The new Dell Inspiron 17R that was purchased recently is a good office computer with a couple of notable “gotchas”. The audio “buzz” on the headphones due to internal electrical noise is a bit of nuisance. However, as a programmer and 15-hours-a-day computer junkie, the screen resolution problems with the Intel HD graphics was even more annoying. As a gadget geek, I knew going into this that integrated graphics would never perform as well as discrete graphics cards when it comes to high end applications like Photoshop or when playing modern games such as Starcraft II. However, what I didn’t expect was the problems with various HD monitors that we would be connecting to this laptop.
After many hours of research both online and with the clueless technical support people at Dell (ok, I’ll give them a break, I don’t expect the $18k/year phone support employee to know much) I realized knew the problem was simply due to a driver compatibility issue. On older HDMI capable monitors the Intel HD Graphics driver had no problem recognizing them as a standard computer monitor, which conveniently gets recognized as an RGB device. This is an important point, because many monitors connected with HDMI report back that they are actually a television display.
That is notable since there IS actually a difference in how television displays and monitors are handled, even though they are nearly identical these days when talking about LCD or Plasma displays and how they function. The way television was broadcast and how those old CRT screens were made led to some creative innovations. One of those innovations was something called overscanning (or sometimes referred to as underscanning, which is a misnomer). The simple explanation is that the picture coming into the device would be painted beyond the edges of the screen to hide annoying flicker and other artifacts of the synchronization issues between the broadcast signal, the code/decode mechanisms, and the dispay device itself. The bulk of the picture showed up on the screen with a small 5% border being “trimmed off” all the way around the display. On most tv programs, who would notice?
As it turns out, modern devices still account for that overscan. In this particular case, the HP2509M monitor is being seen by the Intel HD Graphics built into the Inspiron 17R as a television. The Intel HD graphics card is then sending a signal to the HP monitor that is automatically overscanned by about 5%. As such I cannot see the start menu or anything else on the edges of the screen on the extended display. However, there is a fix for this.
NOTE: This will replace the Dell OEM driver. Dell will no longer support your video configuration and you may render your computer inoperable if you do this incorrectly. If you do not understand what is going on here then STOP NOW and call Dell support and beg them to update their custom driver to include Intel’s latest patches. Just because this worked on my Inpsiron 17R does not mean it will work on yours.
Replace The Dell OEM Driver
First – go to Intel and find the HD Graphics page. Go to the drivers & download page and snag the proper ZIP FILE driver kit for your video card. Make sure you get the right 32-bit or 64-bit version for the card you have. Do NOT get the exe version, as you have no control over the vendor check and it will abort your install.
Once you have the downloaded ZIP kit, extract the graphics folder to your desktop. You will use a driver file in that folder to update your graphics driver.
Right-click on your display, select “change resolution”, then go to advanced settings. Go to the adapter tab and click on properties.
Click on driver, then select update driver, browse the computer, have disk, and go find the kit*.inf file in your extracted graphics folder.
After you install the updated driver, restart your computer.
Eliminate Overscan Via Graphic Properties
Now that you have the new driver you can eliminate overscan by setting up a custom resolution. Start by right-clicking on the extended HDMI connected display. Select Graphic Properties.
Click on custom resolutions. Make sure the display has your HDMI connected display selected. Set the width and height to your NATIVE resolution for the monitor (1920 x 1080 for my 2509M). Set the refresh rate (60hz is typical). Set the color bit depth, normally you just want 32 Bit. Set the underscan percentage slider to 0. Set the Timing standard to CVT-RB (that is a newer one supported by most modern monitors). Click ADD. It will ask to overwrite the existing setting, choose YES.
It will then apply the new custom resolution. If you had set your scaling under general settings to something other than 100% you will want to put it back to 100%. You should NOT need to scale if your native resolution & overscan in custom settings is set properly.
Unfortunately I’ve not found a way to name these resolutions uniquely, which means when I go home and connect my Asus 1920×1080 display with 32-bit graphics at 60hz it will show a black border. My fix will be to set the Asus to 59hz thus giving me 2 different “custom settings” with different overscan settings (the Asus is recognized as a monitor and thus the default resolution was not overscanning).
Now I am enjoying the 25″ HP 2509M monitor in full 1920×1080 resolution with NO SCALING. Trust me, this is a HUGE difference when working with text. There is no more blurry text ANYWHERE on the screen. This is how these monitors is supposed to look. Don’t settle for less just because Dell doesn’t give you the tools you need to make this work. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll have newer drivers that let you set this up properly.