Custom Resolutions and multi-monitor tweaks with Intel DCH/UWD GPU drivers

Need help choosing a monitor to match your Surface? Check out the Surface monitor guide.


Intro

I received a few comments recently about folks having difficulty getting custom resolutions working with the latest Windows 10 1903 update and Intel’s newer DCH/UWD drivers. Below are steps and a lengthy guide on how to get it working and fully optimize your workstation. For a deeper explanation on why custom resolutions are helpful for so many office applications and games, see these older articles:

  1. https://dancharblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/hi-dpi-multi-mon-with-surface-pro-3-dpi-scaling-tweaks/
  2. https://dancharblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/surface-book-and-surface-pro-4-high-dpi-multi-monitor-optimization-regkey-for-alternate-32-aspect-ratio-resolutions/

Why custom resolutions?

The approach sets a different resolution for the Surface screen than the native LCD panel resolution to:

  1. bypass problematic dpi-scaling built-into Windows 10 yet make all text and UI the same size across screens of various pixel density (dpi) and physical size
  2. make dragging windows across the threshold between screens seamless without distracting jumpy artifacts
  3. minimize the likelihood of your mouse cursor getting “lost” in the corner between two adjacent screens of different size/resolution
  4. improve gaming performance due to fewer distinct pixels to process
  5. get rid of letterboxing or black bars which appear when setting the built-in Windows resolutions in the control panel

There are potential side effects with this approach and not all apps and games will work well. But it is a 100% free and reversible modification so there is no risk in trying; you may be pleasantly surprised at its effectiveness.

For folks using Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Go, and similar high-performance laptops, the best resolution choices tend to be either:

  • a resolution that most closely matches the pixel density (dpi) of your primary external monitor (see tables in the appendix) OR
  • 1/2 the native resolution of the Surface screen (Gaming)

Custom resolution steps (100% reversible):

  1. Install the official Intel Graphics Command Center from the microsoft.com store
    • The new app works with *most*  Intel GPU drivers automatically installed when upgrading to Windows 10 1903. If the app fails to install or gives an error when running, try installing the latest intel.com GPU driver first.
  2. Add your custom resolution:
    • open the Intel Graphics Command Center App
    • click Display
    • click on the drop-down box showing the current screen resolution
    • scroll down to the bottom of the list and click “Custom”
    • command-center1
    • in the Custom Resolution screen, enter your preferred Width and Height (see the tables in the appendix). Choose 60 for refresh rate, and leave Timing Standard to “GTF” and Underscan to “0%” unless you have a particular reason to change these.
    • command-center2
    • Click “OK” then “Yes”
  3. When docked and using multiple monitors, it is best to set the most frequently used external monitor as the “Primary” monitor to help avoid potential scaling and blurry text issues:
    • Open Settings app, then “System” then “Display”
    • Click on the numbered rectangle representing your preferred monitor
    • Scroll down and ensure “Make this my main display” is checked

Tech note: Like previous Intel tools, some resolutions are impossible to set, or when added, the resulting resolution is off by a few pixels. For example when attempting to set 1500×1000 on a Surface Book or Surface Book 2 13.5″ (exactly 1/2 the resolution for Gaming), the tool may report back 1504×1000 or 1496×1000 instead. This appears to be an issue with the timing controller chip (TCon) used on the panels and how it interacts with the Intel driver software. There should be no visible artifacts from aliasing caused by the 4 pixel difference so it is safe to run games and applications at this slightly different resolution. If you find differently, please post screenshots of any issues you have. The 3rd-party CRU tool may be helpful to set additional resolutions that the Intel tool is unable to set.

Appendix: Microsoft Surface Custom resolution guide for multiple monitors

Unlike most other laptops, Microsoft Surface devices use the 3:2 screen aspect ratio. The purpose of this resolution guide is to help you choose a custom 3:2 aspect ratio resolution that works best with your external monitor. Because there are so many monitors to choose from, the list may look daunting at first but you really only need to know one number: the dpi of your primary external monitor and I’ve collected those for you below.

Monitor sizes that match Surface devices particularly well are in bold. If your particular monitor size/resolution is not listed and you have problems customizing your workstation, let me know in the comments.

