The default resolution is set to scaled option by default.
Apple has changed the default resolution for the new 2016 MacBook Pro. On 15-inch MacBook Pro, the new default resolution is set to 1680 x 1050, instead of 1440 x 900 on a previous generation, providing more screen real estate.
I was curious to find out what else this change brings to the table, so I did some testing. In this post, I am going to share my findings with you.
Scaled by default
Before the release of the 2016 MacBook Pro, the old default resolution was set to 1440 x 900 pixels, and was marked by Apple as ‘Best for Retina’. At this resolution, the screen is rendering the picture at its native 2880 x 1800, and then scales it to 1440 x 900 @X2 resolution, without doing the actual pixel scaling.
Starting with 2016 MacBook Pro, Apple has decided to set the 1680 x 1050 pixels resolution as the default for 15-inch MacBook Pro, which results in a slightly less sharp and fuzzy text. The difference is not very big, but if you try hard, the difference in clarity is noticeable.
Also, I have noticed that my eyes get tired faster, when I use my MacBook Pro with its new default resolution.
Clear effect on battery life
It is also critical to notice that to show the picture in a non-native 1680 x 1050 HiDPI resolution, macOS has to render the virtual 3340 x 2100 screen, and then scale it back to 2880 x 1800 pixels, which naturally increases the GPU usage.
To find out how much this affects the battery life, I did a few comparison tests of the energy consumption when using the two resolutions. I know that the experiments were not very scientific, but it was pretty evident that the new default resolution has a more significant impact on battery life.
Energy consumption comparison
With my MacBook Pro in a completely idle state, the average energy consumption for the 1440 x 900 resolution was at 3.0 Watts, while for 1680 x 1050, it was at 3.8 Watts.
The difference was similar when running a couple of apps. When set to 1440 x 900, the average energy consumption was at 9 Watts, while for 1680 x 1050 pixels, it was at 11 Watts.
For my last test, I have used my MacBook Pro for three days in the two resolutions. Below is the battery life I was able to get out of my MacBook with my regular workflow.
When set to 1440 x 900 pixels: Day 1–9:47 Day 2–10:25 Day 3–10:06
3 days average: 10 hours 6 minutes
When set to 1680 x 1050 pixels: Day 1–9:13 Day 2–9:04 Day 3–9:27
3 days average: 9 hours 15 minutes
As you can see from the numbers above, on average, I was able to get about 50 minutes longer battery life when using the 1440 x 900 pixels resolution.
The new default resolution on 2016 MacBook Pro provides more screen real estate, but if you want a bit sharper picture quality and a noticeably better battery life, you should go to Display settings on your MacBook Pro and change the resolution to 1440 x 900 pixels.