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Old Feb 14, 2013, 11:28 AM   #1
andy9l
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Retina MacBook decision & external monitors

Hi all,

I've been looking at "upgrading" my range of Macs to a single MacBook Pro. I'm fed up of having two separate computers now, it really isn't necessary in my workflow and it's a PITA not having all my media centralised. I'm currently using a 15" MacBook Pro, and a 27" iMac. My late-2010 2.8GHz Quad i5 iMac (with Solid-State-Drive) is a perfect, extremely fast, machine (for what I do) - the MBP is 4 years old so is starting to show its age.

Anyway, I do travel reasonably often, and like to use a laptop on the move. Since iPads don't quite cut it, yet. The Airs are a little low spec for the price, which leaves me with one choice - a MacBook Pro...and of course, it's got to be retina these days. No point buying a computer without a SSD, after all!

The following applies to before and after yesterday's refresh;

I was originally tempted by the top 13" model (with dual i7 upgrade) because I wanted to downsize my current 15" MacBook Pro. However, the 15" 2.7GHz quad i7 is extremely tempting (50% higher bench mark for ~200).

Now for the problem. I'm so used to my current 27" iMac, I really don't want to drop my screen size. I am happy to buy the 27" Apple Cinema display (after it gets refreshed), but would prefer to get an identical resolution to the laptop being plugged into it. This is fine for the 13", since it's natively identical, but I'm swaying towards the 15" now due to the cost/power benefits.

Does anyone know of any decent ~30" monitors that provide 2880x1800 resolution? Any rumours of Apple bringing back 30"?

Does anyone have any experience with running a 15" with the 27"? Is it a real nightmare having to constantly resize windows or find things that work themselves off the screen all the time?

Advice/tips appreciated!

Andy
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 12:34 PM   #2
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1. You shouldn't look at the retina MBP as a "2880 x 1800" monitor. You can't use it that way. It is a 1440 x 900 monitor with much, much better pixels. Or you can change it to a 1920 x 1200 monitor with reasonable quality, if you like, but everything is a bit small for my liking.

2. There is no reasonably priced 2880 x 1800 monitor. You can get 2560 x 1440 and they are expensive, or you can get 1920 x 1200 or 1920 x 1080, and they are so cheap, you might as well buy two.

3. The Retina MBP 15" is _fast_. The 2.3 GHz beats an elderly 8 core MacPro.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 12:48 PM   #3
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1. You shouldn't look at the retina MBP as a "2880 x 1800" monitor. You can't use it that way. It is a 1440 x 900 monitor with much, much better pixels. Or you can change it to a 1920 x 1200 monitor with reasonable quality, if you like, but everything is a bit small for my liking.

2. There is no reasonably priced 2880 x 1800 monitor. You can get 2560 x 1440 and they are expensive, or you can get 1920 x 1200 or 1920 x 1080, and they are so cheap, you might as well buy two.

3. The Retina MBP 15" is _fast_. The 2.3 GHz beats an elderly 8 core MacPro.
Hi gnasher, thanks for the response. I'll reply to your points in order..!

1. I was under the impression that the pixel density was greater on the LCD, so there was physically 2800x1800 pixels (smaller, granted). Is this not the case?

As I understand it, dragging a 500x500 square from my 15", to the retina (if they were somehow connected) would halve the physical size of it, correct? By physical size, I mean if I were to use a ruler from an external perspective, non-digital measurement.

Similar to taking a screenshot on an iPhone and putting it onto a computer. It's physically 2x larger on the computer since the pixel density is much lower.

2. Just as I feared! I'll stick to the Apple 27" refresh - impressive display anyway.

3. Hmm, this is my thinking! Think it'll be the 15" over 13" then.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 12:54 PM   #4
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went from an 8 core mp to a base 15 rmbp and upgraded i7 mini.

the rmbp is first laptop i've ever used that didn't feel like a compromise to a desktop between the screen and the high resolution setting having real estate is equivalent to a 1900x1200 monitor.


neither computer were really a clear upgrade to the 5 year old mp, the rmbp has mobility, the mini idles at less than 1/10th the power consumption, paying for itself over time as a home server compared to the mp, the mp itself was the most expandable of the lot.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 01:18 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by andy9l View Post
Hi gnasher, thanks for the response. I'll reply to your points in order..!

1. I was under the impression that the pixel density was greater on the LCD, so there was physically 2800x1800 pixels (smaller, granted). Is this not the case?