How to use the lists/tables:

  1. Find your primary external monitor size in Appendix A and note the dpi. For example, if you have a 24″ 1920×1080 monitor it is 92dpi
  2. Find a resolution in the list pertaining for your Surface device that closely matches the dpi of your primary monitor. For example, if you have a 15″ Surface Book 2, a closely matching resolution is 1080×720 (wow what a low resolution! – bear with me here…)
  3. Use the Intel Command center app to set the resolution while your Surface is docked.
    • For example, when docking a 15″ Surface Book alongside a 24″ 1920×1080 monitor, the Surface Book will be running at 1080×720 resolution. All UI and text across the screens will be of very similar size making it much easier to use.

A. Common monitors sizes sorted by DPI class

<96 DPI class

  • Windows defaults to 100% scaling. Text is a little larger than smaller monitors with same resolution and well suited for folks with glasses or who prefer a larger viewing distance, but who do not need other vision aids.
  • 23.5″/24″ 1920 x 1080 – ~92dpi
  • 24″ 1920 x 1200 – ~94dpi
  • 25″ 1920 x 1080 – ~88dpi
  • 27″ 1920 x 1080 – ~82dpi
  • 31.5″/32″ 2560×1440 – ~93dpi
  • 34″ 2560 x 1080 Ultrawide – ~82dpi

96-119 DPI class

  • Windows defaults to 100% scaling and text is a suitable size for >80% of the population at typical viewing distances.
  • 21.5″/22″ 1920 x 1080 – ~103dpi (Top choice for Surface Pro 4 / Pro 2017 / Pro 6 / Pro 7)
  • 25″ 2560 x 1080 Ultrawide – ~111dpi (Top choice for Surface Pro 3)
  • 27″ 2560 x 1440 – ~109dpi
  • 29″ 2560 x 1080 Ultrawide – ~96dpi
  • 34″ 3440 x 1440 Ultrawide – ~110dpi (Top choice for 15″ Surface Book 2)

120 DPI class

  • Windows defaults to 125% scaling
  • 24″ 2560 x 1440 – ~122dpi
  • 29″ 3440 x 1440 Ultrawide – ~129dpi (Top choice for 13.5″ Surface Book)

144 DPI class

  • Windows defaults to 150% scaling
  • 25″ 3440 x 1440 Ultrawide – ~149dpi
  • 27″ 4K – ~163dpi
  • 28″ 4K – ~157dpi
  • 31.5″/32″ 4K – ~140dpi

192 DPI class

  • Windows defaults to 200% scaling
  • 24″ 4K – ~184dpi

B. Surface Book custom resolutions cheat sheet:

Monitors and resolution pairings listed in bold are the best matches

15″ Surface Book 2

  • 3240 x 2160 (260 dpi; native resolution; ~317mm x ~211mm screen area)
  • 3000 x 2000 (~241 effective dpi)
  • 2916 x 1944 (~234 effective dpi)
  • 2704 x 1800 (~216 effective dpi)
  • 2592 x 1728 (~208 effective dpi; same as using Windows 125% scaling)
  • 2430 x 1620 (~195 effective dpi)
  • 2400 x 1600 (~193 effective dpi)
  • 2304 x 1536 (~185 effective dpi)
  • 2160 x 1440 (~173 effective dpi; same as 150% scaling)
  • 2056 x 1368 (~165 effective dpi)
  • 2048 x 1366 (~164 effective dpi) (matches 27″ 4K monitor)
  • 2040 x 1360 (~164 effective dpi)
  • 1944 x 1296 (~156 effective dpi) (matches 28″ 4K monitor)
  • 1920 x 1280 (~154 effective dpi)
  • 1848 x 1234 (~148 effective dpi; same as 175% scaling) (~1850×1234)
  • 1800 x 1200 (~144 effective dpi)
  • 1784 x 1188 (~143 effective dpi) (~1782 x 1188)
  • 1728 x 1152 (~138 effective dpi) (matches 31.5″/32″ 4K monitor)
  • 1624 x 1080 (~130 effective dpi; same as 200% scaling; 4:1 pixel mapping) (~1620×1080)
  • 1616 x 1080 (~130 effective dpi; same as 200% scaling; 4:1 pixel mapping best for gaming) (~1620×1080)
  • 1600 x 1066 (~128 effective dpi)
  • 1536 x 1024 (~123 effective dpi)
  • 1440 x 960 (~116 effective dpi; same as 225% scaling; matches 27″ 2560 x 1440 or 34″ 3440 x 1440)
  • 1368 x 912 (~110 effective dpi; matches 25″ 2560×1080 or 27″ 2560 x 1440)
  • 1296 x 864 (~104 effective dpi; same as 250% scaling; matches 21.5″ 1920×1080)
  • 1200 x 800 (~96 effective dpi; matches 24″ 1920×1200 monitor or 29″ 2560×1080)
  • 1152 x 768 (~92 effective dpi)
  • 1080 x 720 (~87 effective dpi; same as 300% scaling, 9:1 pixel mapping; matches 25″ 1920 x 1080 or 34″ 2560 x 1080 monitor or 24″ 1920×1080 or 27″ 1920×1080)

