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How to run a WQHD monitor at 2,560 x 1,440 via HDMI on an Intel HD3000, HD4000

The rise of affordable WQHD monitors like the Asus PB278Q or Samsung Series 9 S27B970 has made it increasingly enticing to try and run not one but two of those displays on a laptop. This is exactly what we have tried to do for ages but without any luck until now.

I work on a Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U, possibly one of the best Ultrabooks ever launched. It is affordable (was available for under £500), weighs just over 1Kg, is 16mm thick but somehow still manages to pack VGA, HDMI, two USB 2.0 AND a USB 3.0 ports, a card reader and an RJ45 connector.

We connected our first WQHD display, a Digimate model, through the laptop’s VGA port, without any additional drivers/hack. Some purist might be horrified by the prospect of running a display with a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution via an analogue connector but at least it works. Connecting the second monitor is where things become tricky.

The Z830 offers USB 3.0 and HDMI, both of which should, in theory be capable of driving a WQHD display. But if you connect your panel straight to the Z830, which runs on a Sandy Bridge CPU (HD3000 GPU) via HDMI, the maximum resolution reached will be 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, which on a 27in panel, is rather ugly.

So below are the four steps we took to get the WQHD monitor to run on a HDMI port (we’re assuming that your monitor does have a HDMI port to start with).

(a) Upgrade your Intel video driver to the latest version (v9.17.10.2875) and open the Intel Graphics and Media control panel.

(b) Make sure you’re running in the “Advanced Mode”. Click on the “display” tab followed by “custom resolutions”, a warning sign will pop up. Just click yes to continue.

(c) You will be presented with another window that prompts you to enter “width”, “height” and “refresh rate” values. Change the monitor in the pull down menu and fill the empty fields with the following numbers 2560, 1440 and 40. That translates into a data transfer rate of 4.72Gbps; a higher refresh rate (i.e. a number bigger than 40) will bring up a message informing you that you’ve exceeded the maximum bandwidth. So the key is to run the monitor at a low refresh rate, which shouldn’t be an issue if you don’t plan to do any gaming and stick to office tasks. Press on apply and then ok to validate your choice.

(d) After that, restart your computer, bring up the “screen resolution” menu, select the appropriate menu and change the resolution to the maximum permissible. Since you’ve added a new value via the Intel GM control panel, it should, in theory, appear in the “resolution” sliding menu. Just press apply followed by OK and your screen will flicker for a few seconds before hopefully moving to the higher resolution.

And voilà! Job done. Two monitors running at 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. Note that the trick should also work on an Intel HD4000 and, in theory, with an Intel HD2500 GPU as well.

Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.