As I understand it, dragging a 500x500 square from my 15", to the retina (if they were somehow connected) would halve the physical size of it, correct? By physical size, I mean if I were to use a ruler from an external perspective, non-digital measurement.

Similar to taking a screenshot on an iPhone and putting it onto a computer. It's physically 2x larger on the computer since the pixel density is much lower.

2. Just as I feared! I'll stick to the Apple 27" refresh - impressive display anyway.

3. Hmm, this is my thinking! Think it'll be the 15" over 13" then.
Draggin 500x500 pixels is doing exactly that, on both a cMBP and an rMBP, the difference being that the pixels are now called points, where one point on the cMBP corresponds to 1px but on the rMBP 2x2px - so technically, you drag 1000x1000px, but they are physically the same 500x500pt just with much more detail. In other words, four pixel on a retina display are as large as one pixel on a regular display, and display the same thing in the same physical size, but with more detail.

The only 30" that fits your bill is the Dell UltraSharp U3011, which is 2560x1600, but it hasn't been updated lately. Also, it's the same width as the Dell UltraSharp U2713HM, just taller and the 27" has been updated recently.

So, the difference between 30" and 27" is merely in height, not in pixel density.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 01:51 PM   #6
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Dell just released U3014. Also, while it is true that the horizontal resolution of the 30" is the same as a 27" (at 2560x1440) the pixel density of a 30" is lower than that of a 27" due the larger size (30" is both wider and taller. It is hard to appreciate the 3" difference but in reality a 30" dwarfs a 27" monitor).
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 01:53 PM   #7
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Thanks both - think I've got my head round the "pixel density". I thought I had it, but gnasher threw me off a little!
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 03:30 PM   #8
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The key thing to remember is that your MBP won't "look" like 2880x1800. It looks like 1440x900, just with 4 pixels where there would normally be 1. This is how the text looks sharper. So really, it doesn't matter what resolution monitor you get. You're going to have to deal with resizing windows no matter what.

An easy way to live with this is to use an app called BetterSnapTool ($1.99 on the App Store). You can set up a "snap area" anywhere on your screen, and if you drag a window into it it will resize the window to a predetermined size set by you. I have my snap area set to the very top of my screen, so whenever I dock my MBP I just drag my windows up and they instantly expand to the size I have set. The best part about it is that it remembers which snap areas are for which displays, so you can have different ones set up for your native laptop display as well. It pretty much works flawlessly. It'd be better if OS X just automatically resized your windows depending on which display you're using, but BetterSnapTool is about as close as you can get to that.

Also, if you're worried about speed you could just get one of the upgraded 13" i7 processors (either 2.9 GHz or 3.0 GHz). Both CPU's have 4mb of L3 cache (rather than 3mb on both of the "base" models) and employ hyper-threading, so you still get 4 logical cores. Still beastly processors, and you get the benefit of the 13" form factor.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 03:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andy9l View Post
Thanks both - think I've got my head round the "pixel density". I thought I had it, but gnasher threw me off a little!
He's a little off. By default, the 15" rMBP will give you the same physical work space as 1440x900. That means every GUI element on 15" rMBP will be the same exact physical size as a 15" cMBP (which has a 1440x900 resolution). The different is that on a cMBP, there are physically 1440 pixels and 900 pixels in a grid but the rMBP will have 4 pixels crammed in the same physical space as 1 pixel on a cMBP (it has 2x pixels in both X and Y axis which totals 4X over cMBP). This means text, images, etc. all will look sharper/clearer/crisper.

Of course, you can change the settings so that the rMBP displays it's full resolution and doesn't do any of the 4 pixels for every 1 pixel stuff. Or use a scaled resolution like 1680x1050. But the problem is that on a 15" screen, 2880x1800 will make GUI elements like buttons look really tiny. That is why by default, Apple makes it so that 4 pixels on rMBP will display what 1 pixel on cMBP displays.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 06:03 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by NMF View Post
The key thing to remember is that your MBP won't "look" like 2880x1800. It looks like 1440x900, just with 4 pixels where there would normally be 1. This is how the text looks sharper. So really, it doesn't matter what resolution monitor you get. You're going to have to deal with resizing windows no matter what.

