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Old Jul 8, 2012, 11:02 AM   #1
cathyy
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Retina MBP - Not so practical? Pictures end up looking blur and pixelated

So I finally had the chance to play with a MBPr at a shop near my house today. UI, text and application icons looked extremely crisp and sharp and it was absolutely gorgeous. After playing with it for around 10 minutes, I played with the non-retina MBP and my eyes were bleeding from how unclear the words looked in comparison to it, as well as how all the pixels suddenly looked extremely huge.

However the Retina screen isn't all bells and whistles and my initial fears were true. 2D images don't seem to scale very well with the screen and end up looking very blur and pixelated. It's extremely obvious and can be seen in extremely minor things such as a website's logo or a tiny search icon. I compared it to the 1440x900 MBP beside it and pictures were defintiely rendering much better on the 1440x900 display. As websites tend to generally be filled with mostly 2D images, surfing the internet ends up being an eyesore most of the time.

To let you have an idea of how bad the pictures look, it's similar to running a non-retina app on an iPhone 4/S. If you're still not sure what it looks like, then here's a picture that describes what pictures look like: image Notice all the blurry edges?

Changing the display for it to scale to 1920x1200 instead improves the picture quality tremendously and the pixelation and blur-ness is far less obvious. Still present, but it's much clearer now and I have to admit I might not be able to tell if I didn't know about it. Rather ironic as Apple advertises 1440x900 as the "best" resolution when pictures definitely look clearer at 1920x1200.

But still it makes me think that if a 1440x900 screen displays the picture better than a 2880x1800 screen downscaled to the same resolution, wouldn't that mean too that a 1920x1200 screen would also display a picture better than a 2880x1800 downscaled to that resolution? If that's true, then by getting a retina screen I'm essentially only getting sharper text and UIs at the expense of having blur-er pictures.


I mean seriously, does anyone think this is a worthwhile trade at all? You get sharper text & UIs while having to put up with blur-er pictures? I mean think about it, before the retina MBPs came out, when has anyone ever mentioned that their text or UI isn't sharp enough?

I'm simply not convinced by this retina hype. To me, it feels more like a downgrade than anything else.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 11:09 AM   #2
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I wouldn't compare it to the 4S directly. The viewing distance would mean the difference between that and the RMBP is not as stark. And while non-optimized graphics on the RMBP do look worse than on normal screens, sitting next to crisp text does accent the difference, and the crisp text (for the vast majority of cases) should be well worth the trade off. What really sucks is non-optimized text (such as in BBEdit).

In any case, it is largely temporary. Apps will be updated (as long as they aren't abandoned or run by developer who don't particularly care, or have one of those absurd cross-platform policies which excludes any OS-specific optimizations). There will always be websites with non-optimized graphics but that really isn't a very big deal.

As with the retina iPhone and iPad, there will be a transitory period. It will June shorter with apps, and longer with the internet as more people come around to supporting it as the reason to do so increases.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 11:29 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Xian Zhu Xuande View Post
I wouldn't compare it to the 4S directly. The viewing distance would mean the difference between that and the RMBP is not as stark. And while non-optimized graphics on the RMBP do look worse than on normal screens, sitting next tokcrisp text does accent the difference, and the crisp text (for the vast majority of cases) should be well worth the trade off. What really sucks is non-optimized text (such as in BBEdit).

In any case, it is largely temporary. Apps will be updated (as long as they aren't abandoned or run by developer who don't particularly care, or have one of those absurd cross-platform policies which excludes any OS-specific optimizations). There will always be websites with non-optimized graphics but that really isn't a very big deal.

As 7ith the retina iPhone and iPad, there will be a transitory period. It will June shorter with apps, and longer with the internet as more people come around to supporting it as the reason to do so increases.
Might not be noticable to everyone, but I was standing at my normal distance away from the rMBP and the drop in picture quality is VERY noticable to me. I'm able to detect the blurness just going to google.com and glancing at the Google logo. The fact that all the elements around it are extremely crisp and sharp only makes it look even worse in contrast.

If you feel that crisp text is worth the trade off, then that's your decision and I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. However as for me, I've never had a problem with text being too blur, and hence I'm not willing to sacrifice picture quality for sharper text.

