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:
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_
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Antonio Cangiano is a Software Developer and Technical Evangelist at IBM. He authored 'Ruby on Rails for Microsoft Developers' by Wrox (2009) and 'Technical Blogging' by The Pragmatic Bookshelf (2012). He is also the Marketing Lead for Cognitive Class, an IBM educational initiative which he helped grow from zero to 1 Million students. You can follow him on Twitter.