Retina display

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Retina display on iPhone 4
Part of a Retina display on an iPhone 4. The pixels are not visible at normal viewing distance, creating an impression of sharp print-like text.
Retina display on iPhone 3GS
Part of a non-Retina display on an iPhone 3GS. The pixels are visible at normal viewing distance.

Retina display is a branded series of IPS LCD and OLED displays by Apple Inc. that have a higher pixel density than traditional displays.[1] Apple has registered the term "Retina" as a trademark with regard to computers and mobile devices with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and Canadian Intellectual Property Office.[2][3] The applications were approved in 2012 and 2014 respectively. The Canadian application cited a 2010 application in Jamaica.

The Retina display debuted in 2010 with the iPhone 4 and the iPod Touch (4th Generation), and later the iPad (3rd generation) where each screen pixel of the iPhone 3GS, iPod touch (3rd generation), and the iPad 2 was replaced by four smaller pixels, and the user interface scaled up to fill in the extra pixels. Apple calls this mode HiDPI mode. In simpler words, it is one logical pixel that corresponds to four physical pixels. The scale factor is tripled for devices with even higher pixel densities, such as the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone X.[4] The advantage of this equation is that the CPU "sees" a small portion of the data and calculates the relative positions of each element, and the GPU renders these elements with high quality assets. The goal of Retina displays is to make the text and images being displayed crisper.[5][6][7][8]

The Retina display has since expanded to most Apple product lines, such as Apple Watch, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, iPad Mini, iPad Air, iPad Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Pro Display XDR, some of which have never had a comparable non-Retina display.[9] Apple uses various marketing terms to differentiate between its LCD and OLED displays having various resolutions, contrast levels, color reproduction, or refresh rates. It is known as Liquid Retina display for the iPhone XR, iPad Air 4th Generation, iPad Mini 6th Generation, iPad Pro 3rd Generation and later versions,[10] and Retina 4.5K display for the iMac.[11]

Apple's Retina displays are not an absolute standard for display sharpness, but vary depending on the size of the display on the device, and at what distance the user would typically be viewing the screen. Where on smaller devices with smaller displays users would view the screen at a closer distance to their eyes, the displays have more pixels per inch (PPI), while on larger devices with larger displays where the user views the screen further away, the screen uses a lower PPI value. Later device versions have had additional improvements, whether an increase in the screen size (the iPhone Xs Max), contrast ratio (the 12.9" iPad Pro 5th Generation, and iMac with Retina 4.5K display), and/or, more recently, PPI count (OLED iPhones); as a result, Apple uses the names "Retina HD display", "Retina 4K/5K display", "Retina 4.5K display", "Super Retina HD display", "Super Retina XDR display", and "Liquid Retina display" for each successive version.


When introducing the iPhone 4, Steve Jobs said the number of pixels needed for a Retina display is about 300 PPI for a device held 10 to 12 inches from the eye.[1] One way of expressing this as a unit is pixels-per-degree (PPD) which takes into account both the screen resolution and the distance from which the device is viewed. Based on Jobs' predicted number of 300, the threshold for a Retina display starts at the PPD value of 57 PPD. 57 PPD means that a tall skinny triangle with a height equal to the viewing distance and a top angle of one degree will have a base on the device's screen that covers 57 pixels. Note that the PPD parameter is not an intrinsic parameter of the display itself, unlike absolute pixel resolution (e.g. 1920×1080 pixels) or relative pixel density (e.g. 401 PPI), but is dependent on the distance between the display and the eye of the person (or lens of the device) viewing the display; moving the eye closer to the display reduces the PPD, and moving away from it increases the PPD in proportion to the distance. It can be calculated by the formula

where is the distance to the screen and is the resolution of the screen in pixels per unit length.

In practice, thus far Apple has converted a device's display to Retina by doubling the number of pixels in each direction, quadrupling the total resolution. This increase creates a sharper interface at the same physical dimensions. The only exceptions to this have been the iPhone 6 Plus, 6S Plus, 7 Plus, and 8 Plus, which render their displays at triple the number of pixels in each direction, before down-sampling to a 1080p resolution.


The displays are manufactured worldwide by different suppliers. Currently, the iPad's display comes from Samsung,[12] while the MacBook Pro and iPod Touch displays are made by LG Display[13] and Japan Display Inc.[14] There was a shift of display technology from twisted nematic (TN) liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) to in-plane switching (IPS) LCDs starting with the iPhone 4 models in June 2010.