An easy way to live with this is to use an app called BetterSnapTool ($1.99 on the App Store). You can set up a "snap area" anywhere on your screen, and if you drag a window into it it will resize the window to a predetermined size set by you. I have my snap area set to the very top of my screen, so whenever I dock my MBP I just drag my windows up and they instantly expand to the size I have set. The best part about it is that it remembers which snap areas are for which displays, so you can have different ones set up for your native laptop display as well. It pretty much works flawlessly. It'd be better if OS X just automatically resized your windows depending on which display you're using, but BetterSnapTool is about as close as you can get to that.

Also, if you're worried about speed you could just get one of the upgraded 13" i7 processors (either 2.9 GHz or 3.0 GHz). Both CPU's have 4mb of L3 cache (rather than 3mb on both of the "base" models) and employ hyper-threading, so you still get 4 logical cores. Still beastly processors, and you get the benefit of the 13" form factor.
Great reply, thanks for all that. BetterSnap tool sounds great - that's always a feature I've thought Windows *cough* did better at *cough*

I'm still torn between 15" and 13". It's either uber performance, or high performance and portability. I'm also unsure if I truly want a 13" after having the extra 2 inches for 4 years on my current 15", so I need to spend some more time in the Apple store!

I hadn't noticed that the L3 cache was greater on the upgraded processor (which I was looking at), but I have done my research into hyper-threading - part of my University course actually!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowLeopard2008 View Post
He's a little off. By default, the 15" rMBP will give you the same physical work space as 1440x900. That means every GUI element on 15" rMBP will be the same exact physical size as a 15" cMBP (which has a 1440x900 resolution). The different is that on a cMBP, there are physically 1440 pixels and 900 pixels in a grid but the rMBP will have 4 pixels crammed in the same physical space as 1 pixel on a cMBP (it has 2x pixels in both X and Y axis which totals 4X over cMBP). This means text, images, etc. all will look sharper/clearer/crisper.

Of course, you can change the settings so that the rMBP displays it's full resolution and doesn't do any of the 4 pixels for every 1 pixel stuff. Or use a scaled resolution like 1680x1050. But the problem is that on a 15" screen, 2880x1800 will make GUI elements like buttons look really tiny. That is why by default, Apple makes it so that 4 pixels on rMBP will display what 1 pixel on cMBP displays.
This is what I was trying to describe, but failed miserably! Thanks for the clarification.

So hypothetically, if there was no dock or menu bar on the screen - if I full-size an application window (so it's "2880x1800", or 1440x900 physical), when I dragged that window over to the 27" Cinema, it will appear on the cinema as 1440x900, not 2880x1800?

I'm going to an Apple store on Saturday to have a play with this, make sure I've got my head round it.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 06:22 PM   #11
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I'm still torn between 15" and 13". It's either uber performance, or high performance and portability. I'm also unsure if I truly want a 13" after having the extra 2 inches for 4 years on my current 15", so I need to spend some more time in the Apple store!
Just curious, but what type of work do you do that would make use of the additional 2 physical cores?
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 06:34 PM   #12
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Dell just released U3014. Also, while it is true that the horizontal resolution of the 30" is the same as a 27" (at 2560x1440) the pixel density of a 30" is lower than that of a 27" due the larger size (30" is both wider and taller. It is hard to appreciate the 3" difference but in reality a 30" dwarfs a 27" monitor).
I just saw that as well, but it's due "soon". Along with the U2413 with USB 3.0 ports that everybody was raging about (but at $599, I guess most will be waiting for the U2413HM).

Also, there is the Dell UltraSharp U2913WM, which... Well, take a look yourself:
Thumb resize.

I'd rather pick up a U2713HM instead, for the fact that 16:9 video will be letterboxed on the sides and rather small.

As far as the 27" vs the 30" goes, I doubt that anyone can spot a difference of 0.0147mm in pixel pitch.

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Old Feb 14, 2013, 06:49 PM   #13
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Just curious, but what type of work do you do that would make use of the additional 2 physical cores?
PRECISELY my concern. Even the guys at the Apple store couldn't give a straight up answer, and a couple of them were extremely techie.

I'm primarily a web developer, getting more involved with mobile apps as we speak. That means the most resource hungry things I run are one of Netbeans, Eclipse or XCode and almost always Coda, Apache web server, MySQL server, and Photoshop (CS5, but soon to be CS6 for the optimisation - last chance for me to get discount!). I also run the usual apps at the same time, so email, Chrome, iTunes, Dropbox, Terminal and another lightweight code editor. So I probably need a little more than the average Facebook Mac user

I honestly don't know if I utilise my current processor. I'm a software guy, and although I like to think I know a thing or two, I hate to think how little I truly know about hardware.

