The Retina display is a brand name and a trademark used by Apple for in-plane switching or IPS LCD and organic light-emitting diode or OLED display panels with high resolution and high pixel density. These display panels are featured in several Apple products to include the 12-inch MacBook, the MacBook Pro with Retina, the iMac, the newer generations and models of the iPad, the iPad Pro, the Apple Watch, and the newer generations and models of the iPhone.
It is important to note that the Retina display is not an actual display technology. Rather, it is a mere marketing terminology used by Apple to convey a particular marketing message: A display panel having a resolution and pixel density high enough to make individual pixels invisible from a normal viewing distance, thus resulting in the reproduction of sharp graphical images with smooth curves.
Note that Apple has introduced further variants of its Retina display: the Super Retina display that is essentially an AMOLED display, and the Liquid Retina display that is essentially an improved IPS LCD.
Despite the absence of an actual technical standard and detailed specifications, the Retina display is not mere marketing hype. Products equipped with this display offer numerous advantages that non-Retina products. Of course, there are some compromises and drawbacks. The subsequent discussion lists down the pros and cons of the Retina display.
Pros: The advantages of Retina display
1. Premium user experience than inferior display panels
One of the advantages of Retina display centers on providing a better visual experience, particularly by displaying crisp and detailed images with smooth edges and fine print. Panels with low resolution and low pixel density reproduce murky images due to noticeable individual pixels.
Devices equipped with a Retina display are more suited for consuming contents such as videos, images and graphics, websites and web articles, eBooks, and games. These devices are also better suited for creative pursuits such as graphic design and photo editing due to their capacity to reproduce images with finer details.
2. More display information due to higher resolution and pixel density
Compared to display panels with lower resolution, a Retina display has the capacity to display more information or content without diminishing image quality to its higher resolution and pixel density. This means running apps or windows side-by-side and better image scalability.
For smaller panels featuring the Retina display, particularly an iPhone or an iPad Mini, more display information means better web browsing experience, eBook reading, and video content consumption.
3. All of the advantages of an IPS LCD or OLED display technology
Depending on the particular display technology, a Retina display also reflects the advantages of an IPS LCD or an OLED display. Remember that “Retina” is a mere marketing term for Apple-branded IPS LCD and OLED display panels.
Some of the notable advantages of an IPS LCD include wider viewing angle than twisted nematic or TN LCD, better color reproduction, and intense white colors, among others. Meanwhile, some of the advantages of an OLED display are deeper blacks, better viewing angle than IPS LCD, high contrast, and low power consumption, among others.
4. Lesser eyestrain due to sharper image reproduction
Another benefit of Retina display is reduced eyestrain. Note that people who spend too much time in front of a computer, tablet, or phone can suffer from eyestrain that is characterized by pain in or around the eye, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision, and/or double vision. Display panels with higher resolution and pixel density lessen eyestrain by preventing users from drawing their eyes near their devices as they exert an effort to focus on a particular display area.
Remember that the marketing proposition of the Retina display is to provide an exceptional viewing experience by making individual pixels invisible and thereby, images sharper and smoother from a normal viewing distance.
Cons: The disadvantages of Retina display
1. Products featuring the Retina display are expensive
One of the notable drawbacks or disadvantages of Retina display is cost. An IPS LCD panel or an OLED display panel is more expensive to manufacture than TN LCD. Furthermore, similar IPS LCD or OLED display panels with lower resolution and pixel density are more inexpensive than those with higher resolution and pixel density. Remember that a Retina display is a high-quality IPS LCD or OLED display panel.
Nonetheless, one of the reasons why Apple products equipped with the Retina display are more expensive than possible substitutes is due to the high production cost attached to the display panel. For example, the 12-inch MacBook is more expensive than the MacBook Air despite close-to-similar hardware specifications.
2. All the disadvantages of an IPS LCD or OLED display technology
Again, depending on the particular display technology, a Retina display also reflects the drawbacks and limitations of an IPS LCD or an OLED display panel.
One disadvantage of an IPS LCD compared to a TND LCD or OLED display is higher power consumption resulting in faster battery discharge. Furthermore, when compared to an OLED display, an IPS LCD has a limited viewing angle and less deep blacks. On the other hand, some of the disadvantages of OLED display compared to an IPS display are highly saturated color reproduction, shorter lifespan, and susceptibility to water damage.
3. Lack of universal adaptability
Some apps or contents and websites are not fully optimized to take advantage of high resolution and high pixel density. This is another limitation and disadvantage of Retina display. Take note that this display panel reproduces images with twice to thrice the number of pixels.
Nonetheless, when viewing contents that are not optimized to take advantage of high resolution and high pixel density, particularly from a device equipped with a Retina display, images can appear pixelated and slight distorted. This is especially true for images that are rendered with lower resolution.