Effects of scaling the display on a 14" M1 MBP?

I have a 2021 14” M1 Max MBP. I currently have the screen resolution set at the default.

I noticed that the fine print says scaling the display affects performance (see screenshot).

I have two questions:

  1. How does changing the display scaling affect performance and why?
  2. Does scaling to make the text larger decrease text sharpness compared to the default setting? Note the explanation of the improvement in the new 14 and 16” screens from the 9 to 5 Mac article below:

From 9 to 5 Mac:

However, Apple has fully answered these complaints with the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro generation. The native display resolution is now 3456 x 2234, representing an increase of PPI from ~220 PPI to 250 PPI. By default, macOS Monterey will render the OS at 1728 x 1117 — a perfect 2x Retina scaling. Moreover, this perfect 2x resolution is effectively the same as the simulated scaled resolution of the previous generation, so now users get the higher-density UI but with actual pixels backing it, rather than scaling trickery.

The higher-density panel on the new 14-inch MacBook Pro features a 3024 x 1964 native resolution, which will be presented to users as 1512 x 982@2x, another reasonably roomy option for a screen of that size.

So, the new defaults are what most people should use in terms of utility and they will get the best Retina-crisp display quality at the same time. As always, Apple also offers scaled screen resolution options for people that want more or less space.

Based on code findings in the Monterey RC, we can see that the available resolution options for the new MacBook Pro 14: are:

14-inch MacBook Pro
- Looks like 1800 x 1169
- Default: Looks like 1512 x 982
- Looks like 1352 x 878
- Looks like 1147 x 745
- Looks like 1024 x 665

Just like the current laptop lineup, the MacBook Pro supports five different virtual resolutions, with one offering more space than the 2x default, and the others increasing UI and text size for easier readability.

Of course, screen resolution is just one of the new features of the new MacBook Pro screens; customers will also benefit from wider color reproduction, fluid 120Hz ProMotion animations, extreme dynamic range thanks to the mini-LED backlight system, and more.

Not answering your question, but I have a 14" MBP M1Pro and here is my display setup.

Mine is set to default and shows a different resolution than yours and does not show the “warning” about performance. Does the default differ between Pro and Max M1 chip?

UPDATE: Disregard - I see the difference. When you took your screenshot your cursor must have been hovering over the icon to the left of the default. If you hover your cursor over the default it will show the resolution as the same as mine. Again, doesn’t answer your question. Sorry for the digression. :grinning:

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I think we have exactly the same resolutions. I moved my mouse over to the next screen size to the left and THEN took the screen shot, which is why the small print appears. My settings show the same resolution, it is just that moving my mouse to the next screen size added both the fine print AND the new resolution size when I took the screenshot. I also corrected a typo on my post–I have the M1 Max MBP.

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Scaling requires the GPU (perhaps CPU) to scale the displayed graphics up or down, depending on your choice. There could theoretically be an effect on performance, but I would posit this would only be noticeable to perhaps video editors and gamers, and likely of no consequence to book authors :slight_smile:

I haven’t noticed this on my M1 MBP, or iMac Pro, and I am very picky. The aforementioned scaling would include anti-aliasing to smooth out what would otherwise be chunky pixels on the edges of graphics. E.g.

Note also that most fonts are TrueType fonts, meaning the glyphs are defined mathematically, so you can zoom all you want, and a curve will still be a curve. I.e. if you zoom way in on a photograph, you will eventually discern the pixels, whereas if zoom way in on a mathematically defined curve, you will see a smooth curve. E.g.


Another illustration: Georgia at 12, 144, and 300 points.

My suggestion: Try it for a while. Legibility is the most important factor for a lot of people, especially those who work with text, and it won’t matter if your refresh rate is 115 times per second, vs. 120 times per second.


Wow @JohnAtl that is an outstanding and helpful response–thanks, very much appreciated!

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