Meditations on programming, startups, and technology
New Relic

Unlocking intermediate resolutions on Sony Vaio FWs

In my recent Sony Vaio FW Series review I mentioned that one of the major drawbacks of an this excellent laptop was the inability to select a resolution other than full-hd (1920×1080), 1024×768 or 800×600 on Windows. For all intents and purposes, by default you are stuck with the native 1920×1080 resolution. This is crystal clear, and ideal for watching movies, particularly hi-def ones through the blue-ray player that comes included with the laptop. It also works out for the best if you use Photoshop, Visual Studio, or other programs that require a lot of screen real estate.

Unfortunately, with that resolution on a 16.4″ screen the text appears very small. For some people this won’t be a problem, while for others it could cause headaches or undo eye strain. In this post, I’ll discuss a few approaches to help you with this, including how to enable reduced resolution for your Sony Vaio FW (in my case Sony Vaio VNG-FW285D/H), despite the fact that the installed driver (for the ATI Radeon HD 3650) doesn’t allow you to do this.

1st approach: Keep the full-hd resolution, but increase the font size on your system. On Vista you can do so by right clicking on your desktop, selecting Personalize, and then Adjust font size (DPI) on the left column of the Personalize appearance and sounds window that appears. The 120 DPI option should be sufficient, but you can always increase it even more. You will need to restart your machine to see these effects applied. The only downside to this is that some programs will look slightly weird.

2nd approach: As soon as you attach your laptop to an HDTV through an HDMI cable, all the available resolutions will be unlocked, thus enabling you to set a resolution that matches your own TV. This gives you the opportunity to set the resolution for your laptop’s LCD however you wish. Unfortunately the next time you restart, if the HDMI cable is disconnected, you will be back to the three default resolutions. The workaround would be to hibernate or put your laptop to sleep, but on Windows you will be forced sooner or later to restart, and having to attach the TV every time you need to restart is a real pain.

3rd approach: This is the real solution to the problem in my opinion. You need to patch the ATI drivers to unlock further resolutions and options for your display. This is done in a few simple steps, the process is considered safe and I have done it on my brand new laptop. That said, proceed at your own risk. I do not accept any responsibility for any issues or damage that doing this may cause, however unlikely such problems are to happen:

  1. Download the driver for your video card (in my case HD 3650) from the ATI support site. In my case the file name was 9-1_vista64_dd_ccc_wdm_enu_
    74234.exe.
  2. Doubleclick on that downloaded file and follow the initial wizard. This will extract the contents of the driver to a folder such as C:\ATI\SUPPORT\9-1_vista64_dd_ccc_wdm_enu_74234. That installer will also automatically execute the extracted Setup.exe, opening up a Catalyst Install Manager. Shut it down, and do not proceed with the installation. First we need to patch the driver.
  3. Download, install and run DH Mobility Modder.NET. This program will let you browse for the folder where your driver was extracted to (e.g., C:\ATI\SUPPORT\9-1_vista64_dd_ccc_wdm_enu_74234), and by clicking on “Modify” the driver will be patched.
  4. Finally, you can execute the Setup.exe file within C:\ATI\SUPPORT\9-1_vista64_dd_ccc_wdm_enu_74234\Driver and proceed with the installation. After restarting, you should be able to select from among the many available resolutions as shown in the figure below.

Extra options in the Catalyst CC

At 1360×768 the image will appear softer (or less crisp) than at the native resolution of 1920×1080, but this is common and it’s still perfectly usable. If you pick a resolution with a aspect ratio that’s different than the ultra-wide screen (16:9), by default you will see two black bands on the sides of the screen. These are there in order to maintain the proper aspect ratio of the chosen resolution. Of course, this sensible default can be changed if you really wish to do so; just go in the ATI Catalyst Control Center under Display Manager -> Display Properties.

With your new resolutions enabled, you should now be able to switch from an “easy on the eyes” resolution to a stunning full-hd one for your entertainment needs whenever you want.

4th approach: Use Linux for you day-to-day work, and Windows for watching movies. Ubuntu supports many intermediate resolutions, including 1360×768, which preserves the 16:9 aspect ratio (again, at this reduced resolution the image will appear softer).

I’ve personally started using a combination of the first, third and fourth approaches. My main reasons for publishing this is that the third approach gives you the freedom to choose your resolution at will, as with most any other laptop.


If you enjoyed this post, then make sure you subscribe to my Newsletter and/or Feed.

receive my posts by email

19 Responses to “Unlocking intermediate resolutions on Sony Vaio FWs”

  1. [...] On Windows the current drivers seem to only offer the spectacular 1920×1080 resolution and two other very low resolutions. I don’t see intermediary resolutions like 1366×768, which would make the font larger for whenever you don’t need that extra bit of space on the screen. Update: I have blogged about a solution for this here. [...]

  2. Hongli Lai says:

    Why can’t you watch movies in Linux?

  3. Blue-Ray movies are DRM-protected. You will be able to watch them, but it requires a bit of tinkering.

  4. Sean says:

    Thanks for this mate! 3rd Approach (patch the ATI catalyst drivers) worked like a charm!

  5. Sean says:

    Hi, Do you know how we could get 1600 x 900??? That would be alot better than 1360 x 768 which is a bit too big! :(

  6. Hi Sean, unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s an available resolution. :(

  7. Sean says:

    Solved my own question…use PowerStrip (http://entechtaiwan.com/util/ps.shtm) to enforce the Custom resolution “1600x900i (HDTV derived)”. Cheers all!