And there's no way this is a temporary thing. For the iPad and iPhone, all apps are designed for specifically iOS and hence most get updated eventually as all iOS devices shift to the higher resolution. However websites cater to the entire world, and there's no easy way to optimize it for Retina MBPs without breaking it for everyone else.

Also FYI, even the Apple website with the pictures of the Retina MBP look awful when viewing it on one.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 11:48 AM   #4
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Well, the problem is that normal images are upscaled in order to be shown at the appropriate size. I think much of this can be mitigated if Apple would just use nearest neighbor upscale filter — then the image will look just as if it were native 1440x900, still less detailed compared to the HiDPI text but maybe not as blurred as now. In time, the OS X applications will get HiDPI images. It will take ages though for the Web to use HiDPI pixel data though...

BTW, the effect disappears on higher resolutions because the rendered images are closer to their original pixel size, e.g. on the 1920x1200 scaled mode a 100x100 pixel image would be translated to 150x150 native pixels as opposed to 200x200 native pixels on the 1400x900 scaled mode. You still have initial upscaling to 200x200 and then downscaling to 150x150, but it will look much closer to the original data anyway.

P.S. I would also like to quite this guy from another thread:


Quote:
Originally Posted by NewbieCanada View Post
Websites used to be coded to look best on 640x480 displays. When people started getting 800x600 or 1024x768, pictures were either tiny or blown up and pixellated. The web caught up, and it will again.

Right now, Retina is one high-priced model from one manufacturer. Within a few years it'll be standard on medium and higher laptops.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 11:51 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by cathyy View Post
However websites cater to the entire world, and there's no easy way to optimize it for Retina MBPs without breaking it for everyone else.
Why not? Isn't there a code in your MacBook Pro that could tell websites "Hey, I support resolutions up to 2880x1800!" so websites could serve you hi-res images?

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Originally Posted by leman View Post
Well, the problem is that normal images are upscaled in order to be shown at the appropriate size. I think much of this can be mitigated if Apple would just use nearest neighbor upscale filter
Very good point.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 11:58 AM   #6
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Why not? Isn't there a code in your MacBook Pro that could tell websites "Hey, I support resolutions up to 2880x1800!" so websites could serve you hi-res images?


Very good point.
I haven't researched it myself, but you could likely detect with a media query similar to iPad and iPhone specific content which relies on pixel ratio >= 2.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:06 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Randomoneh View Post
Why not? Isn't there a code in your MacBook Pro that could tell websites "Hey, I support resolutions up to 2880x1800!" so websites could serve you hi-res images?
It'd be quite a bit of a problem as it needs to be able to differentiate what pixel ratio the monitor is displaying at, because it's not going to work so easily when you have a 2880x1800 screen displaying at 1440x900 (pixel ratio 2:1), when someone else has a 3840x2400 screen displaying at a 1:1 pixel ratio. Add on the fact too that most websites do not have any code to provide a different image for a different pixel ratio, meaning a lot more re-coding needs to be done for a tiny percentage of retina screen users. Plus some web hosts may not like the idea either as it means they now have to use more bandwidth to provide higher resolution images.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cathyy View Post
It'd be quite a bit of a problem as it needs to be able to differentiate what pixel ratio the monitor is displaying at, because it's not going to work so easily when you have a 2880x1800 screen displaying at 1440x900 (pixel ratio 2:1), when someone else has a 3840x2400 screen displaying at a 1:1 pixel ratio. Add on the fact too that most websites do not have any code to provide a different image for a different pixel ratio, meaning a lot more re-coding needs to be done for a tiny percentage of retina screen users. Plus some web hosts may not like the idea either as it means they now have to use more bandwidth to provide higher resolution images.
False read the above.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:11 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by leman View Post
Well, the problem is that normal images are upscaled in order to be shown at the appropriate size. I think much of this can be mitigated if Apple would just use nearest neighbor upscale filter — then the image will look just as if it were native 1440x900, still less detailed compared to the HiDPI text but maybe not as blurred as now. In time, the OS X applications will get HiDPI images. It will take ages though for the Web to use HiDPI pixel data though...

