The subpixel-AA debacle and font rendering

Hessel89

macrumors 6502
Sep 27, 2017
280
139
Arnhem
Even Retina Displays are affected. I have it installed on my mbp2017 which I use with an LG Ultrafine 5K and text still looks fuzzy with AA. With AA off fonts get so thin you can hardly read them and window edges look crooked. Catalina is a mess.
 

shakerz

macrumors newbie
Mar 11, 2014
18
0
Got a LG 27" 5K monitor (27MD5KL-B) today and fonts look beautiful. I thought that I would miss the extra space of my 34" ultra wide but the image quality of this new monitor makes up for it.
 
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Hessel89

macrumors 6502
Sep 27, 2017
280
139
Arnhem
Got a LG 27" 5K monitor (27MD5KL-B) today and fonts look beautiful. I thought that I would miss the extra space of my 34" ultra wide but the image quality of this new monitor makes up for it.
What settings or terminal script are you using? I have the 27MD5KB and I'm finding the fonts are either way too thin (when I turn off AA) or just crooked with AA on.. on MacOS 10.14 AA looks a lot better.
 

shakerz

macrumors newbie
Mar 11, 2014
18
0
I reverted the "fixes" I had used in Mojave:

Code:
defaults -currentHost delete -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

defaults write -g CGFontRenderingFontSmoothingDisabled -bool YES
The resolution is set to "Default for display" and "Use font smoothing when available" is enabled (System Settings > General).
 

Hessel89

macrumors 6502
Sep 27, 2017
280
139
Arnhem
I reverted the "fixes" I had used in Mojave:

Code:
defaults -currentHost delete -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

defaults write -g CGFontRenderingFontSmoothingDisabled -bool YES
I have set the resolution to "Default for display" and "Use font smoothing when available" is enabled (System Settings > General).
hmm.. I used exactly the same script and settings.
Still looks blurry compared to 10.14.. I can compare directly since I still have it installed on my Mac mini.
 

theorist9

macrumors regular
May 28, 2015
186
89
Still no contest vs. High Sierra.
Here's regular NYT black text from within an article:
Top: High Sierra 10.13.6
Middle: Catalina 10.15.1, default (font smoothing = 0)
Bottom: Catalina 10.15.1, font smoothing = 3
N.B.: The defaults write -g CGFontRenderingFontSmoothingDisabled -bool NO hack was NOT used here.

Put these up on your screen, step back about 10 feet, and you can see for yourself which seems the sharpest and least fatiguing....
Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 8.26.52 PM.png
 
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theorist9

macrumors regular
May 28, 2015
186
89
Even Retina Displays are affected. I have it installed on my mbp2017 which I use with an LG Ultrafine 5K and text still looks fuzzy with AA. With AA off fonts get so thin you can hardly read them and window edges look crooked. Catalina is a mess.
Is there any real fix for the thin fuzzy fonts on non-retina MBA?
It's not ideal, but you might find that
defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 3
(entered in the Terminal) helps. It doesn't improve contrast or sharpness (see my last post), but it does make them thicker.
 

dolphin842

macrumors 65816
Jul 14, 2004
1,168
27
I find it rather ironic that macOS, which led the way with anti-aliasing back in the day, now looks awful on standard dpi dispalys compared to Windows. I did try a P2715Q, but the non-integer scaling for a 5K desktop isn't perfect. It's a shame there aren't any matte 5K monitors available anymore.
 
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theorist9

macrumors regular
May 28, 2015
186
89
I find it rather ironic that macOS, which led the way with anti-aliasing back in the day, now looks awful on standard dpi dispalys compared to Windows. I did try a P2715Q, but the non-integer scaling for a 5K desktop isn't perfect. It's a shame there aren't any matte 5K monitors available anymore.
Did you mean for a 4K desktop? Because the P2715Q is 4K, not 5K.
 

theorist9

macrumors regular
May 28, 2015
186
89
Here's a direct photographic comparison (using Photo Booth with a Logitech USB camera) of High Sierra and Catalina on a calibrated Dell P2715Q 4K monitor. This is normal black print from within a NYT article. High Sierra (10.13.6) is on the L, Catalina (10.5.1) on the R. Both OS's are in their default modes. Compare, for instance, the horizontal section on the top of the "a", and the vertical section of the "l". In both cases, the parts displayed with black/near-black pixels are substantially thicker in High Sierra than Catalina. [N.B.: I believe the pixelation is from the Logitech camera, not the screen. If I have time I'll do another comparison with a higher-resolution camera.]

HS on L, Cat on R.png
 
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StellarVixen

macrumors 68020
Mar 1, 2018
2,195
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Earth
I reverted the "fixes" I had used in Mojave:

Code:
defaults -currentHost delete -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

defaults write -g CGFontRenderingFontSmoothingDisabled -bool YES
The resolution is set to "Default for display" and "Use font smoothing when available" is enabled (System Settings > General).
Thanks, now the date and time on menu bar and fonts in Notification Center do not look hideous anymore.


