A Closer Look at the New MacBook Pro's Retina Display

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AnandTech takes a closer look at the new MacBook Pro's 2880x1800 Retina display, revealing just how well the display stacks up against its predecessor and other notebook displays and delving into the details of how it handles various resolutions.

In looking at scaling, the report explains the new slider option in System Preferences that allows users to select from a spectrum of resolutions that include not only the 1440x900 resolution in Retina quality using the full 2880x1800 pixels, but also larger desktop spaces at 1920x1200 and 1680x1050.
Retina Display MBP owners now get a slider under OS X's Display Preferences that allow you to specify desktop resolutions other than 1440 x 900. At 1440 x 900 you don't get any increase in usable desktop resolution compared to a standard 15-inch MacBook Pro, but everything is ridiculously crisp. If you're like me however and opted for the 1680 x 1050 "high-res" upgrade last generation, this won't do. Thankfully Apple offers 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 scaling options that trade a bit of image quality and performance for added real estate.



AnandTech's report also describes how Apple's display design has done away with the cover glass that in some circumstances suffers from significant glare on the standard non-Retina MacBook Pro. Phil Schiller noted during the keynote introduction that glare has been reduced 75% from the previous MacBook Pro, and AnandTech calls the Retina MacBook Pro's glare "remarkably close" to that seen on an earlier-generation matte MacBook Pro.

Comparing color and contrast, AnandTech discovered that the Retina MacBook Pro's display has remarkably improved black levels, which help compensate for slightly lower brightness. Contrast is also excellent, making for crisp and vivid content display.




As with Retina displays on iOS devices, Apple automatically scales text to display at the crisper Retina resolution, but it is dependent on apps using Apple's text rendering. AnandTech notes that Google Chrome currently uses its own text rendering engine and is thus unable to take advantage of the sharper text available in Safari.

Finally, the report takes a look at how games handle the Retina display, with Diablo III taking full advantage of the 2880x1800 display as touted by Apple during the keynote. Some games are able to see the full resolution while others are limited to the "non-Retina" resolutions topping out at 1920x1200, but it seems reasonable to believe that over time game developers will be building in support for the ultra-high resolution of the new MacBook Pro.

Article Link: A Closer Look at the New MacBook Pro's Retina Display
 
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Littleodie914

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Jun 9, 2004
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If you were to select a resolution that wasn't exactly the native pixel density (2880x1800) or exactly half (1440x900), and were to instead pick a larger resolution like 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 (as mentioned in the article) wouldn't you experience fuzzing as the software tries to compensate for the hardware vs. software pixel boundaries?
 
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chrmjenkins

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The benefit of that resolution is not needing AA and AF in games, but few laptop cards are up to it on modern games at any sort of high setting.
 
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ChazUK

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Feb 3, 2008
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First off, that machine looks stunning. Possibly the best laptop around today but this would worry me if I was going to do any kind of gaming on the thing:

Diablo III is actually quite playable at 2880 x 1800, at least in the earlier levels (I haven't had time to make it far enough in the game to tell how bad it can get). I managed to average 20 fps at 2880 x 1800 in the most stressful scene I have presently unlocked.
----

The benefit of that resolution is not needing AA and AF in games, but few laptop cards are up to it on modern games at any sort of high setting.
You'd still need AF wouldn't you to clear up fuzzy textures?
 
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ArtOfWarfare

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Nov 26, 2007
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Hmmm... I'm going to have to stop by my Apple Store and test drive this new Mac Book Pro... I'm seriously considering the possibility of doing away with my iMac & MBA set up (both from 2007) and just having this laptop replace both of them...

Everything but the DVD drive + raw inches of my iMac, coupled with being nearly as portable as the MBA... sounds hard to beat.

Diablo III is actually quite playable at 2880 x 1800, at least in the earlier levels (I haven't had time to make it far enough in the game to tell how bad it can get). I managed to average 20 fps at 2880 x 1800 in the most stressful scene I have presently unlocked.
On the one hand, ew. On the other hand, I haven't actually tested Diablo III on my iMac yet (which doesn't even have that many pixels,) so I don't actually know if that's better or worse.
 
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BrightonMB

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Nov 1, 2011
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The 75% reduction in glare is the most interest to me - hoping they might take this into the next iMac refresh to make it more viable for pros perhaps?
 
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steve-p

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If you were to select a resolution that wasn't exactly the native pixel density (2880x1800) or exactly half (1440x900), and were to instead pick a larger resolution like 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 (as mentioned in the article) wouldn't you experience fuzzing as the software tries to compensate for the hardware vs. software pixel boundaries?
Yes. Also not much point paying for an expensive 2880 screen and running it at 1680 when a native 1680 screen would be both sharper and cheaper, if they offered it.
 
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Stetrain

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Feb 6, 2009
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If you were to select a resolution that wasn't exactly the native pixel density (2880x1800) or exactly half (1440x900), and were to instead pick a larger resolution like 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 (as mentioned in the article) wouldn't you experience fuzzing as the software tries to compensate for the hardware vs. software pixel boundaries?
When you pick the "more space" option, which is equivalent to 1920x1200, OSX actually renders it at double that size in both directions, or 3840x2400, using the retina quality graphics. It then smoothly downscales to 2880x1800.

It probably isn't perfect, I haven't seen one in person yet, but it should be much better than simply setting a display to a non-native resolution.

