Retina displays almost pointless? Standard displays downgraded in quality on purpose?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Gallion, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. Gallion, Feb 14, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2013

    macrumors member

    Aug 18, 2011
    I just came back from the store where I could have a look at the latest line of Macbooks. It was my first time seeing a Retina display and I have to say, WOW. Really really up close, I mean REALLY up close, this display (15") is very impressive. But when looking at it from a normal distance?

    I couldn't see a difference between a Retina display and the 17" anti-glare display on my early 2011 MBP. I remember being absolutely mind blown by the quality of the display on my MBP in the first few days after I got it. I was absolutely amazed at how closely I had to look to see individual pixels. I still am. The resolution is amazing. This display absolutely kicks asses, I'm sure those who have seen it will agree.

    There were also 2 Macbooks next to the one with the Retina display that had standards glossy displays. I have been greatly surprised to notice how their quality, in comparison to my 17", was absolute CRAP! What the hell? Has it always been so with glossy displays Macbooks? Or has Apple purposely downgraded their quality to make the Retina displays look better?

    I was speculating that they may have retired the absolutely awesome anti-glare displays like the one on the 2011 17" MBP because they would have rendered the Retina displays almost pointless, since from a normal distance, there is no really noticeable difference.

    Does anyone have a Retina display and a mate 17" display to compare from a normal viewing distance?
    Does anyone have one of the latest Macbooks with a standard display and one from ~2011 to compare?

    Also, there IS glare on the Retina display. I did notice it enough to think "what a waste".
  2. macrumors 6502

    Mar 12, 2012
    Some people I know thought the retina iPad looks the same as iPad 2. Either they're ignorant about this stuff or their eyes are really that bad. It is a night and day difference to me, as is the rMBP. on the rMBP actually actually has a practical use because it lets you scale to different resolution and everything still looks razor sharp. On my 13 rMBP if I feel like having more desktop space, I set it to scale to 1680x1050, a bit small but doable for me. Or if I want I can go down to 1440x900.
  3. macrumors 65816

    Nov 29, 2010
    The biggest differences aren't going to be seen right away.

    Reading large amounts of text over a long period of time is going to be a big difference, the more 'organic' feel of the text (closer to the resolution of a printed page) makes it easier on the eyes.

    Also, though it's not exclusive to Retina, an IPS panel has better color gamut and a much better viewing angle. Tilt your non-Retina MBP display down, see the colors shift? That doesn't happen nearly as quickly on the Retina MBP because it's an IPS display. Now take your iPhone or iPad if you have it, and tilt it towards you or sideways, notice how the colors do NOT shift, those use an IPS display!
  4. macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    OP, there were other users saying the same thing when the retina products were first released, but I don't recall if anything ever came from it.
  5. macrumors member

    Jan 16, 2012
    17' compared to 15'

    disclaimer: i dont own a mac. Yet. however im a computer geek and have been following apple computers for years. so i can say this. The 17' macbook pro had a higher resolution screen than the 15' and has since i started following. it has a higher ppi than the nonretina mbp and is why you think the 15' laptops now look like crap. once you go higher you never go back. but it is a big and enjoyable difference.
  6. thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 18, 2011
    Thanks, that clears things up for me. I assumed that 15" displays had a large enough resolution that the PPI would be similar as on the 17". I still wonder if they retired the 17" on purpose to make the Retina display look better though.
  7. macrumors 601

    Oct 14, 2008
    They retired the 17" because it was not profitable. Only very few people bough it. With the introduction of the retina model, the 17" was even more redundant - the rMBP offers the same (or higher) real screen estate, while being significantly more mobile.
  8. macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2011
    The 17" MacBook has a resolution of 1920x1200 - that is the default resolution for most high-quality 24" monitors. The classic 15" MacBook Pro is 1440x900 - so yes, there is a significant difference in resolution. Certainly the screen furniture is noticeably smaller on the 17".

    Thing is, 'retina-ness' is a bit of a fuzzy definition and depends on how far away you view the screen. This chap has produced a comparison table claiming that the MBP 17" is 'retina' - based on his assertion that you'll view it from 2" further away than a 15" screen. Discuss.

    Trouble is, because of the way the retina display is used, comparing screen real estate is apples and oranges.

    In default 'HiDPI' mode, the rMBP doubles the number of pixels in icons, text, buttons, window furniture etc. so, superficially, it just looks like a 'sharper' version of the old 15" display with no room for extra stuff.

    By comparison, the 17" MBP display) is physically bigger and, on top of that, uses physically smaller text and screen furniture. So you can fit more on the screen.

    Of course, the rMBP's higher resolution means that, provided your application supports zooming, you can fit the same amount of content in a smaller space (e.g. more text, fit 108p video in a window without resampling etc.) - how much depends on your eyesight.

    Also you can set the rMBP to 1920x1200 'scaled' mode - the same number of pixels as the 17" MBP - without the HiDPI pixel doubling. It looks surprisingly good considering it is resampled, but everything is now physically smaller than on the 17".

    Personally, I usually use my 17" as half of a dual-monitor setup, with an external keyboard and the MBP on an elevator stand. The rMBP wouldn't work nearly so well in this configuration - its too far away to really appreciate the extra sharpness and too far away to (comfortably) use scaled mode to get the same 'real estate' as the 17".

