iPad 2.0 Gets Retina Display?

Ryan Block at gdgt:

Since the pixel density of the iPad wasn’t as great as the original iPhone’s, if you were to keep the screen size the same and simply double the iPad’s resolution (the same way Apple simply doubled the iPhone’s resolution) it actually wouldn’t get you to Apple’s magic retina number. The iPad at 2x (well, really 4x) would be 2048 x 1536, or 263 PPI.

However, using standard resolution increments, one can still achieve an almost identical PPI to the iPhone 4 on the iPad at a stunning 2560 x 1920 pixels, or the same 330 PPI as in the iPhone 4.

I think we need to figure what Apple means by Retina Display? I try to answer that question in Apple’s Retina Display: What is it really? I argued that display quality has nothing to do with the definition and the only requirement is a near 300PPI display resolution. I should also note that the Retina Display is currently only used in two mobile products with a 3.5-inch size: iPhone 4 and iPod touch. If you remember what Steve Jobs said way back when he introduced the iPhone 4 he mentioned both the incredibly high resolution of 300PPI but also the distance from your eyes. At around 12 inches our eyes cannot distinguish the individual pixels from a display with around 300PPI. So that’s the key. Here is the definition:

A Retina Display isn’t a hardware specification at all! It is simply a display that has a high-enough resolution when used at the typical “usage distance” that your eyes cannot distinguish individual pixels.

So there you have it. That’s what a Retina Display is. So, will the iPad 2.0 have a Retina Display? Absolutely.

Apple doubled the number of pixels vertically and horizontally on the iPhone 4 compared to previous generation iPhones: 480×320 → 960×640. And Apple will do precisely that with the iPad 2.0: 1024×768 → 2048×1536. The resulting resolution on the iPad 2.0 is 263PPI. That’s far from 300PPI, but you have to remember the “usage distance.”

In general I think we can agree the average distance between our eyes and an iPad is farther compared to an iPhone. Our eyes have a difficult time distinguishing detail the farther out they are. That 2048×1536 263PPI is a Retina Display because at the normal usage distance we won’t be able to distinguish individual pixels.

There is another reason why Apple will do this: developers. Simply doubling the pixels vertically and horizontally will make it supremely easy to update existing iPad apps to take advantage of iPad 2.0’s Retina Display.


I hope I’m wrong, but given what’s out there today, I think the technological leap required to make a 9.7-inch 2560 x 1920 display possible isn’t right around the corner.

Not to be mean, but I’m not sure Block knows what is out there today: he’s wrong. There isn’t a technical leap; it is merely an incremental advancement, an important and critical one, of course. I’ve spoken to several individuals who work within the display industry and 2048×1536 is quite possible, right now, on a 9.7-inch LCD. I’m not sure about a 9.7-inch 2560×1920 display because as far as I know no one is developing that pixel format.

Jason O’Grady at The Apple Core asks:

Even if Apple did include a sick 300DPI panel in the next iPad, what kind of GPU would be required to drive it? How would 3D applications like Rage HD and Epic Citadel perform? What would the penalty be on battery life?

Thanks to iFixit we know there is a lot of room inside the current iPad. If Apple shrinks the overall size of the components, integrates a powerful GPU and adds more battery I think it could work.

In the end it isn’t about this pixel format or that pixel format but the total experience of an iPad user. What is certain is that Apple will figure out a way to bring the visual experience of the iPhone 4 to the next iPad. How Apple gets there I’m not too concerned about.