More testing is needed on more devices before we can reach a definite conclusion. What this little excursion has taught us, though, is that Windows 8's suitability for systems with high-PPI screens may have been exaggerated. Perhaps some obscure, undocumented option magically fixes all of the aforementioned problems, but if that's the case, it should be neither obscure nor undocumented—remember, we were running the RTM version of Windows 8 on a production notebook.
I'm left a little disappointed and disillusioned. Based on what little I've seen, the impending flotilla of Windows tablets and laptops with high-density screens—which already counts the Zenbook Prime among its vessels—may get second-class treatment in Windows 8. Metro may end up looking either too big or too small, scaled web browsing may be as ugly as ever, and in the end, the old-school desktop mode may offer the best experience.
It's like Microsoft has taken one step forward and two steps back. And it's a crying shame.
Our experience is doubly disappointing in light of what Apple has been doing lately. Both the new iPad and the Retina MacBook Pro scale legacy content—including the web—with very few to no artifacts, and they guarantee UI widgets are the right size for the screen. Both of those machines have exactly four times the resolution of their standard-PPI predecessors: 2880x1800 on the MacBook and 2048x1536 on the iPad, up from 1440x900 and 1024x768, respectively, on older offerings. That means legacy content can be resized so that one source pixel equals four pixels on the screen, which minimizes problems.
The Retina MacBook Pro also supports other, intermediate scaling modes, which still work quite well. One of those modes, for example, approximates the interface and font sizes one would see at 1680x1050. No matter the setting, both OS X and Retina-aware applications scale standard-PPI bitmaps while seamlessly displaying text, vector graphics, video, and other high-PPI-capable content at the full resolution.
Now, to be fair, Apple only sells one computer with a high-PPI screen right now, and it has complete control over the hardware and software. Microsoft must support a multitude of machines (and discrete monitors) with varying panel sizes, PPI levels, and intended viewing distances. That must complicate things greatly.
Nevertheless, it seems like the folks in Redmond really should have offered at least a handful of different scaling modes in Metro. An intermediate setting between the default and "make everything on your screen bigger" modes would have looked great on the Zenbook Prime, for instance—yet we could find no such option no matter how hard we looked. The user experience suffered as a result, and Metro lost much of its appeal.
69 comments — Last by bhtooefr at 4:34 PM on 09/30/12
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