Q&A – What is a Retina display?

ipadQ. What is a ‘Retina’ display and what makes it so important?

A. The term ‘Retina display’ first came from Apple when it launched the third-generation iPad and its 2048×1536-pixel resolution panel.

Since then, the term has been used to describe many high-resolution panels appearing in tablets from makers around the world.

However, it’s not the high-resolution itself that makes a display panel ‘Retina’ but what’s referred as the panel’s pixel density or how many pixels are packed in per inch of screen area. The unit of measurement is pixels per inch or ‘ppi’ for short. The term ‘retina’ was coined to explain that the detail in the panel was so fine that it couldn’t be ‘resolved’ or the individual pixels seen by the human eye.

At the time of the Apple iPhone 4S launch, Steve Jobs said that the human eye could resolve detail up to around 300ppi. The iPhone 4, 4S and 5 each have a screen pixel density of 326PPI. The third-and following generations of the iPad have a pixel density of 264ppi, which has since been match by many iPad-sized tablets with matching screen size and resolution coming out of China.

Samsung’s recently announced ATIV Q ultrabook has a 13.3-inch LCD panel with 3200×1800-pixel resolution, which works out to a pixel density of 276ppi or slightly better than Apple’s iPad and similar tablets.


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