display – Are the “Looks like” resolutions in the scaling modes on Retina Macs the true resolution they run at?


Hopefully, this doesn’t sound like a dumb question, but I’m wondering if the “Looks like” resolutions listed for each scaling mode in System Preferences > Displays are the true resolutions one would be running at/seeing when using any of them.

What made me interested in finding this out is when I read that the 2880×1800 resolution shown in About This Mac on the Early 2013 15″ Retina MacBook Pro (and I assume many others) was not actually easily accessible without a tool like Retina Display Master (RDM). So I got it here: https://github.com/avibrazil/RDM, and through this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG42tS2wTK4, found there was a more updated fork of it (https://github.com/usr-sse2/RDM/tree/2.3.2), which is fully compatible with Catalina (that apparently allowed you to set custom HiDPI resolutions by disabling SIP).

At some point between finding out about RDM’s existence and the updated fork of it, I also found out you could scale said 15″ display not to just 2880×1800, but a ridiculous 3840×2400.

To keep this from being an unnecessarily long question/post (might be a bit too late for that), I am trying to keep the 3840×2400 resolution (potentially for the sake of things like 4K video or photo editing) while having the UI not be so small and difficult to read.

As of writing this, I currently believe that picking one of the larger scaling options in System Preferences > Displays is actually showing that “Looks like” resolution (this is because RDM shows the current resolution in its menu bar icon, though I have no other way to confirm this, which is why I’m asking the question) not a possible higher resolution(?).

One of the things I can do when using the higher resolutions is to make the Dock (a lot) bigger, which is helpful but doesn’t nearly solve the problem in its entirety.

This issue on the original RDM repository seems to explain basically what I’m thinking, just far simpler: https://github.com/avibrazil/RDM/issues/40

Again, hopefully, at least some of this makes sense to people and doesn’t come across as complete nonsensical garbage.

Additional note: Disabling SIP and trying to add a “custom” HiDPI 3840×2400 in RDM (which to me sounds like it would double the size of UI elements while retaining that resolution) did not appear to do anything, or at least not what I thought it would do.