Super Retina vs Liquid Retina: The Difference

Super Retina vs Liquid Retina: The Difference

American multinational technology company Apple has introduced two new types of Retina displays. These are the Super Retina display which was first featured on the iPhone X in 2017 and the Liquid Retina which was first featured on the iPhone XR and the iPad Pro in 2018.

What is the Difference Between Super Retina and Liquid Retina Displays?

It is important to highlight the fact that the Super Retina and Liquid Retina display from Apple are part of the overall family of Retina displays marketed by the company. These two are simply marketing terminologies used as part of the marketing strategy of Apple.

Furthermore, to understand the difference between the two, take note that the former is a specific OLED technology based on AMOLED while the latter is an IPS LCD technology. A Super Retina is an OLED panel while a Liquid Retina is simply an IPS LCD panel.

A deeper understanding of the two requires understanding the difference between OLED and IPS LCD technologies. These two mainstream display technologies have different characteristics and features or advantages and disadvantages. Take note of the following:

1. Cost and Price

It is important to note that Super Retina has been used on more expensive or top-tier Apple devices starting from the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The Liquid Retina has been used in the less expensive iPhone XR. Apple has now equipped all newer iPhones with the former.

Take note that OLED display is a premium type of display that has been used in mid-tier to high-tier smartphone and tablet devices. The use of OLED panels in devices such as premium iPhone models is part of marketing them as premium Apple products.

Manufacturing OLED displays is costlier than IPS LCD. Super Retina is more expensive than Liquid Retina. This is another reason why less expensive products such as the iPhone XR have used Liquid Retina to drive down their cost and end-user prices.

However, in several products, Apple has been using Liquid Retina or IPS LCD panels even in several of its top-of-the-line products. MacBook devices and the iMac are equipped with these panels. The same is true for the entry-level iPad and the higher-range iPad Pro.

2. Display Quality

Another difference between Super Retina and Liquid Retina is the overall display quality. Super Retina has several notable characteristics and specific advantages that make it superior to Liquid Retina or other IPS LCD panels. This comes from the fact that it is an OLED display.

The advantages of Super Retina over Liquid Retina include power efficiency due to the absence of backlighting, thinner profile, better contrast ratio due to deeper and more natural blacks, wider viewing angle, and faster native pixel response time and refresh rate.

It is still important to note that the Liquid Retina has specific advantages over Super Retina that stem from the inherent advantages of IPS LCD and the disadvantages of OLED. These include more accurate color reproduction better outdoor visibility, and longer lifespan.

Several Liquid Retina panels used in high-tier Apple products such as the iPad Pro are based on improved IPS LCD. These specific panels have qualities that can compete with OLED due to the inclusion of Mini-LED backlighting and the removal of air gaps between screen layers.

3. Lifespan or Longevity

It is critical to discuss and compare the lifespan of Super Retina and Liquid Retina. LCD panels based on in-plane switching have a longer lifespan than OLED or AMOLED panels. This means that Liquid Retina is a better future-proofing than Super Retina.

To be specific, because it is an OLED panel, Super Retina has two notable disadvantages. These are faster blue-pixel degradation, uneven overall degradation, and susceptibility to damage due to water or moisture. These cons are not as grave as in the case of Liquid Retina.

OLED panels are more prone to screen burn-ins that can become noticeable after at least two and worsen with time. This problem comes from the fact that the blue-emitting organic diodes fade or degrade faster than red-emitting diodes and green-emitting diodes.

A Super Retina panel would develop obvious signs of degradation over time. These are manifested through reduced brightness, apparent retention of certain image elements, color shifts, and dead pixels. A Liquid Retina panel is not as susceptible to these problems.

4. Form Factor

Another point of comparison between Super Retina and Liquid Retina is the form factor. The former has more innovative applications. OLED is thinner and more flexible than IPS LCD. This allows equipped Apple products to be thinner and better screen-to-body ratio.

The newer generations of iPhone devices and the different models under the Apple Watch line also have a slim physical profile because their Super Retina panels have allowed Apple to decrease their physical dimensions without compromising screen resolution.

Further developments in OLED technology can improve the form factors of future Apple products. Examples include the utilization of plastic OLED panels and flexible OLED panels that can lead to rollable, bendable, and foldable Super Retina panels.

The aforementioned form factors cannot be applied to Liquid Retina. IPS LCD is rigid and thicker by default. A particular IPS LCD panel is composed of several layers. These include the backlighting, the crystalline layer, and polarizing layers, among others.

What is the Future of Super Retina and Liquid Retina Display?

The most recent models of the iPhone starting from the high-tier iPhone 11 and the entire iPhone 15 line are now equipped with Super Retina panels. This marks an increased inclination toward OLED. It is still worth mentioning that the iPad Line and the MacBook line still feature Liquid Retina display panels due to the inherent advantages of IPS LCD.

Take note that Apple has been using advanced LCD technologies. This is evident from the utilization of IPS LCD panels with a Mini-LED backlighting scheme. Reports revealed that the company has assembled a team of engineers to develop Mini-LED panels. These panels are now used in the newer generation of the iPad Pro and MacBook devices.

A pivot toward Mini-LED-backlit IPS LCD signals the intention of Apple to utilize technologies that would rival the quality of OLED to address its drawbacks. This also represents an attempt to keep down manufacturing costs as low as possible. It is also possible that Apple will drop using IPS LCD panels in favor of OLED display technology in the future.