Going Into the Pixel: Retina Display Under a Microscope

If we take a few (or an order of magnitude) more steps closer to the display and put it under the microscope we can get an even better appreciation for exactly what Samsung (and Apple's other display vendors) have done with the creation of this panel. Below are shots at 50x magnification of the display from the iPad 2, new iPad, ASUS TF Prime and iPhone 4S, organized from lowest to highest DPI:

Apple iPad 2, 1024 x 768, 9.7-inches

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime, 1280 x 800, 10.1-inches

Apple iPad Retina Display (2012), 2048 x 1536, 9.7-inches

Apple iPhone 4S, 960 x 640, 3.5-inches

What you're looking at here are shots of the three subpixels for each pixel. Subpixel shapes will vary by panel type/manufacturer (hence the iPhone 4S vs. iPad subpixel structure), but the increase in density is tremendous.

Pixel Density Quantifying Display Performance: Big Gamut Gains
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  • Bragabondio - Monday, March 19, 2012 - link

    Impressions from the store
    Went to apple store, looked at the thingy and at first it was hard to see the difference with the ipad 2 (something that was mentioned in a couple of other reviews including the one at ixbt.com). At closer look the display is indeed better but is not something that blows you away (I am currently using galaxy note with similar ppi of 260. Also I should mention that I prefer the Amoled as it provides incredible black and does not have the issue of shinning near the edges that is common for many IPS displays).

    the new Ipad is still an Ipad
    The operating system is the same as the one in ipad 2 and feels incredible dated compared to the latest android. For less sophisticated users I guess that is fine but if you are advanced user and do not want to be locked in the apple ecosystem / playing cat and mouse with apple (jailbreak) I do not see that much value in buying ipad 3.

    To address the issue with gaming - games on the tables both android and ios are a couple of years or more behind the ones offered on a PC and unless you are how to put it more gently: young physically or at hearth I would not advise wasting time with the tablet games. The simpler ones (angry birds etc.) are better for playing while traveling in the metro where something, like your phone or smaller tablet like galaxy tab 7.7 or note (5.3 inch screen) are generally much more useful being lighter and more pocket friendly. Considering more advanced games , i.e shadowgun etc. they are so behind their PC counterparts that almost seem like a journey back in time.

    I am not a big fan of reading on LCD add the size of the ipad (9.7 inches) and now the added weight do not help its cause. Kindle 4 at $77 seems better match for my needs.

    What good is tablet for?
    Well apart from getting the techno blogs excited I guess they have some use :) In my case it ismostly reading news and e-mails and occasionally playing a movie and listening to podcasts/music. I also tried a couple of games and books. I would gladly substitute firepower for portability .

    It was reported that Safary is automatically resizing down all images if large than 1024 to 768, could you confirm.
  • doobydoo - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    Good post. I think I would go along with most of what you say - which is why I haven't got a tablet.

    Should note that the Galaxy Note screen is Pentile though - so the PPI figure is misleading, given that it has a third fewer sub-pixels. Also it's not strictly comparable because it's a smaller screen which you would hold closer than a tablet.
  • Griswold - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    Pretty fabricated "this is why I dont want to buy an ipad because I dont like apple" post.

    Nonsense about the screen, nonsense about the OS and why you think the various hackjobs of android are better based on your opinion on what or who is a sophisticated user.

    Nonsense about tablet gaming - why the fuck do you compare it to PC gaming? Are you nuts?

    On to reading. While reading on LCD is certainly a matter of taste, you bring up the size of the screen and then recommend a kindle? Reality check please. Weight has not been an issue since the ipad2. Really not.
  • mcnabney - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    Eh, the points were valid. AMOLED does do excellent blacks. But really, Apple is pushing the entire market into higher resolutions. How can this be anything but good. The iPad3 display is gorgeous! I would point out that the 1920x1200 Asus Transformer that is about to come out might look just as good. It has slightly lower DPI, but has better blacks and has a high luminance option for daylight which iPad3 doesn't have.

    iOS vs Android is a personal decision. I prefer Android too, but iOS is still a great platform.

    iOS OWNS tablet gaming. You just can't complain about it like that.

    I think the point of reading was that the light emitting LCD display is much harder on the eyes when reading than a Kindle's reflective screen (not the Fire). I agree, but a color LCD display can do so much MORE than a grayscale reflective display.

    And the simple 7" Kindle reader he is talking about weighs only a third of what the iPad3 does. If you only care about reading, iPad effectively weighs a ton compared to the basic Kindle reader.
  • WaltFrench - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    Regards reading: the single objective study I've seen puts the old iPad a smidgeon (not statistically significant) ahead of the basic Kindle, both less good than paper but far ahead of PCs. That's speed/comprehension for extended reading.

    My take is that the Kindle's MUCH higher resolution is offset by its lower contrast, forcing the brain to work harder to associate the pattern with a word.

