does the job pretty well and I think cinnamon 2.2 feels better than gnome3.10 on ubuntu gnome 14.04. However there are some program windows that might look very small and therefore not a good experience to work with.

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This command worked for me:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface text-scaling-factor 2.0

It's not perfect, but at least I can see something in the terminal.

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If using X.org, You can specify the physical dimensions of your display. Example configuration:

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier             "Monitor0"
    DisplaySize             286 179    # In millimeters
EndSection

Some application respect that and scale text accordingly, though normally not icons and other UI elements. In the end, you will have to scale app by app. GTK+ 3 apps have their way of scaling, and so have QT 5 apps, but sometimes things don't function and you have to find workarounds. Then there are apps which use neither of these tool kits. Sometimes using a custom large-icon theme can help.

A good overview of apps can be found on the Arch wiki HiDPI page. A lot of the information is distribution independent.

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