Windows 8 to scale with high-DPI tablets

High-DPI displays seem to be the wave of the future, especially on tablets—just look at the iPad 3 and the upcoming Transformer Infinity Series. Happily, Windows 8 is being designed to take proper advantage of higher pixel densities without scaling user-interface elements. Microsoft has detailed its work in that arena on the Building Windows 8 blog.

Windows 8 will support three scaling modes: 100% for regular displays, 140% for “HD tablets,” and 180% for “quad-XGA tablets.” The size chart below sheds some light on what those labels mean and what effect they’ll have on UI scaling:

“HD tablets” will have 1920×1080 panels, while “quad-XGA” offerings will cram 2560×1440 pixels into similar-sized displays. As Microsoft points out, keeping UI elements the same size on such devices is crucial, since smaller buttons and widgets are harder to touch. The company will help developers optimize their apps for high pixel densities with Visual Studio 11, which includes a Windows Simulator with various resolution and screen size combos.

Comments closed
    • Wirko
    • 8 years ago

    “Larger screen sizes” … A long section of the blog post is trying to explain us that larger screen can display more content. If there’s anyone here that didn’t know this in 1993, please downvote me.

      • eitje
      • 8 years ago

      it took me until 1998 to know that.

    • Arclight
    • 8 years ago

    On a related note, when can we expect 22″ monitors with >400 PPI?

      • Flatland_Spider
      • 8 years ago

      One can hope.

      • axeman
      • 8 years ago

      It’s a monitor with the head of a man and the body of a bull, it’s a monitaur!

      • ImSpartacus
      • 8 years ago

      With great PPI, comes great responsibility.

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Soon we will just plug our PC into our tablet to use as the screen due to the lack of options in our screen market… plus with the trend of bigger tablets they’re almost the same size as my 30″ screen. :/

    • ShadowTiger
    • 8 years ago

    I’m confused…

    What is the magical thing that they are accomplishing here that is difficult/noteworthy?

      • Mourmain
      • 8 years ago

      The achievement is managing to call the lack of a feature a feature.

    • omf
    • 8 years ago

    This doesn’t really sound like scaling. It sounds like they’re adding a few pre-determined usable resolutions. True scaling would work with any reasonable screen resolution, not just the few Microsoft specifies.

      • Madman
      • 8 years ago

      Yep, my thoughts exactly. Windows also has this DPI slider, and it fails miserably. We need real scalable graphics, not alternative ones for when DPI falls into alternate modes.

    • TEAMSWITCHER
    • 8 years ago

    Microsoft has optimized Windows 8 for 16:9 displays and it’s partners will likely make only wide screen slates. This is a shame because I truly believe that Apple was very smart when they choose a 4:3 display for the iPad. It’s works well in both portrait and landscape mode.

    The wide-screen format simply doesn’t feel natural in portrait mode. It’s too tall, too awkward, and developers will find few uses for it – if any. Even in landscape mode the wide-screen slate will feel heavier than it is. The longer design has more leverage against a single hand trying to hold it.

    The DPI scaling really doesn’t add that much to Windows 8. The iPad has two DPI configurations – low and high. Windows 8 will support three – low, medium, and high. And medium isn’t really anything to get excited about.

    Please don’t post against me talking up how great movies will be on Windows 8 slates. If I wan’t to screen a movie, I’ll use my home theater, not a tablet.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 8 years ago

      I think MS made the best of a bad situation.

      The whole 320px sidebar multitasking thing is neat. It’s basically a phone UI next to a 4:3 landscape tablet. I think that’s a compelling way to use a wide screen.

      • blastdoor
      • 8 years ago

      You are so right. 16:9 is such a bad choice for handheld devices. It’s not even a very good choice for smaller laptops.

      It seems that every non-Apple company just takes whatever suppliers provide as given without ever pushing back. Without Apple, we wouldn’t have IPS, high-DPI displays, or 4:3 tablets.

      • dpaus
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]If I wan't to screen a movie, I'll use my home theater, not a tablet[/quote<] You don't commute using public transit, do you? Me either, but several of my staff do, and they tell me that some days, it seems like they're the only one on the whole train not watching a movie on an iPad.

        • dashbarron
        • 8 years ago

        You should let one employee a week borrow the ‘choper.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        I don’t see how that can be very enjoyable in such a crowded noisy environment. I think I’d much rather be reading or browsing the web personally.

