I've been depressed that my Macs won't display 2560x1440 on my 27" monitor. It's not a huge deal, and I realize I'm in an insanely small market -- folks using VGA based KVM switches in 2016 -- but rereading the "35 Days Against DRM" article I've got linked from the banner that's currently at the top of my blog again, I've started wondering...

See, it's not that you can't do 2560x1440 over VGA. My Lenovo and whitebox tower both do it, no problems.* And it's not exactly a DisplayPort issue, as you can get larger resolutions out in other, admittedly digital, formats.

So I'd assumed Macs don't do high resolutions over VGA for one of two reasons:
  • The driver wasn't written to support them (code to specifications)
  • The adapter simply doesn't have the guts to pull it off. 
And there's some very light, implicit support for Apple knowing they're self-inflicting this limitation in this Apple support FAQ. There's a question there explicitly dealing with max VGA resolution:

2. What is the maximum resolution available for use with the Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter?

The resolution available with the Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter is 1920 x 1200. VGA displays that use higher refresh rates (such as 85 Hz) at resolutions of 1600 x 1200 or greater may not generate video properly until you lower the refresh rate. 

This question wouldn't be here if they didn't realize VGA can go much higher, which is no big surprise.

But is it really a case of either lazy engineers (bad driver) or cheap hardware (bad adapter)?

The other shoe

It makes me wonder if 3rd party USB-C adapters will be similarly limited. If my new guess here is right, they would.

I wonder if this isn't a DRM thing. From the FSF's page (pubbed in 2008):

The new MacBooks contain a hardware chip that prevents certain types of display being used, in an effort to plug the analog hole. Devices such as the HDfury can get around this, but this adds greater cost and inconveinience [sic] to what should be a relatively simple procedure. [emphasis mine]

I wonder if Apple's got some deal that makes it so that they can't allow analog high-definition output (or any content sans DRM) from their machines. That'd make some sense as part of their iTunes deals, perhaps. I'm also suspicious this is why Apple laptops lost their line-in port, so that you can't record what you watch/consume directly, so no Spotify rips, for example. Seems like another really small market, but it's one that Rogue Amoeba figured was worth pursuing, and recently.

Interesting to me that "cable-free" is included. /shrug

Guess we'll see. I'm tempted to take my monitor to the Apple Store to see if the MacBook 12" can use a third party VGA adapter now to output 2560x1440. Before, I was hopeful. After reading the FSF again today, I'm much less so.

* Okay, that's not completely true. The integrated graphics in my ASRock mobo, for whatever reason, wouldn't go 2560x1440, so I stuck a dedicated card (whose 3DMark score was lower than the integrated graphics!) in there which would.

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