14 votes

Time to upgrade your monitor - Optimizing a display setup for programming

21 comments

  1. [6]
    hungariantoast
    Link
    I would say that it's almost as if the author has never heard of bitmap fonts, but considering he is the author of Fire Code, I highly doubt that. So I wonder why he doesn't even bother mentioning...

    I would say that it's almost as if the author has never heard of bitmap fonts, but considering he is the author of Fire Code, I highly doubt that.

    So I wonder why he doesn't even bother mentioning them? Maybe he just thinks their aesthetic is gross?

    Either way, bitmap fonts do exist, and when set to the correct size, they're pretty much as sharp as you can get.

    The downside of bitmap fonts is that they only work at predefined pixel sizes. You can't set them at whatever size you want and expect them to not look fuzzy and gross. They do scale, but only on specific intervals.

    Still, they're a perfectly viable option for a lot of people, including me.

    I must be a weirdo, because I'm sitting here, typing this comment on a 35-inch, 3440x1440, 21:9 monitor, using a four-pixel wide font, and I love it.

    I get that bitmap fonts are old-school, and in another decade, monitor resolutions will be too high to make my current, beloved, tiny font tenable, but they aren't out the door yet, and really, there's no reason bitmap fonts can't be made to target larger pixel sizes and higher-resolution monitors.

    For instance, the font I mentioned above, Scientifica, has an upscaled version, Curie.

    6 votes
    1. Pistos
      Link Parent
      I've been using Terminus at 9px on low-DPI monitors for many years, and have been loving it. Super crisp, and I can fit so many characters per physical square inch (without needing to squint or...

      I've been using Terminus at 9px on low-DPI monitors for many years, and have been loving it. Super crisp, and I can fit so many characters per physical square inch (without needing to squint or lean towards the monitor). Non-bitmap fonts, at that pixel size, on low-DPI monitors -- nothing I've tried looks as clear, crisp and legible.

      I'll check out Scientifica.

      3 votes
    2. [2]
      babypuncher
      Link Parent
      I think he doesn't mention them precisely because they are on their way out. Bitmap font support is no longer enabled by default on many Linux distros. I'm not even sure if macOS still supports...

      I think he doesn't mention them precisely because they are on their way out. Bitmap font support is no longer enabled by default on many Linux distros. I'm not even sure if macOS still supports them. They still have their use cases, but since he is clearly a Mac user, odds are he isn't working a low-DPI display that will benefit from them.

      1 vote
      1. hungariantoast
        Link Parent
        It's complicated. True bitmap fonts, like those saved as .bdf files, are on their way out. Pango, for instance, recently dropped support for them. But "bitmap fonts" don't have to be saved as .bdf...

        It's complicated.

        True bitmap fonts, like those saved as .bdf files, are on their way out. Pango, for instance, recently dropped support for them.

        But "bitmap fonts" don't have to be saved as .bdf files. The fonts mentioned above, Scientifica and Curie, can just as easily be built as .ttf or .otb files and work fine.

        So true bitmap fonts are already deprecated, but "bitmap fonts" that map to specific pixel sizes aren't going anywhere. There's nothing about them that ensures their doom, even as we approach ridiculously high resolutions like 8K. We can just upscale these fonts and move on with our lives.

        It's my fault for not being more specific though. I called them "bitmap fonts" because I don't really know what else to refer to them as. "Pixel fonts" maybe?

        5 votes
    3. Akir
      Link Parent
      Heh, I'm amused that the "italic" version of Curie abandons the tilted roundness approach altogether and goes extra blocky instead. I must admit that I do like the idea of using this kind of font...

      Heh, I'm amused that the "italic" version of Curie abandons the tilted roundness approach altogether and goes extra blocky instead.

      I must admit that I do like the idea of using this kind of font in a programming environment, but the lack of a notably different italic variation makes me hesitate.

      1 vote
    4. crdpa
      Link Parent
      I'm using hermit and I love, but it's two 1080p displays.

      I'm using hermit and I love, but it's two 1080p displays.

      1 vote
  2. [6]
    cstby
    Link
    Honestly, 2x scaling on a 27" 4k monitor makes everything look way too huge. Maybe I should just get a 1440p monitor instead of 4k. Does anyone have experience using a 32" 4k monitor with no scaling?