        David Lynch agrees with me, [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKiIroiCvZ0[/url<]

          • Washer
          • 8 years ago

          How would reading be more enjoyable than watching something on a train? Text constantly bouncing gives me headaches. Also, people put in some IEMs and the noise doesn’t matter.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            When reading you control the flow and when you give focus, with video it’s constantly coming and breaks in focus can really ruin it.

            Could just be me though.

            • d0g_p00p
            • 8 years ago

            so i guess you cannot read text on anything moving. do you have to stop walking to make a phone call, cannot text walking down the street, cannot read a newspaper commuting in a car

      • Chrispy_
      • 8 years ago

      I think your belief that 16:9 doesn’t work in portait is misplaced:

      16:9 tablets are easier and more comfortable to hold in portait mode with one hand. An onscreen keyboard works better in portrait 16:9 too, since there’s still a decent aspect ratio left for the content above it, and your one hand doesn’t have to move so far. I prefer Swype in portrait mode for just this reason.

      You reject tablets for media playback too, but that is probably the single biggest reason for the rising popularity of tablets in the first place; 16:9 is the defacto standard for everything from BBC iPlayer to Console gaming, and it’s just better on a 16:9 Android than any iPad.

    • sschaem
    • 8 years ago

    Freaking ridiculous ! Every single common size for windows 8 decided by MS is 16:9 excepted for 1280×800 ?!?! whats is that about.

    Are people only going to be watching TV on windows8 machines and do nothing else ?

    Apple vision of what is common:

    13-inch MacBook Air : 16:10 (1440 by 900)
    All macbook 16:10 (from 1280 by 800, 1440 by 900 to1920 by 1200)

    Apple tablet : 2048×1536 …

    From XP to windows7 I had hope for MS to slowly get better. all those hopes are gone 🙁

      • ImSpartacus
      • 8 years ago

      Maybe you should buy a Macbook. Bootcamp works great.

      No, it’s some sort of heresy to admit that Apple’s laptop are quickly becoming the best on the market. Both Sony and Lenovo use 16:9 on their laptops. Who’s left to make a quality 16:10 laptop?

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        There’s still a price premium above what you get feature-wise.

        So basically, I can’t afford a Mac.

        (also I don’t personally like the aesthetics of Macs, but I do realize most people do)

          • ImSpartacus
          • 8 years ago

          Quality has a cost. It’s not like an equivalent Thinkpad for much (if any) less.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            Compare a 15″ Thinkpad T series to a 15″ Macbook pro, I think you’ll find you can get equivalent specs for about $800 cheaper. A 15″ Macbrook pro *starts* at $1800.

            It’s a littler tricker to compare the smaller models since the T series starts at 14″, while Macbooks are 13.3″.

            • ImSpartacus
            • 8 years ago

            We’re not talking about specs, we’re talking about quality. Ever since Lenovo took over, the T series hasn’t brought equivalent quality.

            I am comparing the X1 to the MBP13. Aside from the quality equivalence, they are roughly equivalent in specs and price.

            Fore the other MBPs, Lenovo doesn’t have anything similar.

          • A_Pickle
          • 8 years ago

          I love the design and build quality of Macs. I don’t like their selection of graphics processors, though — I’d like the [i<]option[/i<] of some higher-end offerings.

            • TakinYourPoints
            • 8 years ago

            Its the tradeoff for such a small chassis and long batter life. The Radeons in the current high end MBPs are just barely suitable given how hot they can get.

        • sweatshopking
        • 8 years ago

        who’s left to care? the important thing is that you have enough pixels to accomplish your task. the whole 16:9 vs 16:10 debate is dumb, as long as you have the vertical space to accomplish your task, who the f cares?

      • gmskking
      • 8 years ago

      I have said this many times. Microsoft has done nothing but the bare minimum as far as progressing Windows goes. I think Windows 7 is basically the same thing as XP with visual updates. For this reason, I hate Microsoft.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        “I think Windows 7 is basically the same thing as XP with visual updates.”

        I think that shows a lack of knowledge on your part more than anything.

        • DarkUltra
        • 8 years ago

        Yes and no. With Vista/7 Microsoft threw out GDI acceleration and brought in window composition. In Windows 8 I hope Explorer will be direct2d accelerated but it might break extensions and compatibility so I doubt it.

        [url<]http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=ay-gqx18UTM[/url<]

        • ShadowEyez
        • 8 years ago

        No offense, but XP is not the same as vista/7, even not including the visual updates. Original XP vs. SP2 were very different. From any XP to vista/7 was basically reworking the entire core kernel, programming API’s, security model, hardware driver interface, user interface, along with the graphics model.

