macOS Big Sur: Poor Screen Quality When Connecting to Old Monitor via HDMI

PROBLEM

You have a shiny Mac laptop running macOS Big Sur. This laptop is connected to an old external monitor via HDMI. The screen quality looks pixelated and fuzzy.

Running font smoothing (as below) doesn’t fix the problem:

defaults -currentHost write -g AppleFontSmoothing -int 3

You are poor enough to buy a new 4K monitor.

SOLUTION

The usage of HDMI seems to fool macOS Big Sur, thinking your old monitor is a glorious new TV. This causes macOS to use YPbPr instead of RGB mode.

The fix is to perform Extended Display Identification Data (EDID) override to force macOS to use RGB mode.

Some instructions on the web are inaccurate. There’s no need to reboot into Recovery Mode to disable System Integrity Protection (SIP) via csrutil first.

Instead, run the following command:

sudo mkdir -p /Library/Displays/Contents/Resources/Overrides
cd /Library/Displays/Contents/Resources/Overrides
sudo curl -O https://gist.githubusercontent.com/ejdyksen/8302862/raw/patch-edid.rb
sudo ruby patch-edid.rb

Reboot the laptop.

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