    That means, if you have a 4k monitor (3840×2160), and use 2× scaling, you’ll get an equivalent of 1920×1080 logical pixels. So it’s a basic 1080p monitor in terms of how much you can fit, but with much crisper UI and text in everything.

    Now, it might be tempting to use, for example, 1.5× scaling. That would give you an equivalent of 2560×1440 logical pixels, which, you might think, is much better. This is not how you should use it! The idea of a 4k monitor is NOT to get more pixels but to get the pixel-perfect, high-density UI rendering. Otherwise, a normal 1440p display would work better.

    Honestly, 2x scaling on a 27" 4k monitor makes everything look way too huge. Maybe I should just get a 1440p monitor instead of 4k.

    Does anyone have experience using a 32" 4k monitor with no scaling?

    5 votes
    1. hungariantoast
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I have used 27, 30+, and 40+ inch 4K monitors before with no scaling and I found the experience to be absolutely fine. I personally don't like scaling on 4K monitors. Maybe if I was using a...

      I have used 27, 30+, and 40+ inch 4K monitors before with no scaling and I found the experience to be absolutely fine.

      I personally don't like scaling on 4K monitors. Maybe if I was using a 13-17-inch laptop, but 27-inch and above at 4K is perfectly usable for me with no scaling.

      I obviously strongly disagree with the author's claim:

      The idea of a 4k monitor is NOT to get more pixels

      That's literally the main reason I like large, high resolution displays: to comfortably fit more stuff on screen at once. Maybe in the future, when even higher resolutions are affordable, like 8K, I'll finally start using scaling, but 4K and 5K are fine without it for me.

      7 votes
    2. whbboyd
      Link Parent
      It sounds like you've used a 27" 4K monitor before. Have you tried it with no scaling? My monitor is a 28" 3840x2160 that I run unscaled with no real issues. (Literally every coworker who walks by...

      It sounds like you've used a 27" 4K monitor before. Have you tried it with no scaling? My monitor is a 28" 3840x2160 that I run unscaled with no real issues. (Literally every coworker who walks by comments on it, though.)

      I also feel the (mostly nonconstructive) need to snark about:

      The idea of a 4k monitor is NOT to get more pixels

      I mean, this is just obviously false. The author is just advocating for using those pixels on rendering text at larger pixel sizes, rather than fitting more text.

      6 votes
    3. seizethegoddamngap
      Link Parent
      Not 32", but I have an Acer ET430K at home and an LG 43UD79B at work and would absolutely never use scailing on them. On a 27" 4K, maybe. 32", you're probably fine.

      Not 32", but I have an Acer ET430K at home and an LG 43UD79B at work and would absolutely never use scailing on them. On a 27" 4K, maybe. 32", you're probably fine.

      1 vote
    4. tomf
      Link Parent
      I've got a 25" 1440p for my main and I don't know how anybody would manage with a larger monitor at this resolution. I've never worked with a 32" 4K, but I've seen them in the store and they look...

      I've got a 25" 1440p for my main and I don't know how anybody would manage with a larger monitor at this resolution.

      I've never worked with a 32" 4K, but I've seen them in the store and they look great. I'm very much in the camp of 'everything is always too big', though.

    5. babypuncher
      Link Parent
      1440p at 27" seems like the sweet spot to me. 32" at 2160p is about the same pixel density.

      1440p at 27" seems like the sweet spot to me. 32" at 2160p is about the same pixel density.

  3. [5]
    reese
    Link
    The text on my 1080p display is perfectly legible, which is good text to me. When I enable this blog's dysfunctional dark mode, however, I can't read anything since the background and text color...

    If you think that you can somehow make your 1080p display render good text, that it just needs a few more tweaks, NO. This won’t happen. The sooner you accept that the sooner you can start looking for real solutions.

    The text on my 1080p display is perfectly legible, which is good text to me. When I enable this blog's dysfunctional dark mode, however, I can't read anything since the background and text color are the same. Anyway, I need to buy a monitor for the price of a used car to solve a problem I don't have? No.