        The fact that they do the same things (run apps/games, surf the net, share networked files etc…) does not mean things under the hood they aren’t different, it just means the PC usage model has not changed.

        And yes, M$ does seem to be doing the minimum, I would say they are doing the minimum with innovation, and windows is a reflection of that. M$ is still heavily invested in the PC usage model/windows usage model, (though with win8 they are adapting to tablets), and they seem to be playing catch up to companies like apple and google. To be fair though, why change when you’re VERY profitable?

    • ImSpartacus
    • 8 years ago

    Does anyone else think that it’s flucking awesome that Microsoft mentions 1440p 11.6″ screens?

    MS knows just as much as OEMs about future hardware, but they don’t care about sharing it. Or when Intel shared that Ivy Bridge’s GPU will be support 4K (probably quad1080p).

    • Duck
    • 8 years ago

    Get ready for more awful DPI scaling to get things to work.

      • Madman
      • 8 years ago

      Yep, this is what I understand from this text as well.

    • Frith
    • 8 years ago

    [url=http://blogs.msdn.com/cfs-file.ashx/__key/communityserver-blogs-components-weblogfiles/00-00-01-29-43-metablogapi/8468.Scaling_2D002D002D00_Common_2D00_Sizes_5F00_5E732919.jpg<]This[/url<] image confirms that Microsoft have totally lost the plot. They have decided that the desktop PC doesn't exist. All the "Workhorse PCs" are laptops with a maximum screen size of 15.6''. PCs with larger screens are "Family hubs". WTF!? People who go into work, sit down at their desktop and write programs, produce spreadsheets, produce graphic designs, trade stocks, or do any sort of multi-tasking - they apparently don't exist! People who go home and play games on their desktop - they don't exist either! Microsoft firmly believes that nobody does any work, nobody does any multi-tasking, nobody uses a mouse or keyboard and nobody plays games on PCs. They've decided that all PCs are "slates", "Family Hubs" or touch-screen laptops, and the only thing people do with them is play Angry Birds or use the Facebook app. Microsoft's fear of the iPad has caused them to totally lose touch with reality, and if they continue on this trajectory they're going to lose their operating system monopoly. Of course, that's probably a good thing. After Windows 7 support ends in 2020 people will have no choice but to switch to Linux if they don't want to use a shitty tablet interface like Metro on the desktop/laptop, and that will leave us all in a better position. With Windows, if Microsoft decide you're going to use Metro, you have no choice but to use it. With Linux, if the GNOME team decide to produce crap like GNOME 3 or Canonical decide to try and shove Unity in your face, you can just switch to one of the other desktop environments like KDE, XFCE, or (my favourite) GNOME 2 folk MATE. Linux is technically a superior operating system to Windows, and with multiple distributions and desktop environments you'll never end up in a situation where you're forced to use something you don't want. The main drawback of Linux is that the lack of users results in a a lack of software and driver support. However, Windows 8 may change that. 2021 - year of Linux on the desktop?

      • Malphas
      • 8 years ago

      Microsoft are concentrating on the consumer market this time round, since that’s the area Apple and tablets are eating into their sales. That market is overwhelming low-end laptops. Home desktop users are a dwindling minority, and business desktop users are practically a captive market for Microsoft.

      Oh, and if you think corporate users are going to rewrite their software so they can switch to Linux (with its own share of problems) purely because of a crappy Windows UI, then you’re the one that’s lost touch with reality.

        • TEAMSWITCHER
        • 8 years ago

        “…business desktop users are practically a captive market for Microsoft.”

        You really need to read this: [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumerization[/url<]

          • indeego
          • 8 years ago

          If you require HIPAA-level security compliance, or many other security clearances or data-retention requirements, cloud-based storage simply [b<]isn't an option[/b<]. Cloud-based storage [url=http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/04/the-cloud-and-the-future-of-the-fourth-amendment.ars<]isn't covered under 4th amendment searches in the States.[/url<] Essentially there are entire areas of business that would be committing near-suicide to adopt the same policies that cheap consumers have been.

        • DragonDaddyBear
        • 8 years ago

        No, they are going to write their applications to work on mobile devices. With a large merger of Android Kernel features now in the 3.3 Linux Kernel I’d venture to say that it very well could happen by 2021.

      • chµck
      • 8 years ago

      I’ve been getting along fine with my laptop from 2009, thank you very much.

      • sschaem
      • 8 years ago

      Yes, yes, yes… Microsoft now disgust me.

