Apple: The Retina Display is Confusing

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While I don’t have a MacBook Pro with Retina display – I’ve thought of getting one, but the 4-week wait is preventing me from deciding in any hurry – I’ve been reading a lot about it. Over at Mac OS X Hints, where I am the editor, there have already been two hints about this display, and some of the comments suggest that the Retina display is not that simple to grasp.

Apple has published a FAQ document about the Retina display. From this document, it’s clear that there are a number of issues that are, well, not really that simple to grasp. For example, the resolution of the display is no longer measured in pixels, but is rather a continuum from “Larger Text” to “More Space.”

Other issues addressed in the FAQ include the fact that some applications may be set to open in “Low Resolution,” because they have not been updated to take advantage of the Retina display. And there may be issues with games that use the entire screen and choosing the correct resolution.

This is clearly a transitional period, as users adapt to this new display, but especially as developers adapt their software to take advantage of it. I think this is an exciting time, and it’s clear that Retina displays will become common in the years to come.

In any case, if you already have one of these new MacBook Pros, you might want to have a look at this document. And if you do have one, what do you think about it? Feel free to post your impressions in the comments.

Update: Well, I got a MacBook Pro with Retina display this morning. I understand a bit better the point of the different scaling options, but there’s still a bit of confusion. Much to my surprise, interface elements (for example, the System Preferences window) are larger on the MacBook Pro than on my MacBook Air. This isn’t because of the difference in screen size, but rather the relative resolution. The “Best for Retina Display” setting offers a lower relative resolution, which, to my ageing eyes, is a very good thing. The second setting toward More Space is roughly the same resolution (size of items, not of the entire screen) than on my MacBook Air. I think it is laudable to increase the standard size of interface elements; they had been getting a bit small in recent years.

1 reply
  1. Wayne says:

    The new panel makes much more sense: do you want more stuff onscreen or less? One thing you don’t see in the screen shot is that as you mouse over each setting, the resolution equivalent (“1920×1200 equivalent”) shows up so if you know what that means you are still informed.

    Actually, the old way of thinking is more complex. How does the difference between 1920×1080 and 1920×1200 or 1440×900 affect you? If it’s the overall display pixels, it affects sharpness, but given the pixels in your display it affects how much stuff you see onscreen. And how does a 1920×1200 screen display 1440×900 pixels?

    Apple’s led the way on this one, from the retina display to the idea that the effect of display resolution is how much you see.


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