To mac or not to mac


Comparing different OS for my use cases.

Another round of hardware & OS comparison is required. Currently I am on a Lenovo t14 gen 1 with an AMD Ryzen 7. All quite ok, but there are the following issues:

Font scaling. All I want is really sharp font rendering in all apps, especially PyCharm. Sounds easy? I have (different) external hidpi screens on my primary and second work location. While being 4k Monitors, they have dpi below 200. So I need fractional scaling.  This becomes a problem, because:

  1. Linux with wayland (and fractional scaling) gives blurry fonts on PyCharm (and seemingly all Java applicatons. See this article)
  2. Linux with xorg and fractional scaling has really poor youtube performance, making it unusable.
  3. Linux with xorg w/o fractional scaling means using the gnome tweak tool, and adjust the font scaling to a value between 1.45 and 1.7 (depending on my external monitor). The setting is however for all screens - so the internal display is either too large or too small compared to the main screen. This is what I am currently using.

There is quite severe battery drain, especially during sleep. I can't have the laptop suspended for more than about 1.5 days

Battery only lasts for about 4 hours on a good day

The fan runs relatively often

Even though peripherals work, it is clumsy to configure them, and sometimes it is not possible to configure them to a level that is good enough (e.g. the trackball acceleration). I also have to restart the system to get my wireless headphones to work.


All this leads to the question of alternatives.

Windows - while wsl2 provides linux-in-a-box, it is not accessible for gui applications in windows 10. My system does not upgrade to windows 11 (some bug?), so I will not know for now if the announced gui capabilities would work. Also it is ugly (win10), but that can't be a showstopper.

Mac - this is what I am testing now. Is it working unix on the desktop? It looks nice, but font rendering is still an issue. I don't like the fat antialiased rendering of MacOS, but this could be turned of using

defaults -currentHost write -g AppleFontSmoothing -int 0

In libreoffice I had to turn antialiasing off in settings -> libreoffice -> view.

Now, PyCharm still has somewhat blurry fonts. According to an issue in the tracker this is going to fixed any time soon. PyCharm also doesn't seem to remember the antialias setting.

This gives me the following table:

As one can see, there is no perfect option. So far I have the feeling though that the font rendering is somewhat easier to fix on the mac, and besides that it seems to be the better software/hardware combination (and wow, I have yet to hear the fan on the mac book pro m1)

Update: it's the gamma

I played around even more, and found out after reading a bit more that Macs by default use a different gamma setting compared to linux (or windows). A lower / brighter one, actually. Changing this helped me see the fonts on my screen much better. So now I have a setting that works at least good enough to give it another go.

From my notes on this:

Color Profiles (press "Option" while adding color profile)
 - internal: gamma 2.3, color temperature 6400k (maybe 6000k matches better),
   TrueTone turned off.
 - external: gamma 2.3, color temperature 6500k

Overall font sharpness
 - defaults write -g CGFontRenderingFontSmoothingDisabled -bool NO
 - defaults -currentHost write -g AppleFontSmoothing -int 0

 - Appearance Helvetica 13
 - No Antialiasing for IDE and Editor
 - Fira Code Retina 14 or JetBrains Mono 14

Update 2:

Pycharm got upgraded, the font rendering got a bit better. Still, no matter what I do, I still don't like the font rendering on the external sub-retrina Monitor. Hence: I am not getting a macbook - it was worth the try, though.