This workaround might work in Catalina, but to me this is clear sign that the time is running out. They might even disable this in 10.16. Therefore, time to get high DPI display.
 

StellarVixen

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Mar 1, 2018
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Pay attention especially to clock in menu bar:

(without antialiasing)
Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 12.27.47 AM.png




(with antialiasing)

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 9.19.36 AM.png



The difference is obvious. Not the same antialiasing that was used in 10.13 and earlier, but still makes everything looking less hideous.
 

StellarVixen

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Mar 1, 2018
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OK, try this command:
Code:
defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 3
This makes the font smoothing heavier. I do not know if it is placebo, but it does look slightly better to me.

Of course, requires log out and log in to work. "defaults write -g CGFontRenderingFontSmoothingDisabled -bool YES" has been used before this.
 
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fungivorous

macrumors newbie
Aug 16, 2019
5
1
Honestly, I wish that Apple would leave well enough alone, and stop changing their font rendering with every new release of macOS.

I've lost sight of what problem they must think they're trying to solve anymore.
 

StellarVixen

macrumors 68020
Mar 1, 2018
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Honestly, I wish that Apple would leave well enough alone, and stop changing their font rendering with every new release of macOS.

I've lost sight of what problem they must think they're trying to solve anymore.
They are not trying to solve anything. They are trying to cut on development and maintenance cost wherever possible. That is what I am thinking is the reason.
 

fungivorous

macrumors newbie
Aug 16, 2019
5
1
They are not trying to solve anything. They are trying to cut on development and maintenance cost wherever possible. That is what I am thinking is the reason.
With respect, I might've bought that argument for Mojave when they removed subpixel aliasing in the first place, but now I don't understand why they've once again changed font rendering even for Retina displays in Catalina -- thus making fonts even thinner, which some of us find increasingly difficult to read.
 

Ritsuka

macrumors 6502a
Sep 3, 2006
992
451
They didn't change it. The issue is that you set some non standard anti-aliasing preferences in Mojave, and those settings cause things to break on 10.15.
With the default settings the anti-aliasing is the same.
 

StellarVixen

macrumors 68020
Mar 1, 2018
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They didn't change it. The issue is that you set some non standard anti-aliasing preferences in Mojave, and those settings cause things to break on 10.15.
With the default settings the anti-aliasing is the same.
It isn't. Mojave had RGB rendering still alive for some elements. Catalina does not, only greyscale.
 

Ritsuka

macrumors 6502a
Sep 3, 2006
992
451
Yes. I said the supported settings looks exactly the same. Custom anti-aliasing preferences that kicks in unsupported leftovers that should have been removed in Mojave are unsupported and are bound to break.
 

StellarVixen

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Mar 1, 2018
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Yes. I said the supported settings looks exactly the same. Custom anti-aliasing preferences that kicks in unsupported leftovers that should have been removed in Mojave are unsupported and are bound to break.
Well, that's what we are talking about whole time. And that's what people are complaining about. RGB rendering was superior to this lame attempt to make font appear normal on non Retina screens. And now, old antialiasing is completely gone.
 

dolphin842

macrumors 65816
Jul 14, 2004
1,168
27
Did you mean for a 4K desktop? Because the P2715Q is 4K, not 5K.
Indeed, that is what I'm lamenting: P2715Q is 4K, but the physical size of the monitor is such that I want to use a 5K HiDPI desktop resolution with it. The non-integer scaling in this mode is what makes things a bit blurry and generally less than ideal for using day-to-day.

Honestly, I wish that Apple would leave well enough alone, and stop changing their font rendering with every new release of macOS.

I've lost sight of what problem they must think they're trying to solve anymore.
I think the original explanation with Mojave was that sub-pixel anti-aliasing didn't work well with Dark Mode or retina displays in general. Also, with an increasing focus on motion in UI, CoreAnimation never supported sub-pixel in the first place because it was too computationally-intensive to tweak the effect on each frame while an animation was playing.
 

StellarVixen

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Mar 1, 2018
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I think the original explanation with Mojave was that sub-pixel anti-aliasing didn't work well with Dark Mode or retina displays in general. Also, with an increasing focus on motion in UI, CoreAnimation never supported sub-pixel in the first place because it was too computationally-intensive to tweak the effect on each frame while an animation was playing.
I think that they are right. Old method antialiasing looks horrible with Dark Mode. New method looks better.


But then again, new method of antialiasing looks horrible on normal (light) mode on non Retina screen.

I guess the solution is: keep dark mode all the time. 🤷‍♀️
 

Hessel89

macrumors 6502
Sep 27, 2017
280
139
Arnhem
I think that they are right. Old method antialiasing looks horrible with Dark Mode. New method looks better.


But then again, new method of antialiasing looks horrible on normal (light) mode on non Retina screen.

I guess the solution is: keep dark mode all the time. 🤷‍♀️
No. Fonts with AA look worse in dark mode on Catalina than Mojave. Even on retina screens, and I can compare directly, since my Mac mini 2018 still runs Mojave, while my MBP has a partition with Catalina. I use both of them on the same screen: an LG Ultrafine 5K.