There was a discussion in summer that Ubuntu does not support retina displays - everything on the screen is too small. Even adjusting DPI does not help, since such an adjusting scales only fonts, bit not images.

Is Ubuntu 12.10 already optimized for retina displays. if not is it planned for Ubuntu 13.04?

  • Not sure about 12.10, but old gnome-2 (ubuntu 10.10,11.04) definitely support retina display because of its special adjustable dpi feature, which was removed in gnome-3. – Khurshid Alam Mar 22 '13 at 16:56

Agreed, as of 1st Jan 2013 (might be outdated by the time you read this answer, additional info suggestions welcome via comments), there are several good guides (1, 2) addressing a "yay-i-got-it-working" install, but you'll end up with a frankly unusable system where everything is tiny.

So I don't have any answer, but I'm compiling a few facts for anyone with the same question:

  • Window Manager / Desktop Environment:
    • Reports (1, 2) indicate that GNOME Shell (and KDE) currently manage High-DPI better than Unity 12.10. You'll suffer from tiny icons in applications, but Shell itself will correctly scale.
    • Discussions happened on summer 2012 in this gnome-devel-list thread, but to sum up: nothing happens because developers have no test hardware; if you want progress done, buy them a MBP Retina.
    • A similar thread was brought up on the unity-design mailing list, but did not go much further.
  • GTK: Bugzilla has Bug 546711, which hasn't seen lots of activity recently. Summary: a patch was proposed years ago but wasn't satisfying. Properly fixing the bug requires more work, probably down to the X level.

Ubuntu 14.04 is quite well adaptable,

Only some java programs don't scale up, but that will come, I guess


Gnome Shell scales pretty good on both low and high resolution screens. Furthermore you can do some fine adjustment changing the fontscale in tweak tool - I set mine to 0,9 on a 1280x800 Thinkpad-Screen - when I was testing Ubuntu 12.04 with Gnome Shell on a MBP about a year ago 1,1 or 1,2 worked fine and looked pretty good.

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