HiDPI

What is HiDPI?

HiDPI (High Dots Per Inch) refers to a high-resolution display technology that can reduce pixelation by rendering more pixels per square inch. The increased pixel density allows HiDPI displays to deliver text and images that are significantly sharper and more detailed when viewed close up.

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Apple’s Retina display is one of the earliest and most well-known examples of HiDPI technology. Today, most display manufacturers sell devices with high-resolution display screens.

Techopedia Explains the HiDPI Meaning

HiDPI

HiDPI technology ensures that even on compact displays, content appears crisp and clear.

Before the widespread adoption of HiDPI, most computer displays had a pixel density of around 72-96 pixels per inch (PPIs). This standard density was sufficient for many years, but as computing devices got smaller and the demand for higher resolution and sharper imagery increased, displays with much higher pixel densities became more common.

While there isn’t a universally agreed-upon meaning for what constitutes HiDPI, a common benchmark is that displays with more than double the PPI of the old standard (72-96) can arguably be classified as HiDPI.

To inform consumers about their display’s capabilities, non-Apple manufacturers may use the labels Quad HD (QHD) or 4K HD when describing screen resolutions that are high enough to qualify as HiDPI.

How HiDPI Works

Modern operating systems are designed to automatically detect and adjust HiDPI settings when connected to a high-resolution display. This capability ensures that the device’s user interface (UI) will scale appropriately to maintain readability and visual clarity across different screen sizes and resolutions.

Scaling, in this context, is the process of increasing the number of pixels used to render a visual element. For example, if a display has a scaling factor of 2x, the device’s operating system (OS) and software apps will render elements so that they use twice as many pixels as they would have in an older LoDPI display.

Essentially, HiDPI packs more pixels into the same physical space on a display than LoDPI, but operating systems and individual applications need to support image scaling to make HiDPI usable.

HiDPI and Responsive Design

For websites and software applications to render correctly on both HiDPI and non-HiDPI displays, they have to be designed with responsive design principles in mind.

In web design, this involves using techniques such as cascading style sheets (CSS) and vector-based image elements. Media queries enable CSS to apply different styling rules based on the display’s width and height, and vector images use mathematical equations to scale images to any size without losing quality.

Android categorizes screen densities into different buckets to help developers design apps that look good on a wide range of devices.

These density categories are:

ldpi (low-density)

Approximately 120dpi (dots per inch).

mdpi (medium-density)

Also known as the baseline DPI, approximately 160dpi.

hdpi (high-density)

Approximately 240dpi.

xhdpi (extra-high-density)

Approximately 320dpi.

xxhdpi (extra-extra-high-density)

Approximately 480dpi.

xxxhdpi (extra-extra-extra-high-density)

Approximately 640dpi.

Key Differences Between HiDPI and Retina Display

HiDPI is a generic term that can be applied to any display that has a high pixel density. Retina Display is a brand name that Apple uses for its high-resolution screens.

In other words, while all Retina Displays are HiDPI, not all HiDPI displays are Retina Displays. The key difference lies mostly in the branding.

How to Disable HiDPI

To disable HiDPI on devices running Microsoft Windows or Linux distributions (distros), the first thing you should do is check to see if it’s an option through system settings. Look for the display section and set the scale option to 100%. You can also try adjusting the display resolution, and opt for a lower resolution that doesn’t require scaling.

On macOS devices, there isn’t a built-in way to disable HiDPI mode without potentially affecting the device’s operating system stability or usability. Advanced users can explore using third-party applications or terminal commands to adjust scaling, but this is not recommended without a thorough understanding of the potential impacts.

Arguably, some users might refer to macOS’s “Scaled” resolution options as a way to turn off HiDPI. It’s important to note, however, that macOS scaled resolution options still use HiDPI; they just render UI elements larger for improved visibility. That’s because macOS is designed with HiDPI in mind, and scaling is its primary method of resolution adjustment.

Pros and Cons of HiDPI

While HiDPI displays offer superior visual clarity, some older operating systems and software programs lack the necessary scaling features and will not render correctly on screens that have a HiDPI definition.

Rendering graphics at higher resolutions requires more computing power and memory, so if you are connecting to an older external monitor or projector that does not support high-resolution scaling, you may want to disable HiDPI to improve performance.

Without proper scaling, icons and other UI elements on older systems and applications are likely to be small, and text will be difficult to read.

The Bottom Line

HiDPI significantly reduces pixelation by rendering more pixels on a digital screen per square inch. The increase in pixel density means that individual pixels are much smaller and closer together. This makes them less discernible to the human eye at normal viewing distances.

Widespread support for high definition has expanded the use case beyond graphic design, digital photography, and video editing and helped make HiDPI displays a standard for everyday computing.

Today, HiDPI is used across various types of technology, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.

FAQs

What is HiDPI in short terms?

What is HiDPI on Mac?

What is the difference between HiDPI and non-HiDPI?

What are LoDPI and HiDPI?

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.