    So the rMBP doesn't really offer the same thing as the 17" - I assume that Apple canned it because it wasn't selling.
  9. macrumors 601

    Oct 14, 2008
    I disagree. First, the rMBP can emulate the 1920x1200 resolution to match the real screen estate of the 17" model (and it will still look sharper due to super-sampling). Second, a HiDPI aware application can fit more content onto the screen by switching between the scaled and the 'pixel-native' rendering.


    The amount of information distinguishable at the screen is limited by its resolution. The retina MBP is capable of reproducing sharp small fonts that are still readable - on the 17" model they would just collapse into incomprehensible pixel squares.
  10. macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    上海 (Shanghai)
    I agree Retina displays are pointless for most users.

    It's nothing more than a new "thing" Apple has going. They started with multitouch displays and now they're going with Retina displays.
  11. macrumors regular

    Sep 17, 2008
    Just to be clear, are you arguing that multitouch displays are "nothing more than a new "thing" Apple has going" and "pointless for most users"?
  12. macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    上海 (Shanghai)
    Had going yes.

    Anyways I should have said "to be unique position over their competitors, yet offer little value for the time being." When Apple first came out with multitouch it was just two fingers anyways.

    Currently we're at the two finger stage with nothing going on for end users other than offer them eye candy.

    Anyway it's just my opinion. ;)
  13. macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2011
    ...except it can't emulate the screen being physically 17" across! You get 1920x1200 condensed onto a 15" screen. Now, your eyesight and hand-eye coordination may vary, but as far as I'm concerned that's getting too small to be usable, especially in a 2-screen configuration.

    Like I said - apples and oranges.

    It is also limited by the user's ability to read tiny text! The 17" MBP can already resolve pretty tiny text.

    The 17" MBP was a great desktop replacement that you could use in a dual-monitor configuration. The rMBP is better on the road but, on the desk, the extra resolution can not compensate for the smaller screen.
  14. macrumors 68000

    Mar 29, 2009
    You need to have your eyes checked.
  15. macrumors 68030

    Oct 21, 2012
    Erm? Multitouch was kind of a big deal which has now been integrated into pretty much every mobile Apple device.

    And actually, the benefits of the retina display are enormous - for example, I can edit a movie in final cut, and have the full 1080p video playing in the viewer. I can edit massive photoshop documents in one window, and I have the ability to have the effective screen real estate of a 24" display (1920 x 1200) on a 15" laptop, which is light enough and portable enough to haul around.

    Also, it's kinda not new. The first Apple retina display was launched in 2010.
  16. macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    Retina Displays are a nice to have. At the small text that they actually make a difference over any standard hd 1050,1080p display nobody wants to read text for long anyway. For most people it is not something one couldn't do well without.
    They aren't completely pointless though. Just scaling in games gets better. All kinds of things look slightly better. It is a luxury though and nothing anybody should waste money on unless it is standard or money isn't really a big issue.
  17. macrumors 68020


    Oct 6, 2008
    The anti-glare non-retina 15" is 1680x1050 which is nearly the same PPI as the 17" was. The current non-retina 13" has a pretty low PPI, even lower than the Macbook Air 13"

    If you are comparing to the glass screened machines I can understand as their resolution is lower, but I had a 15" anti-glare and now have a 13" retina...the difference is much more than you think. But for me the main reason to get a retina machine is the scaled resolutions, as I am currently running 1680x1050 on my 13". Being able to switch between 3 usable resolutions depending on the task at hand is very nice.
  18. macrumors 6502

    Sep 7, 2011
    You must have driver issues. My MBP native res is 1680x1050. (MPB Early 2011)
  19. macrumors 6502


    Nov 18, 2012
    You may have a point. I have a 2009 15" MBP. About 6 months ago I bought a new 2012 cMBP. It was a beast of a machine but putting it side by side with my 2009 model, I was Shocked to see how much better my display was on the 2009 model. Sharper, more defined. I exchanged it with another with the same result. It was then that I decided to return it and wait for the 2nd generation rMBP
  20. macrumors 68000

    Mar 29, 2009
    You have the upgraded panel - the standard panel for the 15" is 1440x900.
  21. macrumors member

    Sep 29, 2009
    lol "you must have a driver issue"

    love comments like that
  22. macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2011
    Resolution on the base model is 1440x900.
    You obviously have a MBP with the optional high-def screen build-to-order option.

    Go look at the configurator on the Apple Store website.
  23. macrumors 6502

    Sep 7, 2011
    see two posts up. :) Thanks, didn't know there was an option, just a vid card upgrade. Guess they threw that in for me.. :)
  24. thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 18, 2011
    Normal viewing distance. Not up close. OF COURSE if you look very very very up close there is a difference. But from a normal viewing distance? Not so much.
  25. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 20, 2013
    Respectfully disagree. I was a die-hard 17" MBP anti-glare advocate until I spent time on retina screen in 1920x1200 mode. The physical real estate may be smaller, but that retina screen very noticeably resolves small details and text much more sharply than my 17" did--from normal viewing distances.

    I won't get into a snarky "get your eyes checked" debate over this. Gauging the usefulness of a resolution is an entirely subjective experience. Every set of eyes will see things a bit differently. And to mine, the retina is a night-and-day improvement over the standard displays, to the extent that I would never buy another computer with a standard display. But that's just ME.

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