Give your Retina Mac’s screen more real estate with OS X’s scaling options

By , Mar 3, 2016

retina display mac screen space based on zoom

Macs that comes with retina displays allow the user to configure their own resolution scaling options.

These scaling options can be taken advantage of to give your Mac more screen space and gives you the illusion that your screen is bigger than it really is. With that in mind, you can run more windows side-by-side and be more productive.

In this tutorial, we’ll be showing you how you can create more space on your screen for additional windows on your Retina display Mac – this includes the new MacBook, some MacBook Pro models, and even some iMac models.

The difference between default and scaled resolution

By default, your Mac operates at double the pixel density of a non-Retina display Mac of the same model. It’s possible to take advantage of scaling the doubled resolution packed into the display to fit more content into the screen at one time.

Although keeping the scaling at the default level is best on the eyes, because it renders everything at a normal size, scaling everything so it renders at a smaller size to fit more windows and text on your screen at one time makes it possible to consume more information at a single glance.

Below, you can see some examples of the default scaling:

retina display mac less screen space zoomed in

Safari retina mac no scaling

And for comparison, here are some examples of scaling to provide more content on your screen:

retina display mac more screen space zoomed out

retina mac scaling more content

Right off the bat, you can tell that the scaled option gives you more information at a glance and allows you to consume more web content with less scrolling. Additionally, if you wanted to run multiple windows on the same screen, having the extra resolution real estate certainly gives you the ability to do so without shrinking your windows themselves so small that you can hardly see them.

How to adjust your screen’s scaling

If you like what you see, then you’ll be happy to know that making the adjustments is very easy. Just follow these steps:

1) Launch the System Preferences app on your Mac and open the “Displays” preferences pane.

retina mac scaling guide system preferences 1

2) From the “Displays” preferences pane, you will open the “Display” tab and instead of the “Default for display” option being selected, you will select “Scaled.”

retina mac scaling system preferences 2

3) After selecting “Scaled,” you’ll get to see all of the scaling options. You can pick from the left of the Default scaling, which makes text larger, but offers less window space, or you can pick from the right of the Default scaling, which makes text smaller, but offers more window space.

retina mac guide system preferences 3

4) For this guide, we’ll be choosing the option all the way to the right, just above “More Space.” Simply click on it to enable it, and your Mac will configure your display to the setting.

Now you’ve done it! After picking this feature, you should now have a lot more space on your screen to see more content at a glance.


Scaling your Mac’s retina display is a great way to either make reading text easier on your eyes or to fit more content on a single screen. Although it’s a useful feature, keep in mind that Apple programmed OS X to run best at the native resolution, and adjustments to it may impact the performance and battery life of your Mac.


Do you use any scaling for your Mac’s display? Share why in the comments below.

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  • Mr_Coldharbour

    I use scaling on my 15″ rMBP, though I don’t go all the way to the rightmost setting (more space), I go one level to the right for more space beyond the default (middle setting). I think it’s a great balance. Now whenever I go back to default settings just to compare, it looks “cartoonishly” large (as Jeff once put it). I wish I could do the same on my older 15″ MBP (mid-2009 model) running Snow Leopard, tried installing Quartz Graphics Tools and enabled HiDPI but no dice.

  • Chris

    Battery life will be impacted when running in 1920×1200 (2880×1800 retina) when the dedicated AMD graphics (R9 M370X for 2015 MBP) card kicks in, I’ve found I can get ~5 hours under moderate usage and ~7-8 hours when under light usage.

    Running the stock retina resolution gives me the typical 10-12 hours that Apple claim on their site.

  • Kubaton

    The article is a little confusing.

    “These scaling options can be taken advantage of to give your Mac more screen space and gives you the illusion that your screen is bigger than it really is.”

    It really goes the other way. For instance, the native resolution of an iMac Retina 5K is 5120 x 2880. Running “pixel doubled” gives you the “best” (not native) resolution of 2560 x 1440 ((5120 ÷ 2) x (2880 ÷ 2)).

    Apple’s scaling gives you the illusion that you have less screen real estate than you really do, albeit for the purpose of making things easier on the eyes. To see all of the resolution choices, hold the option key when clicking the scaling radio button in the display settings.

  • Felipe Queiroz Drumond

    Your sight will be impacted for such configuration. Retina displays are known as bad for sight. If you use this configuration, you’ll notice eyestrain quickly.

    After buying a MBP 15″ in January 2015, my sight was considerably affected. Currently I’m using the 2nd resolution available (bigger), and considering to buy a standard monitor!

  • John

    I’ve been using this feature since I got my retina MacBook Pro a year and a half ago. It is one of the reasons I was able to accept the downgrade from my old 2008 17″ MacBook Pro. I get the same screen real estate on the new 15″ that the old machine had. However, there is one problem: The setting randomly turn off, switching back to the Default for display setting. Of course, this is highly annoying, but I have found no solution as yet. All I can say is that it seems to be associated with using the machine when it is not plugged in, which I do only a few times a month.