Monday, Nov 08, 2021, 16:00 Tips & Reports

Mac Tip: How To Use "Retina" Resolution On Non-4K Displays Without An External Adapter

Those running an M1 Mac with a non-4K external display don't have any "retina" resolution options. However, many users of Cupertino's notebook/desktop devices would also like to use the HiDPI mode with displays supporting 1440p – meaning that they support user-defined resolution on newer Macs. This wish can indeed be fulfilled, however, a special HDMI "dummy" (or adapter) is required to trick the Mac into believing that the external display supports 4K.

HDMI Adapters Come With Disadvantages
Such a solution isn't very elegant and also presents several disadvantages. For example, on the Mac mini the dummy adapter takes up an HDMI slight which could otherwise be used for a different monitor. Additionally, the adapter "solution" can also causes issues with displaying the mouse and the number of possible resolutions and aspect ratios is also restricted. The same also applies when users utilize the external display to "mirror" what's on their M1 Mac in order to achieve "retina" resolution on a non-4K external display.

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"BetterDummy" Provides Retina Mode Support
The open-source application, BetterDummy, provides a hardware free alternative to the problem described above and allows lower resolution or non-4K displays to HiDPI mode. The disadvantages of the HDMI dummy adapter are thus avoided, as per the software developer – and the software even provides support for a diverse set of resolutions and aspect ratios, ranging from 1:1 to 32:9, including portrait formats. The app is downloadable free of charge from the open-source software platform GitHub.

Application Provides Support For A Number Of Resolutions
After starting BetterDummy, users need to click on the option to "Create New Dummy" to generate a new virtual resolution. Then, the following steps also have to be taken:

  • 1: In System Preferences, toggle the option to synchronize displays on.
  • 2: Set up the new monitor called "Dummy" under the "Optimized For" section.
  • 3: Select the "Scaled" option, while holding the alt-option key.
  • 4: Finally, select the desired resolution.


Further instructions can be found on BetterDummy's GitHub page. According to the developer, the software implement is compatible with all M1 Macs running macOS Monterey. However, the application can also be run on Intel Macs running macOS Big Sur. There's also support for "Headless Mode".

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