Running Google Chrome on a High DPI Windows Machine

Oct 18 2013 Published by under General

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Chrome is my browser of choice. I’ve just moved from an original Surface tablet/laptop to a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. Chrome was a bit touchy on the Surface. Or I should say not so touchy. The relatively high DPI screen with the small size caused it to work pretty poorly with touch. I think MS did some updates of their own which seemed to help, but it was still a pain in the neck. I’d be jabbing at the screen like an angry woodpecker sometimes, trying to click on a link.

Now the Yoga 2 Pro has an outrageously high DPI screen: 3200×1800. There’s a bit more physical real estate, but the current version (30) of Chrome was completely unusable on it form a touch screen viewpoint. Literally unusable. (Literally literally, not that new figuratively literally.) Taps on links either just wouldn’t work at all, or would be off by several hundred pixels and activate some link on another part of the page. I assume it’s got something to do with the scaling.

However, after digging around a bit, I found that there’s a setting you can start Chrome with that almost completely, if not completely, fixes this. You just add “–high-dpi-support=1″ to the command used to start Chrome. Night and day. Clicks register correctly with the first tap.

Update, makes it much simpler, and only have to do it in one spot.

1. Open Chrome, type “chrome://flags” into the url field.

2. Search for “HiDPI Support”.

3. Change to “Enabled”.

4. Restart Chrome.

5. Ignore the rest of this post! ;)

The rest of this post is still valid, but if you do the above, it’s unnecessary.

Now, all you need to know is where to put this flag to make sure that Chrome starts correctly. Basically, you need to find the shortcut that you’re using to start Chrome and add it to that. For this Windows 8 machine, I believe there are two ways I’m starting Chrome: a task bar shortcut and the start screen.

1. Task bar shortcut. If you have a shortcut to Chrome in your task bar, right click on it. You’ll see a quick list and near the bottom will be an item called “Google Chrome”. This is the actual shortcut that you need to change. Right click on that and choose properties, like in the picture below (you can click to expand these if needed):

chrome_properties

That will give you the shortcut properties dialog. In the Target field, you will see the actual path to chrome.exe in quotes. Just add the line –high-dpi-support=1 (note that it’s two hyphens before the word, high) after the quotes like in the next pic:

chrome_properties_2

Click OK to save and the next time you start Chrome with the task bar shortcut, you should be in high DPI mode. Yay.

2. The start page. If you have a Chrome tile on your Windows 8 start page, or you start Chrome by going to the start page and typing Chrome, you’ll need to do the same thing for another shortcut. I believe this one is also the shortcut that is used for apps that open Chrome when it is set at your default browser.Actually, any apps that open a link in a new browser will merely launch Chrome directly, without using a shortcut. However, if you already have a Chrome window open, apps will open links as a new tab in that Window, using the settings it was launched with. I guess the solution is to keep a Chrome window open? At least until this support goes mainstream. The shortcut should be located here:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Google Chrome\

In that folder, you should see a Google Chrome shortcut. Right click on it, choose properties and do the same thing as last time.

If you have any other Chrome shortcuts or launchers, you’ll need to do the same thing there.

Hopefully, this will get addressed as some kind of automatic default in a future release of Chrome and this post will be obsolete. It’s also worth noting that Chrome Canary seems to work well on high DPI screens out of the box. So that’s promising for a future regular Chrome version. In the meantime, hope this helps you.

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10 responses so far

  • Starting chrome with this flag – does it trigger the hidpi media query? -webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2

    • keith says:

      I don’t know that, but my guess is it wouldn’t change that. Sites are rendering ok even without that flag. It’s just that the touch support is all messed up without it.

      My understanding is that if the browser were rendered normally at that resolution, all of the ui – tabs, buttons, menus, etc. – as well as the content in the browser, would be too small to be usable. So it’s automatically scaled up so that it looks normal. But by default the touch points are not scaling correctly. So if I tap in the center of the screen, I might hit a link closer to the top left corner.

  • Gene says:

    The touch bug you’ve described was fixed in http://crbug.com/271222 – which hasn’t made it into the stable build yet. In the mean-time, your work-around seems to do the trick.

  • Patrick says:

    I’ve switched over to Firefox until they sort out their ridiculously poor text rendering bug which has been present for years now. Text looks particularly poor when using Windows 8.1 scaling, so much so it is just unusable now, which is a shame.

    I tried to activate High DPI mode on my Acer Aspire S7-392 but unfortunately the option was not available to me.

  • Bo says:

    Hey- I googled “high dpi chrome” and came across this article– funny I just bought a Yoga 2 pro. When i enable this flag in chrome it completely renders Chrome unusable– are you still using this fix without issue? Chrome 32 1700 107

    • keith says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s completely unusable, but yeah, even with the flag, the performance and overall experience is pretty bad. I’ve switched over to using Chrome Canary, which in general works very well on the Yoga.

  • Bo says:

    Thanks for the response. I got Canary up and runnning- Do you just deal with the crappy text? its the only thing that bugs me.

  • JD says:

    Just got my Yoga 2 Pro in the mail this morning and found this article. I enabled HiDPI support under chrome://flags but skipped the second part of the tutorial. Instead, I clicked “disable display scaling on high DPI resolutions” under the Compatibility menu for the chrome shortcut. The combination of these two steps is working really well for me so far. Text is much clearer, and scaling appears to be correct.

  • Matt says:

    Hi,
    I’m using a ThinkPad with a 1080p Display and Windows 8.1 and all current updates installed.
    I just changed my Chrome flag as you described in the article. I previously had already installed Chrome , deleted it, and had just reinstalled it.
    Setting this flag totally messed up Chrome, after restarting it only showed a small part of the window, no UI controls and did not react to clicks. Even uninstalling it via the Control Panel does not work anymore, as it relies on the messed up Chrome graphics as well.
    Some People at Google really seem to hate Windows (and ist users?)

    So, I guess I’ll just have to put up with Firefox or IE on Windows.

  • Fred says:

    Keith,

    Just wanted to drop a note to say thanks for the tip. This flag should move to the settings page as it will be more commonly used.

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