13.5″ Surface Book 1 / Book 2

  • 3000 x 2000 (267 dpi; native resolution; ~285mm x ~ 190mm screen area)
  • 2916 x 1944 (~260 effective dpi)
  • 2704 x 1800 (~241 effective dpi)
  • 2592 x 1728 (~231 effective dpi)
  • 2430 x 1620 (~216 effective dpi)
  • 2400 x 1600 (~213 effective dpi)
  • 2304 x 1536 (~205 effective dpi)
  • 2160 x 1440 (~192 effective dpi; matches 24″ 4K monitor)
  • 2056 x 1368 (~183 effective dpi)
  • 2048 x 1366 (~182 effective dpi)
  • 2040 x 1360 (~182 effective dpi)
  • 1944 x 1296 (~173 effective dpi)
  • 1920 x 1280 (~171 effective dpi)
  • 1848 x 1234 (~164 effective dpi) (matches 27″ 4K monitor)
  • 1800 x 1200 (~160 effective dpi)
  • 1784 x 1188 (~159 effective dpi) (matches 28″ 4K monitor) (~1782×1188)
  • 1728 x 1152 (~154 effective dpi)
  • 1624 x 1080 (~145 effective dpi) (~1620×1080)
  • 1616 x 1080 (~144 effective dpi) (~1620×1080)
  • 1600 x 1066 (~142 effective dpi)
  • 1536 x 1024 (~136 effective dpi)
  • 1504 x 1000 (~134 effective dpi; same as 200% scaling; 4:1 pixel mapping) (~1500 x 1000)
  • 1496 x 1000 (~134 effective dpi; same as 200% scaling; 4:1 pixel mapping best for gaming) (~1500 x 1000)
  • 1440 x 960 (~128 effective dpi; matches 24″ 2560 x 1440 or 29″ 3440 x 1440)
  • 1368 x 912 (~122 effective dpi)
  • 1296 x 864 (~115 effective dpi)
  • 1200 x 800 (~106 effective dpi; same as 250% scaling; matches with 27″ 2560 x 1440 or 34″ 3440 x 1440)
  • 1152 x 768 (~102 effective dpi)
  • 1080 x 720 (~96 effective dpi; matches 24″ 1920 x 1080 or 29″ 2560 x 1080)

C. Surface Pro cheat sheet:

Surface Pro 4 / Pro 2017 / Pro 6 / Pro 7

  • 2736 x 1824 (267 dpi; native resolution; ~260mm x ~175mm screen area)
  • 2704 x 1800 (~264 effective dpi)
  • 2592 x 1728 (~253 effective dpi)
  • 2430 x 1620 (~237 effective dpi)
  • 2400 x 1600 (~234 effective dpi)
  • 2304 x 1536 (~225 effective dpi)
  • 2160 x 1440 (~211 effective dpi
  • 2056 x 1368 (~201 effective dpi)
  • 2048 x 1366 (~200 effective dpi)
  • 2040 x 1360 (~199 effective dpi)
  • 1944 x 1296 (~190 effective dpi)
  • 1920 x 1280 (~186 effective dpi)
  • 1848 x 1234 (~180 effective dpi) (~1850×1234)
  • 1800 x 1200 (~176 effective dpi)
  • 1784 x 1188 (~174 effective dpi) (~1782×1188)
  • 1728 x 1152 (~169 effective dpi) (matches 27″ 4K monitor)
  • 1624 x 1080 (~158 effective dpi) (~1620×1080)
  • 1616 x 1080 (~158 effective dpi) (matches 28″ 4K monitor) (~1620×1080)
  • 1600 x 1066 (~156 effective dpi)
  • 1536 x 1024 (~150 effective dpi)
  • 1440 x 960 (~141 effective dpi) (matches 25″ 3440 x 1440p or 31.5″/32″ 4K monitor)
  • 1368 x 912 (~133 effective dpi; same as 200% scaling; 4:1 pixel mapping best for gaming)
  • 1296 x 864 (~126 effective dpi)
  • 1200 x 800 (~117 effective dpi)
  • 1152 x 768 (~112 effective dpi)
  • 1080 x 720 (~105 effective dpi; matches 21.5″ 1920×1080 or 25″ 2560×1080 or 34″ 2560×1080 or 27″ 2560 x 1440 or 34″ 3440 x 1440)

