Gilles Vandenoostende

Hi, I'm Gilles Vandenoostende - designer, illustrator and digital busybody with a love of language, based in Ghent, Belgium.

Windows 8 to support Retina-like displays and range of resolutions

From the desk of the Microsoft PR department, on The Verge:

Apple might be grabbing all the headlines for its Retina display technology this week, but Microsoft wants to remind the world that its OEMs are building post-HD resolutions for upcoming Windows 8 tablets. In a Building Windows 8 blog post today, the company is talking device diversity and pixel densities.


Microsoft is proposing three scale percentages in Windows 8: no scaling at 100%, 140% for HD tablets, 180% for quad-XGA tablets. Developers can use vector graphics or CSS3 to load images at different scales.

Tell me, what’s 140% of a single pixel? And how should a computer monitor display .4 of a pixel? I’ll tell you: by blending it with the adjacent pixel. Which causes blurry graphics.

Designers know what I’m talking about – crisp graphics are the reason you spend all that time in Photoshop zoomed in at 1600% pixel-fucking with the pen tool.

It’s why Apple’s resolution increases are done in multiples of two: because the end result will always be crisp and pixel-precise, and developers won’t have to break their heads too much because pixel dimensions become virtual – the old iPads and the new one both have the same resolution, from a developer’s standpoint.

You might say this is because Apple has the luxury of not having to work with multiple displays – not true. Mac OS X Lion has a Hi-Dpi mode that works with any display with a high-enough resolution. I use this to hook my Macbook Air up to my  TV in the living room. It turns a big 1080p screen into a virtualized 960×540 display. The text and UI all scale up perfectly, but remain crisp and perfectly aligned to the pixel-grid.

This is great because it allows me to navigate the finder, browse the internet and more, all from the comfort of my couch, without having to strain my eyes. And when you start a process that does need the extra resolution (like playing a HD video), it’s there for the taking.


Dots per inch (DPI) adjustments in Windows have always been hit and miss, mainly due to desktop apps not being built to scale properly — resulting in small user interface elements on higher DPI screens. Microsoft is tackling this problem with its new Metro style applications.

Am I right in interpreting this as that using Windows 8 on a “retina-like” display will be an even bigger shock to users when they inevitably land back on the traditional Aero desktop? Not only are the familiar Metro tiles gone, but now everything looks like this as well? Sounds fun!

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