Can Linux deal with ultra high resolution displays?

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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Method 1

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.

Method 2

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 3200×1800. 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) : 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,


Method 3

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.

Method 4

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.

Method 5

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.

Method 6

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

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

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.

All methods was sourced from or, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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