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Eye of the Beholder

May 15, 2012 - Dave Hecei

There are plenty of rumors out there of new iMacs and MacBooks coming soon. Much of the buzz about these rumors is that quite a few of them are reporting the use of Apple’s Retina displays in both products. While this type of high-resolution display is ideal for handheld devices (iPad and iPhone), using a super high DPI type screen could be considered overkill on a 15-inch laptop and even more so on a 27-inch desktop.

Apple’s definition of Retina is a screen resolution that is so fine that at the proper viewing distance you no longer see the ‘dots’. While a Retina screen would be nice on the 11 or even 13-inch MacBook Air laptops, having that resolution on a 15 or 17-inch screen might not fit Apple’s own definition. I wouldn’t say that having a 2880 by 1800 pixel display is a bad thing, but when you start doubling a true HD display, that’s a lot of pixels to push around.

The new iPad has a beautiful Retina display. It doubles the original screen to 2048 by 1536. On a 10-inch device, this increase in screen resolution is very noticeable. Viewing photos on old and new iPads don’t show a huge change, but when reading text it’s night and day.

The current iMacs have a resolution of either 1920 by 1080 (True HD) on the 21-inch model or 2560 by 1440 on the 27-inch. Doubling these resolutions would be a bit ridiculous and could start to tax the CPU and GPU in that system. Doubling would make 3840 by 2160 and 5120 by 2880. I mean, come on, do we really need a display that has 5120 dots across?

For the moment, I plan on sitting back and watching things unfold. Apple seems to be very serious about Retina displays and I don’t doubt that they will be appearing in various MacBook models soon. Whether or not they would actually make it to an iMac is a stretch, but then this is Apple we are talking about. They might even pull an actual HDTV out of their sleeve someday.


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