Apple has been pushing out a new display technology.  First in the iPhone 4, then the current iPad and now in the new MacBook Pro.  Is Apple’s new Macbook Pro with Retina all its set out to be?

Retina is billed as a display where the human eye cannot differentiate between the pixels on the screen.  Of course this all depends on how you are looking at a screen.  1080p HDTVs are probably very close to Retina due to the distance one is usually from these screens.   The iPhone 4 introduced the Retina trademark with a staggering 326 pixels per inch (PPI).  The Retina iPad was only 264 PPI and now the Macbook Pro with Retina is a 220 PPI.  Apple’s reasoning is of course the distance you use the devices, and I’ll agree with a smartphone being the most up close and personal, but can find a laptop being used just as close as a tablet.

But trademark issues aside, does this technology actually matter.  Will it improve your life?  Probably the biggest improvement is text and that is proven to help with eye fatigue.  The problem is that everything beyond text has to be redone for the increased pixels or suffer worse quality, at least in the current release of the technology.

All apps have to be rewritten with sharper images or suffer looking worse.  Some apps make sense, like development apps or image editing at high megapixels.  Editing a 720p or 1080p movie will have no real improvement with Retina.

The iPhone and iPad with their zooming browsers probably have close to zero negative effect on the pixel rendering of websites which are still geared for the most part to traditional displays.   You see when I post a picture on a website, without fancy javascript, I choose the direct size based on pixels.  Retina screws that up, and with a proprietary trademark and no standards it is up to websites and app developers to compensate.  This really shows on the Macbook Pro with Retina.  Even well-known websites have images this are less clear and have artifacts.  Sure websites might update, but without a proper standard its hit or miss if the high resolution is Retina or just a large display for more screen real estate.

Microsoft has their own technology, it’s been out for years, called ClearType.  It ignores what causes issues for Retina and focuses on fonts.  It does subpixel rendering before sending the pixels to the display so that fonts appear as if they were on a Retina display.  It’s very obvious if you look at text on Windows versus Macs without Retina displays.  This is why their new Surface tablets don’t have Retina but instead have a range of PPI of about 148 for the low end model to a high of 208.

So unless you plan to deal with alot of plain text or do photo editing, a Retina Mac just doesn’t make sense right now.  Let the technology mature, because right now you are basically paying for an HD display with barely any HD content.

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