I do not intend on upgrading to 16GB RAM, I can't imagine I'd ever utilise it properly in the next 2 years or so. I currently have 8GB, and I don't think I've ever seen it all active, or even inactive!

Any advice is hugely appreciated.

Edit: This may be useful for your advice to me - I benchmarked my current iMac (see signature) at 6826. It looks like the 13" with the i7 benchmarks just above that, whereas the 15" is over 50% greater. I realise benchmarks rarely translate to real-world usage, but I certainly wouldn't want to pay to lose performance.

@Giuly thanks for the pictures! That is indeed a widescreen
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 07:04 PM   #14
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Even if you don't have it all active, you might want to keep an eye on the page outs. If you have too many of them and no SSD, 16GB of RAM won't hurt. Compared to other upgrades, it's dirt cheap these days, anyways.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 07:12 PM   #15
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Even if you don't have it all active, you might want to keep an eye on the page outs. If you have too many of them and no SSD, 16GB of RAM won't hurt. Compared to other upgrades, it's dirt cheap these days, anyways.
I have an SSD now, and have no intention of buying a regular HDD again! RAM is dirt cheap, when not bought from Apple.com

I'll consider the 16GB then, which really does force me to the 15" by definition.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 08:15 PM   #16
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PRECISELY my concern. Even the guys at the Apple store couldn't give a straight up answer, and a couple of them were extremely techie.

I'm primarily a web developer, getting more involved with mobile apps as we speak. That means the most resource hungry things I run are one of Netbeans, Eclipse or XCode and almost always Coda, Apache web server, MySQL server, and Photoshop (CS5, but soon to be CS6 for the optimisation - last chance for me to get discount!). I also run the usual apps at the same time, so email, Chrome, iTunes, Dropbox, Terminal and another lightweight code editor. So I probably need a little more than the average Facebook Mac user

I honestly don't know if I utilise my current processor. I'm a software guy, and although I like to think I know a thing or two, I hate to think how little I truly know about hardware.
You'll absolutely be fine with one of the high-end dual-cores. Most 64-bit applications don't effectively utilize 4 anyway, and even if they did, you'd have two virtuals available as well. The only real intensive application you run is Photoshop, and you won't see much of a difference there between a hyper-thread dual-core CPU or a hyper-threaded quad-core CPU. The only prosumer applications that benefit from more cores typically deal with video encoding or 3D rendering. If you were doing any of that you'd want the 15" for the discrete GPU anyway, but it doesn't sound like that's your thing.

I say go 13". It's so liberating to travel with a small laptop, and I'm even using a fatty! I recently "side-graded" from a 2012 MBP 15" to a 2012 MBP 13". Best decision I ever made.

I'd definitely be sure to get one of the i7's though. Your dev tools would benefit from the faster clock speed and additional cache.
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 06:09 AM   #17
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You'll absolutely be fine with one of the high-end dual-cores. Most 64-bit applications don't effectively utilize 4 anyway, and even if they did, you'd have two virtuals available as well. The only real intensive application you run is Photoshop, and you won't see much of a difference there between a hyper-thread dual-core CPU or a hyper-threaded quad-core CPU. The only prosumer applications that benefit from more cores typically deal with video encoding or 3D rendering. If you were doing any of that you'd want the 15" for the discrete GPU anyway, but it doesn't sound like that's your thing.

I say go 13". It's so liberating to travel with a small laptop, and I'm even using a fatty! I recently "side-graded" from a 2012 MBP 15" to a 2012 MBP 13". Best decision I ever made.

I'd definitely be sure to get one of the i7's though. Your dev tools would benefit from the faster clock speed and additional cache.
Thanks for the response.

A concern that has just flagged up - I use Photoshop on an extremely frequent basis, and I've always had a dedicated graphics card. Will the 13" cheap shared GPU have any detrimental performance? My current card is a ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB.

I'm getting a chunky discount on this purchase, so much so that the 15" 2.7GHz is cheaper than what most would pay for a 13" i7. Obviously, the savings between the two still equate when I apply the discount to the 13", so the decision is still relevant.

I do like the idea of the tiny 13". What I'd really like is a powerful iMac at home, and an futuristic iPad for on the move (keep dreaming, right?)! Unfortunately the iPad is crippled by iOS at the moment, so the obvious option is something small enough to pick and go, but powerful enough to run perfectly when sat at home with a 27" monitor - ie. a MacBook Pro.