Instead of upscaling a low resolution image, it's downlscaling a high resolution one.
 
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jclardy

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If you were to select a resolution that wasn't exactly the native pixel density (2880x1800) or exactly half (1440x900), and were to instead pick a larger resolution like 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 (as mentioned in the article) wouldn't you experience fuzzing as the software tries to compensate for the hardware vs. software pixel boundaries?
You would, but I doubt it will be noticeable as we are talking pixels that are a quarter of the size that they currently are. But fonts will still be rendered sharp because the OS is scaling them to whatever resolution, so only interface graphics will be scaled.

But having the option for 1920x1200 usable space makes me want this even more...


My question: How does it work when plugging in to an external display? If you drag a window from the retina to non-retina does it scale correctly? (The non-retina would be 1x size versus 2x on the retina, meaning the non-retina would have to be scaled to 50% on the fly unless the system loads both graphics simultaneously.)
 
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Stetrain

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Yes. Also not much point paying for an expensive 2880 screen and running it at 1680 when a native 1680 screen would be both sharper and cheaper, if they offered it.
Anandtech specifically says that the '1680x1050' mode on the Retina Macbook Pro looks better than the old 1680x1050 display:

Even at the non-integer scaled 1680 x 1050 setting, the Retina Display looks a lot better than last year's high-res panel. It looks like Apple actually renders the screen at twice the selected resolution before scaling it to fit the 2880 x 1800 panel (in other words, at 1920 x 1200 Apple is rendering everything at 3840 x 2400 (!) before scaling - this is likely where the perf impact is seen, but I'm trying to find a way to quantify that now). Everything just looks better. I also appreciate how quick it is to switch between resolutions on OS X. When I'm doing a lot of work I prefer the 1920 x 1200 setting, but if I'm in content consumption mode I find myself happier at 1440 x 900 or 1680 x 1050.
The scaling that Apple is doing is very different than just running a display at a non-native resolution.
 
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KnightWRX

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Jan 28, 2009
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If you were to select a resolution that wasn't exactly the native pixel density (2880x1800) or exactly half (1440x900), and were to instead pick a larger resolution like 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 (as mentioned in the article) wouldn't you experience fuzzing as the software tries to compensate for the hardware vs. software pixel boundaries?
Will have to see in store I guess, the article doesn't seem to make any mentions of this unfortunately, and we all know how bad LCDs get when run at anything but proper fractions of the native resolution.

You have to use blending when downscaling in order to interpolate pixels. Unless the display still runs at native resolution (2880x1800) and scaling is down in software to provide a "1680x1050" desktop (which is still displayed using 2880x1800 actual pixels, using some kind of nearest neighbor or other hard scaling which creates no fuzzyness/blending).
 
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Stetrain

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Will have to see in store I guess, the article doesn't seem to make any mentions of this unfortunately, and we all know how bad LCDs get when run at anything but proper fractions of the native resolution.
If you go to the actual source article at Anandtech it does talk about that. I quoted one of the relevant parts above.
 
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BornAgainApple

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Jun 9, 2009
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I was fortunate enough to check one out at the Apple Store yesterday and was really impressed. They had a slideshow running side-by-side a regular 15" MBP and the difference was stunning. They also had a 13" MBA next to it and the new MBP was just slightly heavier. Let the Apple haters chew on this while the W8 PC's play catch-up.
 
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JohnDoe98

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Anandtech specifically says that the '1680x1050' mode on the Retina Macbook Pro looks better than the old 1680x1050 display:



The scaling that Apple is doing is very different than just running a display at a non-native resolution.
It's a shame MacRumors didn't add the little except you mentioned, it seems that was the most important conclusion of Anandtech's report.
 
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steve-p

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Oct 14, 2008
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Anandtech specifically says that the '1680x1050' mode on the Retina Macbook Pro looks better than the old 1680x1050 display:



The scaling that Apple is doing is very different than just running a display at a non-native resolution.
I'm waiting to see one in person but it sounds promising. I'm still hoping they will add a hi res retina screen option which is doubled up 1680x1050 though, then it would be moot.
 
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KnightWRX

macrumors Pentium
Jan 28, 2009
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Quebec, Canada
If you go to the actual source article at Anandtech it does talk about that. I quoted one of the relevant parts above.
It's not clear what he means by that. I did read it. Check out my edit. If it is working that way, it's not actually changing the resolution of the screen, you're running at the LCD's native 2880x1800.
 
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smithrh

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Feb 28, 2009
2,480
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I've looked around a little bit but haven't found anything definitive about units being in the store on display - anyone know an ETA for that?

Some things just have to be seen in person, this is probably one of those things.

Edit: I see BornAgainApple had a post at the same time as me indicating he's seen one in a store.

Where are my car keys?
 
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Piggie

macrumors G3
Feb 23, 2010
8,330
2,545
Can someone, who knows there stuff sensibly and not just a fan boy of course Its better mode, please do the maths on how close the human eye has to be, with normal vision to see the difference in the old MacBook and the new MacBook's screen.
 
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Clubber

macrumors member
May 29, 2009
92
7
Excited

I'm excited. I learned a long time ago that the display is one of the most important things of a computer. It's the thing you stare at the entire time, and it's 1/2 of the equation of using the thing.

I remember paying over $1000 for a used 21" CRT. I was motivated to do so much more of my side project work at the time.
 
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