4K Monitors and Linux

Published 2020-07-01

I've been using Linux with a 4K display recently and found a few tricks to make the experience better. I found overall 4K support isn't as great as Windows or MacOS, but after some tweaking I got to a point that I'm happy with.

How to Fix

GNOME scaling causes browsers and Electron apps to be sluggish and laggy

This is more noticable if you open a JavaScript heavy page like Reddit or scroll through a large file in VSCode, and the performance gets worse the bigger the window is. A fix I use is to set the GNOME scaling to 100% (from the default of 200%) and increase the font size in GNOME Tweaks to 1.4.

Finding the root cause of the issue was a bit tricky cause I originally thought that the Intel integrated graphics chipset wasn't powerful enough to run it. But after a bit of experimentation I found that setting the scaling to 100% and instead increasing the system font size to 1.4 through GNOME Tweaks fixed the performance issues.

If I were to guess why this happens, I would say that its something to do with browser rendering engines not liking how GNOME scales the interface. The interface looks a bit smaller but I'm getting used to it, the much better performance is worth it.

Xorg over Wayland

I noticed switching to Xorg instead of Wayland improved the general performance a little (I'm running on Intel integrated graphics), the biggest difference I've noticed from this is in VSCode, as scrolling through large files in the editor is much smoother now. (I think Electron apps use an X translation layer called XWayland that seemed to slow things down)

Nvidia Specific fixes

I also tested this with a NVIDIA GPU (a fairly old one), and found that adding the --disable-gpu flag to VSCode improved the responsiveness a lot, this is particularly noticable when scrolling through large files.

Remaining problems

The biggest problem I've encountered is support for 4K and 1080p displays simultaniously. I think per monitor scaling is supported in Wayland, but since I've had bad experience with scaling in general I think I'd avoid it. I think the best solution to this is per monitor font size


Overall I am really happy with 4K support in Linux at the moment. My laptop seems to perform much better with Linux than MacOS, particularly with the responsiveness of the OS in general.

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