PS. Already have an iPad, so know the iMac/iPad option isn't viable for my workflow!
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 10:49 AM   #18
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Hmm. In that case, you're probably safer with the 15". Especially if you'd like to keep the notebook around for a while. The Intel 4000 is fine enough for moderate Photoshop workflows in 2013, but who knows what kinda nonsense Adobe will have incorporated into the software by 2016 or 2017? If you want this machine to last a good 3-4 years, it's probably wise to just grab the 15" with 16GB of RAM. That machine will last you some time. Especially if you get the 2.8 GHz upgrade. That ups the L3 from 6MB to a whopping 8MB. Four physical cores with hyper-threading... yeah.

The 13" might be fine for your needs, but the 15" definitely will, LOL. Besides, if you're already used to the 15" cMBP then the rMBP will still seem like a nice size/weight reduction to you.
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 12:33 PM   #19
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Alright, thanks for the reply and advice once again.

I'll be going to an Apple store tomorrow to have a good go on both the 13" and 15" models. Unfortunately I won't be able to test the i7 in the 13", though. Doubt they'll have that in-store.

I want to get my head round how the retina screen works with the 27" screen, too.

Thanks again all.
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 01:42 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by andy9l View Post
Great reply, thanks for all that. BetterSnap tool sounds great - that's always a feature I've thought Windows *cough* did better at *cough*

I'm still torn between 15" and 13". It's either uber performance, or high performance and portability. I'm also unsure if I truly want a 13" after having the extra 2 inches for 4 years on my current 15", so I need to spend some more time in the Apple store!

I hadn't noticed that the L3 cache was greater on the upgraded processor (which I was looking at), but I have done my research into hyper-threading - part of my University course actually!



This is what I was trying to describe, but failed miserably! Thanks for the clarification.

So hypothetically, if there was no dock or menu bar on the screen - if I full-size an application window (so it's "2880x1800", or 1440x900 physical), when I dragged that window over to the 27" Cinema, it will appear on the cinema as 1440x900, not 2880x1800?

I'm going to an Apple store on Saturday to have a play with this, make sure I've got my head round it.
The 27" cinema will display everything at a 1 pixel for 1 pixel ratio unless you set it otherwise. The 4 pixel to represent 1 pixel business applies only to the retina display itself.
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 02:05 PM   #21
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The 27" cinema will display everything at a 1 pixel for 1 pixel ratio unless you set it otherwise. The 4 pixel to represent 1 pixel business applies only to the retina display itself.
Yep, that's what I had first thought - I'm still unsure about exactly what happens, or how it will look, when dragging across, but I'll find out tomorrow.

I'm obviously terrible at explaining my thoughts - sorry! Thanks for the help
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 02:25 PM   #22
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Yep, that's what I had first thought - I'm still unsure about exactly what happens, or how it will look, when dragging across, but I'll find out tomorrow.

I'm obviously terrible at explaining my thoughts - sorry! Thanks for the help
No problem. If the retina display is set using 4 for 1 pixel ratio, it won't look too far off when dragging a window from that to 27". This is because the pixel densities aren't too far apart. But if you set the retina display to use it's full 2880x1800 (for 15" rMBP) and then drag a window from that to 27', you will notice the window gets much bigger due to going from high pixel density to lower pixel density screen.
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 04:03 PM   #23
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No problem. If the retina display is set using 4 for 1 pixel ratio, it won't look too far off when dragging a window from that to 27". This is because the pixel densities aren't too far apart. But if you set the retina display to use it's full 2880x1800 (for 15" rMBP) and then drag a window from that to 27', you will notice the window gets much bigger due to going from high pixel density to lower pixel density screen.
If I were running the 15" at 2880x1800, and managed to make an application window exactly 2560x1440 on it - when I dragged that to the 27", it would be perfectly full screen - correct? Just theoretically speaking...
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 04:14 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andy9l View Post
If I were running the 15" at 2880x1800, and managed to make an application window exactly 2560x1440 on it - when I dragged that to the 27", it would be perfectly full screen - correct? Just theoretically speaking...
Yes. Assuming you lined up the window perfectly of course on the 27".
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Old Feb 15, 2013, 05:33 PM   #25
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Yes. Assuming you lined up the window perfectly of course on the 27".
Yup - thanks! Would have been easier if I'd put it that way first time round!

I'll no doubt have some questions after tomorrow's visit, but g'night for now and thanks once again.
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