Apple markets the following devices as having a Retina display, Retina HD display, Liquid Retina display, Liquid Retina XDR display, Super Retina HD display, Super Retina XDR display or Retina 4K/5K/6K display:

Model[15][16][17][18][19] Marketing name Screen size Resolution Aspect
Pixel density Pixel size
Angular pixel density
(px/°; at typ. distance)
typ. viewing
Total pixels
ppi px/cm
Apple Watch 38mm Retina display 1.34 in (34 mm) 272×340 4:5 326 128 77.9 56.9 10 in
(25 cm)
Apple Watch 42mm 1.53 in (39 mm) 312×390 00,121,680
Apple Watch 40mm 1.55 in (39 mm) 324×394 57.5 00,127,656
Apple Watch 44mm 1.76 in (45 mm) 368×448 00,164,864
Apple Watch 41mm 1.69 in (43 mm) 352×430 00,151,360
Apple Watch 45mm 1.90 in (48 mm) 396×484 00,191,664
Apple Watch 49mm 1.92 in (49 mm) 410×502 338 133 75.2 59.0 00,205,820
iPhone 4, 4S and iPod Touch 4 3.5 in (89 mm) 960×640 2:3 326 128 77.9 57.9 00,614,400
iPhone 5, 5C, 5S and SE 1, iPod Touch 5, 6 and 7 4.0 in (100 mm) 1136×640 9:16 57.5 00,727,040
iPhone 6, 6S, 7, 8, SE 2 and SE 3 Retina HD display 4.7 in (120 mm) 1334×750 01,000,500
iPhone 6 Plus, 6S Plus, 7 Plus and 8 Plus 5.5 in (140 mm) 1920×1080 401 158 63.3 71.2 02,073,600
iPhone XR and 11 Liquid Retina display 6.1 in (155 mm) 1792×828 6:13 (9:19.5) 326 128 77.9 57.2 01,483,776
iPhone 12 Mini and 13 Mini Super Retina XDR display (Super Retina HD on iPhone X, XS and XS Max) 5.4 in (140 mm) 2340×1080 476/337 187/133 53.4 84.6 02,527,200
iPhone X, XS, and 11 Pro 5.8 in (150 mm) 2436×1125 458/324[20] 180/127 55.4 81.9 02,740,500
iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 13, 13 Pro and 14 6.1 in (155 mm) 2532×1170 460/325 181/128 55.2 82.3 02,962,440
iPhone 14 Pro, 15 and 15 Pro 2556×1179 03,013,524
iPhone XS Max and 11 Pro Max 6.5 in (165 mm) 2688×1242 458/324 180/127 55.4 82.2 03,338,496
iPhone 12 Pro Max, 13 Pro Max and 14 Plus 6.7 in (170 mm) 2778×1284 82.4 03,566,952
iPhone 14 Pro Max, 15 Plus and 15 Pro Max 2796×1290 460/325 181/128 55.2 82.7 03,606,840
iPad Mini 2, 3, 4 and 5 Retina display 7.9 in (200 mm) 2048×1536 3:4 326 128 77.9 86.1 15 in
(38 cm)
iPad 3, 4, 5 and 6, Air 1 and 2, Pro 9.7" 9.7 in (250 mm) 264 104 96 70.6
iPad 7, 8 and 9 10.2 in (260 mm) 2160×1620 71.0 03,499,200
iPad Pro 10.5" and Air 3 10.5 in (270 mm) 2224×1668 03,709,632
iPad Pro 12.9" (1 and 2) 12.9 in (330 mm) 2732×2048 71.9 05,595,136
iPad Mini 6 Liquid Retina display 8.3 in (210 mm) 2266×1488 2:3 326 128 77.9 87.0 03,371,808
iPad 10, iPad Air 4 and iPad Air 5 10.9 in (280 mm) 2360×1640 7:10 264 104 96 71.0 03,870,400
iPad Pro 11" 11.0 in (280 mm) 2388×1668 71.4 03,983,184
iPad Pro 12.9" (3 and 4) 12.9 in (330 mm) 2732×2048 3:4 71.9 05,595,136
iPad Pro 12.9" (5 and 6) Liquid Retina XDR Display
MacBook 12" Retina display 12.0 in (300 mm) 2304×1440 16:10 226 89 112 80.7 20 in
(51 cm)
MacBook Air 13" (2018 and 2020) and MacBook Pro 13" (2012 and 2016) 13.3 in (340 mm) 2560×1600 227 111 81.3 04,096,000
MacBook Pro 15" (2012 and 2016) 15.4 in (390 mm) 2880×1800 221 87 115 79.6 05,184,000
MacBook Pro 16" (2019) 16.0 in (410 mm) 3072×1920 226 89 112 82.0 05,898,240
MacBook Air 13" (2022) Liquid Retina display 13.6 in (350 mm) 2560×1664 224 88 113 80.4 04,259,840
MacBook Air 15" 15.3 in (390 mm) 2880×1864 80.9 05,368,320
MacBook Pro 14" Liquid Retina XDR display 14.2 in (360 mm) 3024×1964 14:9 254 100 100 91.2 05,939,136
MacBook Pro 16" (2021) 16.2 in (410 mm) 3456×2234 92.0 07,720,704
iMac Retina 21.5" Retina 4K display 21.5 in (550 mm) 4096×2304 16:9 219 86 116 81.6 09,437,184
iMac Retina 24" Retina 4.5K display 23.5 in (600 mm) 4480×2520 218 82.6 011,289,600
iMac Retina 27", iMac Pro and Studio Display Retina 5K display 27.0 in (690 mm) 5120×2880 84.0 014,745,600
Pro Display XDR Retina 6K display 32.0 in (810 mm) 6016×3384 86.2 020,358,144


