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Enable Retina / HiDPI modes for a Mac mini plugged into a 4K HDTV

This one is pretty short and simple once you get down to it.

I recently set up a client’s boardroom with a really sweet 75″ Sony 4K Android TV, a Logitech Group video conferencing webcam, a Mac mini and a Sonos Playbar. Everything was really sweet, except that the Mac mini refused to treat the TV as a Retina or HiDPI screen.

The result of this was that the Mac mini would use the TV at it’s native resolution – it saw the TV as a monitor running at 3840 x 2160. What I wanted it to do was treat it as a 1920 x 1080 display, but in Retina mode, so UI elements would be a reasonable size from across the room but text and graphical elements would still be sharp.

I was able to enable HiDPI modes by first running the following command in Terminal:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.windowserver.plist DisplayResolutionEnabled -bool true

Once this had been applied, I rebooted and logged in again. Then, when I went into my Displays preferences, instead of selecting Resolution: Best for built-in display, I held down the Option key and clicked on Scaled.

Scrolling down to the bottom of the list revealed the HiDPI modes – I selected 1920 x 1080 (HiDPI) and voila! I was running in Retina mode and could comfortably use the Mac mini from across the other side of the room.

2 thoughts on “Enable Retina / HiDPI modes for a Mac mini plugged into a 4K HDTV

  1. Tried this on my hackintosh plugged in to my 48″ Samsung UHD tv, this unlocked a complete new set of available resolutions and has made a huge difference to my viewing experience when sitting on the sofa at a distance of 10 feet. Photos and video are much crisper but i can still have the text at a readable size and very crisp. I use 3200×1800 hidpi which appears as 1600×900 Perfect, many thanks for this tip which i suspected was possible but did not know how to do.

    1. I’m glad to hear it worked, even on a hackintosh! When running at the native resolution, you need to be sitting right up close to the TV, when running at a scaled resolution, everything is soft (even if it’s an exact 2:1 ratio). With the proper HiDPI scaling in place, everything is exactly as it should be.

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