Apple's Retina display is the wave of the future

January 17, 2013 

If you follow Apple products, then you have probably heard the term "Retina display." So what is it?

Apple uses the term to define its ultra-high resolution displays. An iPad with Retina display has 3.1 million pixels, which is 1 million more pixels than your big screen HDTV. That is 1 million more pixels in a 9.7-inch screen. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has over 5 million pixels.

A Retina display doubles the number of pixels in the display over a standard display. Historically, adding that many pixels would cause everything on the display to look smaller. On an iPhone or iPad, this would make text impossible to read without zooming in or relying on the use of a magnifying glass. With the Retina display, Apple has doubled the pixels but engineered the display to show images and text at regular size, resulting in a unrivaled clarity. With a pixel density this high, your eye cannot distinguish individual pixels. Whether you are viewing photos or reading text, the display is razor sharp.

When looking closely at a standard display, you will see the individual pixel or dots that make up the display. On a Retina display, you cannot identify single pixels at a normal viewing distance.

To test Apple's claim, I loaded the same image and text on an iPad 2 and an iPad with Retina display. On the iPad 2 I could see individual pixels when holding the iPad about a foot from my face. On the iPad with Retina display, I could not see individual pixels from a foot away. I moved the iPad a little closer, until my eyes could not focus on the screen, and I still could not distinguish individual pixels.

Sometimes you don't know what you are missing until you see something better. That is the case for the Retina display. I thought my computer and iPad displays were great, until I saw a Retina display. My computer never felt so visibly outdated so fast as when I first loaded hi-res photos on the Retina display. It is impossible to explain the quality and clarity of the display without seeing. Trust me, it is amazing.

A noticeable product missing from the Retina display family is iPad mini. When testing the iPad mini last fall, I was surprised how much I liked it. I always felt that anything smaller than my iPad would be too small to be useful, but the iPad mini proved me wrong. But it was missing one thing: a Retina display.

I know many people who love their iPad mini and think the screen is great, and it is a great screen -- just not a Retina display. Of course I have been spoiled by my Retina displays. But as someone who spends countless hours in front of a screen, I can't go back.

The wave of the future is Retina display. I expect to see even more Apple products incorporate a Retina display over the next few years. And for someone spoiled by the Retina display, I can't wait for the future.

So, how good is a Retina display? Sometimes you just have to see it to believe it.

Spencer Blunden, Apple specialist with Computer Advantage, can be reached at 941-351-2415 or

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