The Retina display is a brand name and a specific trademark used by Apple to market in-plane switching or IPS LCD and organic light-emitting diode or OLED or AMOLED display panels with high resolution and high pixel density. These panels are featured in several Apple products. These include newer generations of the entire MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines, newer generations of the iPhone, the entire iPad line, the Apple Watch, newer generations of the iMac, and the Studio Display and Pro Display XDR monitors.
It is important to note that the Retina display is not an actual display technology. It is specifically a marketing term used to deliver a marketing message or selling point that centers on panels having a screen resolution and pixel density that are high enough to make individual pixels indiscernible from a normal viewing angle. Apple has introduced further two variants under the Retina brand. These are the Super Retina which is based on AMOLED display technology and the Liquid Retina which is based on IPS LCD technology.
Nevertheless, despite being a convenient marketing term and the absence of actual and detailed technical specifications and standards, the Retina is more than a marketing hype. Apple products that are equipped with these display panels offer numerous advantages. The beneficial characteristics of these panels add to the value proposition or unique selling points of these products. It is still important to note that there are some notable drawbacks. The discussion below lists and describes the pros and cons of Retina Display.
Pros: Advantages of Retina Display
1. Premium User Experience Than Inferior Display Panels
One of the main advantages of Retina display panels centers on providing a better visual experience for their users. The main marketing message of the brand centers on delivering crisp and detailed images with smooth edges and fine prints through high resolution and dense pixels. Note that panels with low resolutions and low pixel densities reproduce less vibrant colors and less sharp images due to noticeable individual pixels.
Specific Apple products equipped with a Retina display panel are more suited for consuming content such as videos, images and graphics, websites and web articles, eBooks, and video games. These devices are also better suited for creative applications or content creation applications such as photo editing, graphics design, digital artwork, and video editing because of their capacity to display images with clearer and finer details.
2. More Information From Higher Resolution and Pixel Density
It is also worth mentioning that panels with lower resolution can either limit the viewability of the user interface and affect the overall user experience or display hard-to-view images. Panels with higher resolution can display more information or content without diminishing the quality of the entire graphical user interface or the quality of specific image elements. This translates to better image scaling and improved multi-tasking applications.
Smaller devices with Retina display such as the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and the iPad Mini benefit from pixel-packed and high-resolution configurations. Both the iPhone and the iPad Mini are now suited for taking and viewing high-resolution images or watching high-resolution videos. The Apple Watch can pack more graphical elements and information in its entire graphical user interface despite having a small screen real estate.
3. Notable Advantages of Either IPS LCD or OLED Panels
Another advantage of a Retina display is that it inherits the inherent advantages of either an IPS LCD panel or an OLED or AMOLED display panel. Remember that this nomenclature is a marketing term used for capturing and communicating the high-resolution and pixel-dense characteristics of the display panels used in Apple products. The different usage of this term also highlights the advantages of the underlying display technology.
A Liquid Retina panel is based on IPS LCD. Some of the advantages of IPS LCD technology include a wider viewing angle than TN LCD, brighter display output, and intense white colors, among others. A Super Retina panel is based on OLED and its notable advantages include a higher contrast ratio from deeper and natural blacks, wider viewing angle or viewing cone than LCD technologies, and low power consumption or power efficiency.
4. Lesser Eyestrain Due to Sharper Image Reproduction
Take note that people who spend too much time in front of a computer, tablet, or phone can suffer from strained vision as characterized by pain in or around their eyes, headaches, and blurred or double vision. This is especially true when it comes to using low-resolution and less pixel-dense panels. Another notable advantage of Retina display is that it aims to address this issue by providing a better overall visual experience.
Remember that the marketing proposition of this brand centers on delivering crisp and detailed images with smooth edges and fine prints. The graphical user interface and all graphical images of the devices can be viewed from a normal and comfortable distance because the pixels are not noticeable and images look clear. This makes users less prone to straining their vision because they are not forced to move their eyes closer to the panels.
Cons: The Disadvantages of Retina Display
1. Products Equipped With 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 a TN LCD. Take note that even similar IPS LCD and OLED panels are more inexpensive to produce than counterparts with higher resolution and higher pixel density. It is important to underscore the fact that the Retina branding also communicated high-end or premium-level display panels.
Nonetheless, based on the aforementioned information, one of the reasons Apple products such as the iPhone devices or the MacBook laptops are more expensive than alternatives from other manufacturers is the high cost of manufacturing high-grade IPS LCD and OLED display panels. Take note that the company sources these components from third parties. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are two of the main suppliers of Apple.
2. Disadvantages of Either IPS LCD or OLED Panels
It is also worth reiterating the fact that a particular Retina display panel has advantages and disadvantages that are dependent on the underlying display technology. This means that a Super Retina panel inherits the intrinsic drawbacks or disadvantages of OLED display technology while a Liquid Retina panel inherits the issues or problems that are inherent to LCD technologies and the more specific in-plane switching LCD technology.
An IPS LCD has several specific disadvantages when compared to OLED. These include a higher power draw from the use of backlighting and less deep or natural blacks. The specific disadvantages of OLED when compared to IPS LCD include unnatural color reproduction due to oversaturation, shorter lifespan due to faster and uneven degradation grades of organic diodes, and higher susceptibility to damage due to exposure to water or moisture.
3. Not Universally Adaptable Across Different Use Cases
Some apps or content and websites are still not optimized to take advantage of panels with 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. This can be a problem for specific apps and websites that use image assets with smaller resolutions. The images would appear distorted and pixelated.
The aforementioned problems stem from the fact that the entire screen areas of Retina displays and other high-resolution and pixel-dense display panels have more information to render than the similar screen areas of inferior panels with low resolution and less pixel density. The inferior panels compensate by overblowing unoptimized or low-resolution images or content. This can affect the visual experience and overall user experience.