BTW, the effect disappears on higher resolutions because the rendered images are closer to their original pixel size, e.g. on the 1920x1200 scaled mode a 100x100 pixel image would be translated to 150x150 native pixels as opposed to 200x200 native pixels on the 1400x900 scaled mode. You still have initial upscaling to 200x200 and then downscaling to 150x150, but it will look much closer to the original data anyway.

P.S. I would also like to quite this guy from another thread:
Understood that the problem comes from the upscaling. Unfortunately the problem is there and there's no solution to it as of now other than just sucking it up and living with ugly pictures.

Also understood why the effect disappears. My point is, wouldn't it make more sense to just get a 1920x1200 screen and view things at native resolution where you get a better looking picture? Rather than a retina screen where you get sharper text at an expense of poorer quality pictures?
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:13 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by calderone View Post
I haven't researched it myself, but you could likely detect with a media query similar to iPad and iPhone specific content which relies on pixel ratio >= 2.
Media queries work only for backgrounds, if I am not mistaken. For regular images, you need to do some javascript coding.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:14 PM   #11
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no they don't.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:14 PM   #12
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False read the above.
Not going to debate whether there's already a pixel ratio API implemented. But the other 2 points still remain and in all likelihood, it'll take ages before we start to see a large portion of websites making the shift towards more retina-friendly websites. Has any website made any announcement yet that they're going to update their websites to make it look better on retina screens?
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:14 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by cathyy View Post
It'd be quite a bit of a problem as it needs to be able to differentiate what pixel ratio the monitor is displaying at, because it's not going to work so easily when you have a 2880x1800 screen displaying at 1440x900 (pixel ratio 2:1), when someone else has a 3840x2400 screen displaying at a 1:1 pixel ratio.
Its much simpler than that. Javascript has means to tell you whether your website is served to a HiDPI client or not (its in the webkit JS implementation). No need to query the resolution at all.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:14 PM   #14
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Media queries work only for backgrounds, if I am not mistaken. For regular images, you need to do some javascript coding.
Which is one of the primary methods of displaying images via CSS. I am not saying this is a complete solution, utilizing js is important as well.

My point was simply to say that it is possible.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:17 PM   #15
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My point is, wouldn't it make more sense to just get a 1920x1200 screen and view things at native resolution where you get a better looking picture? Rather than a retina screen where you get sharper text at an expense of poorer quality pictures?
Well, yeah, everyoen should decide for themselves Its the problem of adoption a new technology. HiDPI displays and resolution independent content are the future and Apple makes a bold move towards it. Does it make sense to adopt this tech now? For most people, probably not. In my case, I don't care much about images and I would benefit from better text.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:19 PM   #16
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Its much simpler than that. Javascript has means to tell you whether your website is served to a HiDPI client or not (its in the webkit JS implementation). No need to query the resolution at all.
Alright then. I suppose it's not as hard as I believed to re-code a website for HiDPI clients as I initially believed.

But have there been any websites that announced they will be updating their websites for retina displays? The fact still remains that pictures end up looking worse on the new retina displays compared to the non-retina ones, and I'm very skeptical that there will be any major movement to update websites for retina displays any time soon.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:26 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by cathyy View Post
Alright then. I suppose it's not as hard as I believed to re-code a website for HiDPI clients as I initially believed.

But have there been any websites that announced they will be updating their websites for retina displays? The fact still remains that pictures end up looking worse on the new retina displays compared to the non-retina ones, and I'm very skeptical that there will be any major movement to update websites for retina displays any time soon.
Most sites don't announce that sort of thing.

I wouldn't expect things to get much better unless: 1. Users overwhelmingly request it or 2. Devs are seeing a high amount of traffic from those users and decide to take action.

It would be interesting to do some analysis on current retina mobile sites by forcing user-agents, might shed some light on how well existing retina resources will work on the MBPr.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:29 PM   #18
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Well, yeah, everyoen should decide for themselves Its the problem of adoption a new technology. HiDPI displays and resolution independent content are the future and Apple makes a bold move towards it. Does it make sense to adopt this tech now? For most people, probably not. In my case, I don't care much about images and I would benefit from better text.
Problem is much of the web still remains resolution dependent at the moment. I feel that it makes more sense to get something "older" if it's compatible with everything, rather than getting something new and not having much stuff that support it.