Reviews of Apple devices with Retina displays have generally been positive on technical grounds, with comments describing it as a considerable improvement on earlier screens and praising Apple for driving third-party application support for high-resolution displays more effectively than on Windows.[21][22][23] While high-dpi displays such as IBM's T220 and T221 had been sold in the past, they had seen little take-up due to their cost of around $8400.[24]

Reviewing the iPhone 4 in 2010, Joshua Topolsky commented:

"to our eyes, there has never been a more detailed, clear, or viewable screen on any mobile device. Not only are the colors and blacks deep and rich, but you simply cannot see pixels on the screen…webpages that would be line after line of pixelated content when zoomed out on a 3GS are completely readable on the iPhone 4, though the text is beyond microscopic."[25]

Former Microsoft employee Bill Hill, an expert on font rendering, offered similar comments:

That much resolution is stunning. To see it on a mainstream device like the iPad—rather than a $13,000 exotic monitor—is truly amazing, and something I've been waiting more than a decade to see. It will set a bar for future resolution that every other manufacturer of devices and PCs will have to jump.[26][27]

Writer John Gruber suggested that the arrival of Retina displays on computers would trigger a need to redesign interfaces and designs for the new displays:

The sort of rich, data-dense information design espoused by Edward Tufte can now not only be made on the computer screen but also enjoyed on one. Regarding font choices, you not only need not choose a font optimized for rendering on screen, but should not. Fonts optimized for screen rendering look cheap on the retina MacBook Pro—sometimes downright cheesy—in the same way they do when printed in a glossy magazine.[28]


Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, has challenged Apple's claim. He says that the physiology of the human retina is such that there must be at least 477 pixels per inch in a pixelated display for the pixels to become imperceptible to the human eye at a distance of 12 inches (305 mm).[29] Astronomer and science blogger Phil Plait notes, however, that, "if you have [better than 20/20] eyesight, then at one foot away the iPhone 4S's pixels are resolved. The picture will look pixelated. If you have average eyesight [20/20 vision], the picture will look just fine... So in my opinion, what Jobs said was fine. Soneira, while technically correct, was being picky."[30] The retinal neuroscientist Bryan Jones offers a similar analysis of more detail and comes to a similar conclusion: "I'd find Apple's claims stand up to what the human eye can perceive."[31]

Apple fan website CultOfMac hosts an article by John Brownlee[32] who incorrectly[33] stated that the resolution the human eye can discern at 12 inches is 900 PPI, concluding "Apple's Retina Displays are only about 33% of the way there."[32] On the topic of 20/20 vision, Brownlee misrepresented visual acuity in the population saying "most research suggests that normal vision is actually much better than 20/20" when in truth the majority have worse than 20/20 vision,[34] and the WHO considers average vision as 20/40.[35] Brownlee also stated that people do not always view displays at a constant distance, and claimed a close-viewed display could no longer be classed as Retina. However, near visual acuity is usually poor due to presbyopia[34] in nearly everyone over 40, such that decreasing reading distance can actually reduce perceivable resolution.