      Windows8 is total bulls*… and I tried Visual Studio 2011 beta, its also a complete disaster at the UI level. Its a gray blurry mess.
      seem like one team think “Random primary color is our future” and another team “color and contrast is evil, lets make everything uniform and gray”

      I truly hate the ‘new’ microsoft.

      They seem to do everything they can to p*off they loyal users.

      [url<]http://visualstudio.uservoice.com/forums/121579-visual-studio/suggestions/2623017-add-some-color-to-visual-studio-11-beta#comments[/url<]

      • Madman
      • 8 years ago

      They probably saw the Apple market share growth and thought OMGZ!!! we TOTALLY have to do this!

      Without analysing market at all.

      • Wirko
      • 8 years ago

      We have lived with resizable windows for too long and eventually we took them for granted. Not any more. Take a look at the windows in your office and home – are they resizable or what? They are not and and that’s the way it should be!

        • dpaus
        • 8 years ago

        The ones in my condo can’t be opened, either – perhaps that’s what should happen with Windows 8?

    • just brew it!
    • 8 years ago

    Why not just use something like [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svg<]SVG[/url<] for all the UI elements? That would allow the UI to provide ideal touch target size regardless of the DPI.

      • nico1982
      • 8 years ago

      It would be slower, since you need to draw many ‘layers’ to achieve the same result of a single raster. Unless vector graphics are used to generate a raster cache each time dpi changes, but this would likely add unnecessary complexity.
      Android has a similar issue and solved it quite nicely with the option to embed multiple versions of a resource – not just images – and the right version is selected depending on resolution and pixel density of the screen.

        • Meadows
        • 8 years ago

        You’re talking as if the dpi could change haphazardly any time according to the computer’s personal agenda. No. You’d have vector graphics, and you set the dpi [u<]once[/u<], and the resources are generated from there [u<]ONCE[/u<]. Done. Your issues are non-issues.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 8 years ago

          The only drawback I can think of, is when you hook up an external monitor.

          Of course modern CPUs can re-size the needed images in what like .05 seconds?

        • Flatland_Spider
        • 8 years ago

        The NeXT interface was postscript based way back in the 80s, so the precedence is there to have a fully vector interface on low end hardware.

        The raster cache is probably what they are going to do. They already have an icon and thumbnail cache, so I would suspect they would do the samething. Of course, they could just brute force it with a powerful enough video card.

      • sotti
      • 8 years ago

      Most of the metro stuff is XAML based, which is vector based and DPI independent.

      • Lans
      • 8 years ago

      I like that idea too but I am going to guess lack of graphics horsepower for such devices maybe?

      Keeping the element size for tablet etc devices seems like a great idea but while they are at it, why not expose more customization? I mean they have to parameterize it already…

      • Arag0n
      • 8 years ago

      Actually if you read the post, they said that they will accept SVG files as UI elements… so much Microsoft hate… can’t you believe that they have people actually thinking? The size of the elements can be defined as a % of the user screen width or height, and that’s all…

        • Lans
        • 8 years ago

        Obviously, I didn’t bother reading blog that carefully as well I don’t like reading blogs… Not sure if this is what you are referring to as I am not sure if it goes as far as what you are claiming:

        [quote<]Unlike previous releases, you won’t need to do any work to make your apps DPI-aware; there are frameworks in place to scale the app for you. Just by using web-standard CSS pixel units or a XAML layout, app layouts will scale proportionally. When an app is scaled up, images are stretched and could get blurry, but Windows 8 makes it easy for developers to keep these images looking crisp and beautiful.[/quote<]

      • Flatland_Spider
      • 8 years ago

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this is how they are able to do this. MS has really been wanting to get this monkey off their back for a while (for accessibility reasons), and this may be the final fruits of that work. Aero was the first step by adding a graphic card accelerated compositor. This maybe the next step of converting everything to vector graphics. (Linux has also been going this way. You can use SVG files in addition to PNGs for icons, but I’m sure you knew that. 🙂 )

      The key is, of course, hardware accelerated graphics. You know the old saying about hardware performance, “intel gives. microsoft takes away”? This what that is. MS is leveraging the incredibly power modern GPUs to do something other then sit there are look pretty while people browse the wikipedia or read their email. (This part is for completeness, and the benefit of other people who may read this.)

    • ew
    • 8 years ago

    Will I be able to change the DPI setting myself? Maybe I want things larger (or smaller) then what someone else has decided is normal.

      • lilbuddhaman
      • 8 years ago

      And to add onto that, can some elements be larger, while others smaller ?

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