    I think we all can agree that this whole Thunderbolt/USB-C situation is a very strong contender for the “Most confusing port standard ever created by humanity”.

    Yep, it's up there.

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      TheJorro
      Link Parent
      Wow, this is the strangest "dark mode" I've seen. This feels more like some kind of easter egg flashlight mode than it does an actual dark mode.

      When I enable this blog's dysfunctional dark mode

      Wow, this is the strangest "dark mode" I've seen. This feels more like some kind of easter egg flashlight mode than it does an actual dark mode.

      3 votes
      1. reese
        Link Parent
        Makes me want to add a broken light mode toggle to my blog.

        Makes me want to add a broken light mode toggle to my blog.

        1 vote
      2. tlalexander
        Link Parent
        I can only surmise that “Easter egg flashlight mode” is intentional and the comment that it is a “broken dark mode” is a misunderstanding. Though the website sure makes you think it would be a...

        I can only surmise that “Easter egg flashlight mode” is intentional and the comment that it is a “broken dark mode” is a misunderstanding. Though the website sure makes you think it would be a normal dark mode!

    2. crdpa
      Link Parent
      I think my 1080p is sexy as hell. It's my external and laptop monitors side by side. Here in Brazil having a 4k is way too expensive.

      I think my 1080p is sexy as hell. It's my external and laptop monitors side by side.

      Here in Brazil having a 4k is way too expensive.

      2 votes
  4. [4]
    feigneddork
    Link
    He has a lot of opinions on monitors, fonts, scaling and whatnot. I don't agree with a lot of it on a personal level, but I'm glad he's getting some mileage out of his setup. I have 2 27" monitors...

    He has a lot of opinions on monitors, fonts, scaling and whatnot. I don't agree with a lot of it on a personal level, but I'm glad he's getting some mileage out of his setup.

    I have 2 27" monitors - one is a BenQ EL2870U 4k monitor, and the other is a Dell U2715H 2k monitor.

    I bought the 4k monitor because I wanted to see what the fidelity was like at such a high resolution. With zero scaling, things are a bit hard to read (I'm short sighted), but under Windows, I cranked up scaling to 150% and it works really well.

    I've also connected the Dell Monitor, which is alongside it with 100% scaling and honestly that is perfect to me.

    In hindsight, I wish I got the two Dell Monitors instead of the 4k one. The BenQ monitor has a few flickering issues and once you get over the initial excitement of having a 4k monitor, it doesn't really offer that much over the 2k apart from pretty pixels.

    That, and trying to get scaling working under Ubuntu 20.04 has been an absolute nightmare. So much so that I've pretty much abandoned that distro and gone back to Windows (it isn't just scaling, mind. It's lots of little tiny things that I don't have the time nor the energy to faff around with).

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      tindall
      Link Parent
      Can I ask why? I just set up Ubuntu 20.04 on my TV and just used the settings dropdown for scaling, and it worked okay.

      trying to get scaling working under Ubuntu 20.04 has been an absolute nightmare

      Can I ask why? I just set up Ubuntu 20.04 on my TV and just used the settings dropdown for scaling, and it worked okay.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        feigneddork
        Link Parent
        I'm trying to get scaling like it is under Windows, where my 4K monitor is at 150% and the 2k monitor is at 100%. Ubuntu does technically allow incremental scaling, but it comes with asterisks...

        I'm trying to get scaling like it is under Windows, where my 4K monitor is at 150% and the 2k monitor is at 100%.

        Ubuntu does technically allow incremental scaling, but it comes with asterisks including worse performance and increased power usage.

        I've tried scaling like on Windows, but then everything becomes incredibly jittery. I scale at 100% and I feel like I need binoculars when I'm 30cm away from my monitor. 200% and it feels like a massive waste of space.

        And if I change the scaling options too much, Ubuntu Linux black screens and I have to reboot the entire machine.

        If I was dealing with one monitor, I think I wouldn't have nearly as much hassle. But two different monitors at two different resolutions? That really throws Ubuntu in a loop.

        2 votes
        1. tindall
          Link Parent
          Ugh, yeah, that's a long standing bug. I hope you find success with your current setup!

          Ugh, yeah, that's a long standing bug. I hope you find success with your current setup!

          4 votes