The first smartphone following the iPhone 4 to ship with a display of a comparable pixel density was the Nokia E6, running Symbian Anna, with a resolution of 640 × 480 at a screen size of 62.5mm. This was an isolated case for the platform however, as all other Symbian-based devices had larger displays with lower resolutions. Some older Symbian smartphones, including the Nokia N80 and N90, featured a 2.1 inch display at 259 ppi, which was one of the sharpest at the time. The first Android smartphones with the same display - Meizu M9 was launched a few months later in beginning of 2011. In October of the same year Galaxy Nexus was announced, which had a display with a better resolution. By 2013 the 300+ ppimark was found on midrange phones such as the Moto G.[36] From 2013 to 2014, many flagship devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One (M8) had 1080p (FHD) screens around 5-inches for a 400+ PPI which surpassed the Retina density on the iPhone 5.

The second major redesign of the iPhone, the iPhone 6, has a 1334 × 750 resolution on a 4.7-inch screen, while rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 have a QHD display of 2560 × 1440 resolution, close to four times the number of pixels found in the iPhone 6, giving the S6 a 577 PPI that is almost twice that of the iPhone 6's 326 PPI.[37] The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium launched in late 2015 had 806 PPI. The larger iPhone 6 Plus features a "Retina HD display", which is a 5.5-inch 1080p screen with 401 PPI.

Aside from resolution, all generations of iPhone Retina displays receive high ratings for other aspects such as brightness and color accuracy, compared to those of contemporary smartphones, while some Android devices such as the LG G3 have sacrificed screen quality and battery life for high resolution. Ars Technica has suggested the "superfluousness of so many flagship phone features—the move from 720p to 1080p to 1440p and beyond...things are all nice to have, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue that any of them are essential".[36] Furthermore, developers can better optimize content for iOS due to Apple's few screen sizes in contrast to Android's wide display format variations.[37]

Many Windows-based Ultrabook models have offered 1080p (FHD) screens standard since 2012 and often QHD or QHD+ as optional upgrade displays.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ United States Patent and Trademark Office. "Latest Status Info – Serial Number 85056807". Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval. Retrieved June 19, 2012. Claims priority filing date with respect to prior application in Jamaica.
  3. ^ Canadian Intellectual Property Office. "Canadian Trade-Mark Data – Application Number 1483982". Canadian Trade-marks Database. Retrieved June 19, 2012. Also cites prior application in Jamaica.
  4. ^ "The Ultimate Guide To iPhone Resolutions". Retrieved 2021-08-27.
  5. ^ Jobs, Steve. "Apple iPhone 4 announcement". YouTube. Apple. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  6. ^ Nielsen, Jakob. "Serif vs. Sans-Serif Fonts for HD Screens". Nielsen Norman Group. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
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  8. ^ Gruber, John. "Pixel Perfect". Daring Fireball. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
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  19. ^ "Apple – iMac – Technical Specifications".
  20. ^ Due to the peculiar diamond Sub-Pixels layout found in the iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the actual density of the Red and Blue Sub-Pixels is lower than that of the Green Sub-Pixels, being reportedly 324 Sub-Pixels per inch.
  21. ^ Castle, Alex. "How to make the Windows desktop look good on high-DPI displays". PC World. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
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  33. ^ Plait, Phil (10 June 2010). "Resolving the iPhone resolution". Slate. Retrieved 9 October 2021. ...Soneira used the 0.6 arcmin resolution of the eye, but that's for perfect eyesight. Most people don't have perfect eyesight... A better number for a typical person is more like 1 arcmin resolution, not 0.6
  34. ^ a b Tim Johnson, MD, PhD. "How common is 20/20 vision?". University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Retrieved 9 October 2021. Only about 35 percent of all adults have 20/20 vision without glasses, contact lenses or corrective surgery"...AND... "while you won't lose your 20/20 vision as you approach middle age, you will most likely lose your near vision{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  35. ^ "The Global Need for Refractive Correction" (PDF). The Centre for Vision in the Developing World. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
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