Xrandr framebuffer and per-display scaling

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS came out recently with Gnome desktop as default. Unfortunately even in 2018, it won’t remember the external monitor positioning after reboot and has no support in display settings to set per-display scaling. Year of the Linux desktop, anyone?

Xrandr is a powerful Linux tool to manipulate displays. Unfortunately, the man page is very sparse on information with badly explained flags and various Linux guides are no better.

This example will create a triple monitor setup with HiDPI laptop display at the bottom of the array.

Xrandr command:


Gnome scaling is set to 200% so our HiDPI native display looks normal. Unfortunately this also means non-HiDPI displays have this scaling applied which is not what we want.

Framebuffer is the full outer rectangle which must be able to contain our display setup as a whole.

Since external displays are scaled 2×2 (zoom out), they take twice the size of their actual resolution in our framebuffer. Meaning their sizes in fb are actually 3840×2400.

Y of the framebuffer is therefore 2400+1800=4200 (HiDPI display is scaled 1×1 so it takes the same amount of space in the framebuffer as it’s resolution).

X of the framebuffer is 3*3840=11520.

–fbmm specifies the full framebuffer size

–pos specifies the position of the display in the buffer. 0x0 position starts on top-left corner.

–mode sets the actual display resolution

–output specifies the display output (run xrandr to list all available)

–scale specifies “zooming” in (<1) or out (>1)


The end result has some invisible area on the bottom-left and bottom-right corners so it is not ideal. I have yet to figure out if it is possible to specify fencing around that area.

The HiDPI display is also not perfectly aligned with the top display but that could be corrected with fractional scaling. It didn’t really bother me to fiddle with that.

Finally, you should run this command with a startup script so you get the correct monitor positioning and scaling after login.

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