Windows 8 has a little known feature that automatically scales apps and text (fonts) on high-PPI displays, and we’re going to discuss how to adjust Windows 8 display settings for high DPI/PPI screens. PPI stands for pixels per inch (DPI is dots per inch), and is a term used more and more frequently when referring to high-quality displays with higher than normal pixel densities. For most Windows 8 users this probably hasn’t been an issue unless they have been running in desktop resolutions at or greater than 1080p (1920×1080) on a quality display.

The Surface for Windows 8 Pro which launched this past week just happens to be one of the devices that kicks the Windows 8 DPI scaling in to effect. I have three 24” monitors and, a laptop and a Surface for Windows RT and have not run in to the DPI scaling until I installed Google Chrome (and Google Talk) on my Surface for Windows 8 Pro. As a comparison, the Surface Pro has a PPI of 207.82, while the Surface RT has a PPI of 148. That is more than a 40% increase in pixel density between the two devices.

Below is an image of the same article from Microsoft Fanboys displayed in both Internet Explorer 10 and the latest version of Google Chrome side by side in a desktop snapped view on my Surface Pro. Internet Explorer is on the left, while Chrome is on the right. If you look closely you can clearly see the major difference in clarity between the two browsers, with Internet Explorer being much clearer than Google Chrome.

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Resolving this issue by disabling the DPI auto-scaling which causes the blurriness is quite easy on a per app basis. To do so simply navigate to the executable file (C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe) for the application and right click and choose properties. In the properties window choose the compatibility tab, then uncheck the box for Disable display scaling… and hit the apply button. Make sure that all Chrome windows are closed, and then reopen Chrome.

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When you reopen Chrome the text should no longer be blurry or fuzzy, but the scaling on the font may be quite small. To easily adjust the scaling of Chrome and the font size hold down the CTRL key while scrolling up or down on your mouse wheel. You may also change these zoom settings via the Chrome settings windows in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

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If you are unhappy with having to resize the fonts for every app that is affected, you may adjust the font size for Windows 8 within the screen resolution and display settings. From the desktop right click and choose Screen resolution.

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In the Screen Resolution screen choose the Make text and other… line.

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Then in the Display window choose either Medium – 125% or Large – 150% and hit the Apply button.

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If you’d like to find out more information about Windows 8 and how it scales to different resolutions and different screens, Microsoft has an extremely thorough blog post covering that very subject on the Building Windows 8 blog. In the post they discuss how the iPad with a Retina screen has a scale factor of 200%. Windows 8 on the other hand uses predictable scale percentages at 100%, 140% for HD tablets (read Surface Pro) and 180% for quad-XGA tablets.

Pixel Density Sweet Spots

Regardless of your Windows 8 device of choice, you may need to do some tweaking to get the best experience out of your display settings for Windows 8. Considering that Microsoft has had to plan and support devices in countless form factors and screens in many different resolutions, it may be a necessary evil to take the few minutes to get your display setup exactly like you want it.