Does a need for a Retina Thunderbolt Display exist?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by ybz90, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. ybz90 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2009
    I am curious what other MacRumors members think about this particular topic. I've seen many posters here and elsewhere clamoring for a refresh to mirror the iMac's slimmer design, as well as USB3 and a retina display.

    Ignoring any technical difficulties involved in the development and manufacture of such a panel to sufficient yields, I personally started to wonder if the need even exists.

    Isn't it in a sense already "retina", a non-specific marketing term really, since the usable distance is more than twice as far as from a laptop like the rMBPs? You don't sit as close to the ATD screen as you would to a laptop, so in effect, your perceived dpi is close to (or even exceeds depending on your sitting distance) to that of the rMBPs. For instance, you might use a 15" rMBP at 2880x1800, but sit 10 inches away from it, at a true dpi of 220ish. The ATD has a true dpi of just 109 (2560x1440 at 27"), but if I use it around two feet away, it would seem more "retina" than the rMBP.

    It's for this reason, besides the issue of cost and technology, that I don't imagine we'll see a retina ATD anytime soon.
  2. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    Apple has not said what resolution constitutes Retina on any desktop display. Good chance there will be an ATD refresh in 2013. I agree that the refreshed ATD will likely be the same resolution at the current iMacs and ATD. The big changes are more likely replacing USB 2 with USB 3 and maybe dropping FW.
  3. 537635 macrumors 6502

    Mar 7, 2009
    Put a Thunderbolt display and rMBP at the same distance from your eyes.

    - look at the desktop
    - read some text
    - watch some photos


    It's the same story all over. We've seen it with iPhone. We've seen it with iPad. We've seen it with MBP. Yes, there is a need for a display, which matches the resolution of a printed book or a newspaper.
  4. ybz90 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2009
    Did you read my post? My point is, you don't put them at the same distance. That's an unreasonable usage scenario. Sitting in front of a 27" screen, you'll likely sit at least two times as far away as from a laptop like the rMBP.
  5. 537635 macrumors 6502

    Mar 7, 2009
    Did you read mine? Put them at the same distance as you would use a 27'' monitor. Typical scenario would be using the 27'' TBD as a primary monitor and rMBP as a secondary on a mStand.


    You can easily see, how much sharper text and images are on the right monitor, even from that distance.

    Of course with age (user's, not computer's) you become more farsighted and you appreciate the sharpness of high-res screenw less and less. Therfor if you are 40+ years old, you should also take that into consideration.
  6. crazyxzer0 macrumors 6502

    Oct 28, 2008
    I personally think its not necessary. If screen estate is the reason, I would get dual 27s' :cool:

    This doesn't mean it wont exist.. someone will find a need for
  7. ybz90 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2009
    I did and I disagree for the case of most users. Can you see the pixels on your rMBP at the distance that you use it at? If you are beyond that threshold, then you would have almost the exact same usable density if you doubled the distance away from the 27" display. You really can only discern differences between the two if you use the rMBP at a distance where the pixels are somewhat evident, otherwise doubling the distance for the ATD will also push it out of the range of being able to distinguish pixels. Once you're at that point, you can't tell on either display, so says mathematics.

    It really depends on how close you use the rMBP and the ATD, but unless you are very close, you shouldn't be able to see very many pixels, if at all. Of course, in your particular usage scenario, since you can see the difference between two, then you are probably using them closer to you than I (and I suspect most users) would. That said, I value your input on this question. I did not know if other people used the ATD in the way you did or in combination with an rMBP and your experience is enlightening.
  8. tredstone macrumors regular

    Aug 25, 2010
    According to, typical placement of a 27" iMac/TBD would be right at, or perhaps slightly below the retina threshold.

    People need to stop using 'retina display' synonymously in reference to pixel density. A 4K monitor would have a higher pixel density than a rMBP, and would be noticeably sharper and show greater detail if both were compared at the same distance. They're still both "retina displays."

    Nonetheless, I think the 27" straddles the line closer than the ipad and certainly the iphone, so I would welcome a higher res display.
  9. 537635 macrumors 6502

    Mar 7, 2009
    It's not really all about seeing individual pixels.
    I own three "retina" devices - a cell phone, a tablet and a laptop and one "non-retina" - the Thunderbolt display. I can assure you from at my viewing distance (somewhat 50cm) I can easily tell the difference. The first thing you notice are the fonts. High-res displays, especially those with a thin glass on top (like rMPB) feel like reading a printed paper, which is illuminated from behind.

    I think the "ideal" resolution for a 27'' display is somewhere in the middle. The 4k resolution for a 27'' monitor would be an overkill, but I think a 100% increase in pixel count would be enough to achieve the same result.
  10. tredstone macrumors regular

    Aug 25, 2010
    As a vision researcher, I'll be the first to say that 'retina display' is a silly marketing term. But if Apple is going to use it to refer to a display in which individual pixels are not discernible given typical usage distance, then I think that criteria needs to be applied in answering the question of this thread. Whether a difference can be distinguished between a TBD and an rMBP is, as I said before, analogous to comparing a 4K monitor and a rMBP screen. Just because you can tell a difference doesn't mean both can't be retina displays. The question is whether both pass the criterion set by Apple when they first introduced that term.

    I do believe that the TBD is much closer to the 'retina' threshold than the actual devices Apple markets with that term (iPad, iPhone, rMBP), and in some usage distance cases may be just below the threshold. So I don't blame Apple for not labeling it as such.

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