    Newsrooms and other all-LCD environments have dozens or hundreds of people all working productively without eyestrain, etc. These devices would of course be properly set up re: brightness, room lighting, glare, etc. I can't imagine why LCDs should automatically be thought of as worse for reading; there must be a reason. The basics of eyestrain from overworking the eye, plus how easily the brain interprets what it sees, seem to favor a good hi-res, high-contrast display.
  • AnandReader1999 - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    When reading off of electronic devices we subject our eyes to massive amounts of light. The light is projected directly into the eye. This is damaging to the eyes. It may be the medium of convenience but its still extremely bad for us.

    A kindle (and other true e-ink readers) don't project light. You need light to read them just like a book. The screen doesn't reflect the light like the 'pads' or monitors do either so you don't suffer glare issues (also harmful).

    Anybody that busy an iPad to read books deserves exactly what they get.
    Ignorance is in abundance in this world and things like the iPad/Apple ensure it stays that way.

    Is the iPad3 nice. You bet!
    Did the Apple users think the last iPads (1 & 2) were great just the way they were? You bet.
    And Apple users wonder why they are called iSheep?!?!
  • name99 - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    "Is the iPad3 nice. You bet!
    Did the Apple users think the last iPads (1 & 2) were great just the way they were? You bet.
    And Apple users wonder why they are called iSheep?!?!"

    Really. What do you think defines "think they were just great the way they were"? The fact that people bought them rather than bitching about how they are not perfect. I, for example
    - bought an iPad1 to read PDFs with.
    - then SKIPPED an iPad2 because it's screen (the part I cared most about) was not upgraded (yet).
    Go read the comments regarding iPad2 when it came out. There are bazillions of "iSheep" who said exactly the same thing --- for our particular needs, we'll wait for the better screen.

    So, in your world, we should not buy anything until it is perfect? Because I hate to tell you this, than Android phone in your pocket is going to have a faster CPU next year, it's going to have faster WiFi, it's going to have faster LTE, it's going to have a better battery etc etc. What's your argument regarding all these improvements? Please, Samsung, don't give me a better battery --- the fact that I bought your phone this year proves I have zero interest in buying a better phone!?
  • moiaujapon - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    Whether light is reflected or not is irrelevant. It is still light carrying information to the eyes. The intensity is important in terms of damaging the eyes, but the intensity of light coming from these screens is no where near approaching a damaging level, as proven time and time again by empirical research. Reading in the dark, reading in a moving car, or sitting too close to television - none of these things will damage your eyes. On the other hand, you can burn your retinas looking at sunlight reflected off a snowy field.

    Apple users are, in general, under no illusion that the products they are using are perfect and lacking room for improvement. However, they are by-and-large considerably more satisfied with the products they used, relative to users of other products. Likewise, most have direct experience with non-Apple products, and the frequently lower level of satisfaction such experiences yielded.

    I took my 'new iPad' back because my old iPad 2 turned out to be sufficiently satisfactory (the marginal increase in satisfaction wasn't large enough to justify the cost for me). You said 'Apple users think the last iPads (1 & 2) were great just the way they were.' That is true, generally speaking, but your next sentence implies that you extend your logic to the point of believing that 'Apple users think the last iPads were... without need of improvement (and thus iSheep).' Therein lies the rub, so to speak.
  • commonmind - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    Most of your comment passes the intelligent response checklist, except for the part in which you insinuate that "sophisticated" users would somehow be deterred by the iPad's "archaic" operating system.

    Pardon the self-validation here, but I own a design, development and hosting company, and spend the majority of my day writing code, managing dozens of sites remotely using SSH, communicating with clients via email, messaging applications and VOIP. I am proficient in Javascript, PHP, SQL, HTML 5, CSS3, jQuery, Unix, and spend a good majority of my free time learning how to become a more responsible and efficient coder.

    Is it possible that your attempts to generalize the tablet user-base are counter-intuitive to the very point of the tablet market itself?

    If I required more sophistication, I'd use a more sophisticated device. Do I want a tablet that I can use Drush with? No. Does the Apple ecosystem bother me, absolutely not. Because I am unsophisticated? No, because I am acclimated.

    I have been both a hardcore PC enthusiast, modding cases in my garage, pushing the boundaries of overclocking and using Rainmeter to create extremely customized desktop experiences; as well as an Apple consumer and user of Apple products in the professional space. I enjoy Android tablets, right alongside my iPad -- why must I be segregated because I choose to use my tablet for reading, consuming internet media and light gaming -- features you shrug off simply because you don't find them particularly useful, or suited to your tastes?
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    I will admit upfront I am not an Apple fan - I hate the closed garden approach but sometimes even I need to defend Apple.

    The OS is designed for the average user not for the techno geek. Not only does it work well but it has opened up the user base for tablets. I have heard story after story of the very young (and I mean under 2years old) being able to immediately understand and use the Ipad as well as the "more mature" - ok my mum who is sufficiently technically illiterate that actually turning on the computer is almost beyond her.

    The OS works well. It could be better but it is certainly no worse than current Android tablets.

    However, as for using it as a e-reader, weight does matter. Kindle works wonderfully because you can hold for hours on end. But it has to be remembered that the Kindle is a one application only device, the Ipad is not. Ipad does a reasonable job as e-reader but if all you want is ability to while away hours reading, then the kindle is a much superior device for you

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