  8. Richard says:

    French speaking so… my english is not perfect.

    Tank you for your 3rd approach tutorial.
    My FW-285 is now a charm to use! Tell me if i’m wrong but it seem to be faster to! In that case, could somebody here explain me why?

    Encore merci!

    Richard

  9. Donna says:

    Hiya Anthony

    Me again – loving the FW BUT 6 weeks in it’s developed a prob… the integrated right click won’t work!

    I’ve looked on the internet – and this seems to be a common problem but so far no solutions that work…

    Vaio said to uninstall the mouse driver and reinstall it – made no difference.

    Would be VERY grateful if you could help me out again…

    D x

  10. Alex says:

    Hi Antonio,

    Does the font size look small on your HDTV screen when the laptop is connected to it via HDMI?

  11. Percy says:

    Sean,(with Antonio’s permission) I have got a question or two for you;
    To get 1600×900 do I still have to go through Antonio’s procedure or you can do it directly using PowerStrip (which version?)
    Did you have any issues using PowerStrip?
    and finally I found my VAIO(VGNFW37GYH)not very sharp with normal DVD’s. I think the latest ATI Randeon update did nothing better to improve the quality of the picture. At the ATI website there is a new driver available (ATI Catalyst™ 9.5 Display Driver for Windows Vista (64 bit)) I wonder if it is safe to download it and run it.

    I would appreciate your comments.
    Cheers

  12. Anita says:

    Was contemplating returning my sony vaio FW378D because I just couldn’t work with the default resolution of 1920 X 1080. Your 3rd approach worked great but has a drawback that I’m still not sure I want to deal with. When I shut down or reboot it doesn’t remember the resolution. All looks good until something loads, the screen flickers and the resolution is reset to the 1920 X 1080. Now I found if I set my laptop on hibernate it works fine but wondering if anyone has a fix so I can shut down, reboot and have this laptop remember the new default setting as it should?

  13. Storm says:

    WOW….I thought I was losing my mind after spending my hard earned cash on such a stylish model VGN-FW 490 and then not having the lush wide-screen real estate even partially used when browsing. I can barely read most websites….your 3rd solution seems like the ticket but I am too chicken to try as I am not that technically savvy.
    Thankfully, I am still in my 30 day trial period and I think this beauty is going back to the factory….such a disappointment to have such a nice wide screen and yet it’s never filled unless watching a DVD. Glad I ran across this blog….wished I’d seen it a month ago….would have saved me some time!
    Thanks for all of your input on this subject.
    It’s either a Dell or Apple for me….

  14. dande says:

    Nice to find out you guys with your helpful information & solutions.
    I just bought my Vaio today. And apart changing the fonts size DPI I also installed an Firefox add-on on which you can set the default zoom level of the browser or the default only text zoom to any percentage you wish e.g 120%
    This is very helpful in this case as it enlarge every site by this default value.
    I really enjoy Internet browsing with huge text and everything enlarged.
    Firefox add-on is NoSquint.
    Btw my Vaio model is FW41W and has a different processor Intel P8700 2.53GHz and it’s not BD writer only reader.
    I really like this laptop!

    Thanks

    Cheers

  15. berq says:

    hi guys..

    i’m from Turkey and i lived same problems about resolution. I researched a lot and wanna to share to you.

    I have VGN-FW5JTF.. It’s 16.4″ screen. Firstly, I used to 1900*1080 full hd resolution. But it has very small text and pictures. it’s not for me.. Than , i modded to ATI Drivers. ( look at 3rd approach. ) I selected to 1600*900. But when i selected this, i have another problem. Text are out of focus, flu. Now, i selected another resolution. it’s 1368*768.

    How do i fix this problem ? 1900*1080 has very sharp text and pictures but the others hasn’t any properties.. It might be a solution..

  16. Geek says:

    Hi antonio, thanks for the article. i used the 3rd approach & patched the driver on my sony vaio vgn-fw378j without any issues. question is whether this approach is safe and secure. i mean it’s not a trojan or virus or keystroke logger right? i have apps to check for these but just would like to know if anyone had any issues with this patch. thanks again.

  17. Yes, Geek, it is safe.

  18. VaioBunny says:

    Hi Antonio
    I’m having the same problem with my vaio FW51MF/H ATI RADEON 4650 on Windows 7. I’ve chickened out of modding and couldn’t get it to work so was probably doing something wrong. I tried Powerstrip but it only gave me the same resolutions i.e 1920x (native) 1260x and 800x both the latter do not have the same pixel aspect ration so not only are they too big but they are fuzzy. Have I installed the right powerstrip?
    I don’t understand why Sony together with ATI haven’t offered other resolutions with the same aspect ratio. Do you know of any reason why there are these limits? Will it damage the graphics card, display or anything?

  19. VaioBunny says:

    I meant pixel aspect ‘ratio’ not ‘ration’ of course

  20. VaioBunny says:

    I tried modding the driver again and it seemed to have worked because in the Catalyst control i now have more resolutions but the nearest i get to 1920x is 1400x and i was looking for 1760x or 1600x. Why after modding is it only showing these resolution options?

Leave a Reply

I sincerely welcome and appreciate your comments, whether in agreement or dissenting with my article. However, trolling will not be tolerated. Comments are automatically closed 15 days after the publication of each article.

Current ye@r *

Copyright © 2005-2014 Antonio Cangiano. All rights reserved.