Anyway as I told another guy, if you prefer to have sharper text over clearer pictures, then hey that's your choice, not going to argue with it.

----------

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Most sites don't announce that sort of thing.

I wouldn't expect things to get much better unless: 1. Users overwhelmingly request it or 2. Devs are seeing a high amount of traffic from those users and decide to take action.

It would be interesting to do some analysis on current retina mobile sites by forcing user-agents, might shed some light on how well existing retina resources will work on the MBPr.
Retina mobile sites? Sorry I haven't heard of that yet, would you mind explaining what it is to me and linking me to some pictures if possible?

Also here's a quote from another member:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spetsnazos View Post
im a web developer and by far one of the primary things is speed and consistency. I'm not going to put up high res photos that only <1% of the viewing base sees.

How fast your web page loads is very key to SEO and I'm not going to sacrifice viewer base just so someone with a retina macbook will view it. Period.

Apple made a huge mistake with these displays. The rest of the computing community is not going to jump on board until prices come WAY down. $3k for a laptop is way too much. You can try to justify it all you want but as fast as technology moves, the $3k laptop will be obsolete in a few years(best hope).

I can show you my google analytics and what percentage are MAC OS and Windows OS. Mac is less than 11% of my web page viewers...I would venture to say that no more than 10% of those have a retina mac.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:41 PM   #19
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I would argue that as more and more computers integrate a Retina or Retina-like displays in their products, web developers will have to update their websites. We're in the early stages right now, but I imagine in the next few years, competitors such as Samsung, HP, Lenovo, etc. will all start to integrate Retina-like displays and the adoption amongst businesses and consumers will increase.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:50 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by cathyy View Post

Retina mobile sites? Sorry I haven't heard of that yet, would you mind explaining what it is to me and linking me to some pictures if possible?

Also here's a quote from another member:
Yes, some mobile sites have been updated with Retina images, namely for iPhone and iPad. Amazon and living social off the top of my head.

If you have an iPhone or iPad I would google some examples.

In regards to the quote. That is one developer who is clearly focused on traffic over quality. In addition, retina images can be dropped in dynamically (as has been discussed) meaning they would have little to no effect on SEO.

I am sure that "web developer" already knows that though. Lastly his numbers are not indicative of every site, obviously. Basically know one gives a damn about him, trends will dictate and that "developer" doesn't act they may be left behind.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:51 PM   #21
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Thanks for starting this thread. It's not at all redundant with others you could easily have searched for

Last edited by Tibits; Jul 8, 2012 at 12:59 PM.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 12:51 PM   #22
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Instapaper's Marco Arment wrote a good little blog piece on hidpi displays and web development:

http://www.marco.org/2012/07/05/web-...rs-need-retina

Quote:
Certainly, many other platforms are bigger than the Retina MacBook Pro market today. Here’s the difference:

How much bigger will the IE5 or IE6 market be in a year?

How much bigger will the high-DPI market be in a year?
The share of visitors browsing websites using hidpi/retina displays is small today, but it's going to get larger. Unlike time spent optimizing for people using IE6, this is time well spent for future-proofing your websites. Proactive web developers will update sooner rather than later - the rest of the web will be slow to catch up, just like normal.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 01:16 PM   #23
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Wouldn't this make most sense? Websites having only one version of every image. That image is high-resolution image. When someone with 800x600 resolution visits that page, images are simply downscaled so website objects look exactly the same on every resolution out there - somewhere more pixelated, somewhere less.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 01:19 PM   #24
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Also FYI, even the Apple website with the pictures of the Retina MBP look awful when viewing it on one.
That's strange. Apple's main page and several of the pages (including the MacBook Pro page) look crystal clear on mine.
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Old Jul 8, 2012, 01:20 PM   #25
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This is beginning of the high resolution web, which in turn will force ISPs to beef up their networks to handle an internet made of gorgeous high res websites. Thus the world and the web continue to evolve.

This is how you force innovation, make previously good enough, simply not good enough.
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