Surface Pro 3

  • 2160 x 1440 (216.3 dpi; native resolution; ~254mm x ~169mm screen area)
  • 1728 x 1152 (~173 dpi; same as 125% scaling)
  • 1440 x 960 (~144 dpi; same as 150% scaling; matches 25″ 3440 x 1440p or 31.5″/32″ 4K monitor)
  • 1200 x 800 (~120 dpi)
  • 1152 x 768 (~115 dpi)
  • 1080 x 720 (~108 dpi; same as 200% scaling; 4:1 pixel mapping best for gaming; matches 25″ 2560×1080 or 21.5″ 1920×1080 or 27″ 2560 x 1440 or 34″ 3440 x 1440)

Surface Pro X

  • Note that the Intel control panel does not apply to the Surface Pro X nor does the CRU utility work. So we’re unsure how to set custom 3:2 monitor resolutions.
  • 2880 x 1920 (267 dpi; native resolution; ~274mm x 182.5mm)

D. Surface cheat sheet:

Surface 3

  • 1920 x 1280 (214 dpi; native resolution; ~228mm x ~152mm screen area)
  • 1800 × 1200 (~200 dpi)
  • 1728 × 1152 (~192 dpi)
  • 1536 x 1024 (~171 dpi; same as 125% scaling)
  • 1440 × 960 (~160 dpi)
  • 1278 × 852 (~142 dpi; ~150% scaling; Intel driver may round to 1280×852 which isn’t exactly 3:2 ratio)
  • 1200 × 800 (~134 dpi)
  • 1152 × 768 (~128 dpi)
  • 1080 × 720 (~120 dpi)
  • 960 × 640 (~107 dpi; 200% scaling)

Surface Go

  • 1800 x 1200 (217 dpi; native resolution; ~210mm x ~140mm screen area)
  • 1440 x 960 (~174 dpi; 125% scaling)
  • 1200 x 800 (~145 dpi; 150% scaling)
  • 1152 x 768 (~139 dpi)
  • 1080 x 720 (~130 dpi)
  • 900 x 600 (~109 dpi; 200% scaling)

E. Surface Laptop Cheat Sheet:

13.5″ Surface Laptop 1/2/3

  • 2256 x 1504 (201 dpi; native resolution; ~285mm x 190mm)
  • 1128 x 752 (~100 dpi ; 4:1 pixel mapping best for gaming)

15″ Surface Laptop 3

  • AMD-based laptops won’t work with the Intel command center. Use the CRU tool instead.
  • 2496 x 1664 (201 dpi; native resolution; ~315mm x 210mm)
  • 1248 x 832 (~100 dpi; 4:1 pixel mapping best for gaming)

Whew, that was a lot. Why isn’t Windows smart enough to just do it right automatically?

3 Comments

  1. Many laptops won’t install the new drivers because they have a driver that was customized by the computer manufacturer. And the manufacturers aren’t pushing out the new drivers for those old systems so you end up being stuck with an outdated one.

    If you want to install the new drivers instead you have to do the following:

    Go to the Intel site and get the .EXE installer for the DCH driver.
    Use Device Manager to uninstall your existing display AND (key step) check the box that says to delete the driver from your system. (If you don’t do that, Windows will reinstall it when you reboot.)
    Reboot. Your system will come up using the Microsoft Basic Display.
    Use Device Manager to confirm that you are running the Basic Display.
    Run the EXE that you previously downloaded.
    Reboot again after the new driver installs.
    You may have to go to the Microsoft Store to get the Intel Graphics Command Center. It’s supposed to get installed automatically by the installer, but Intel has reported that it occasionally fails.

    Like

    1. Hey if you want to obliterate the drivers, uninstalling via device manager is not sufficient. You also need to flush them from the Windows update cache as follows:

      net stop wuauserv
      del %SystemRoot%\SoftwareDistribution*.* /q /s
      net start wuauserv

      Like

      1. In my experience, that’s not necessary if you install the new driver immediately after reboot. Windows Update won’t run soon enough to reinstall them before you get the DCH drivers in place. After that, Windows Update will no longer try to install the old ones as it would be a version downgrade.

        Still, it couldn’t hurt.

        Like

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