Retina-Quality External Display for rMBP

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by AppleDev879, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. AppleDev879 macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2011
    In looking at potential external displays for my Late-2013 15" Retina MacBook Pro, I'm wondering whether it is possible to fully replicate retina-level pixel quality on an external display. Is a "4K" monitor capable of doing this, and what should I be looking for in terms of both resolution and PPI in order to achieve the same quality image I have on my laptop?
  2. SVTmaniac macrumors 6502

    Jan 30, 2013
    Closest you will get is with 4K. I believe you can do HiDpi mode with 4k now with 10.9.3 and the Late 2013 15" MacBook pro
  3. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    And even 4k isn't necessarily retina; the PPI on a rMBP is about 220; on a 4k that would be about what, 20" at the standard 4k resolution? The retina is a retina because of pixel density, about 200-225 IIC. In a 15" screen, at 2880x1800.

    Most want an external that's larger, and so a 27" 4k at a resolution of 3840x2160 would be 163 PPI, well below the retina. Furthermore there are issues of driving that display, the speed (can your laptop do 60hz on that? I think the current ones can with a manual tweak) and so on.

    In short, you probably won't get an exact analogue. But you probably won't be sitting as close either, so it may not matter. If you can't resolve the difference it may work fine.

    It's a bit in flux at the moment. Stay tuned.
  4. mneblett macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2008
    Not quite as simple as dpi alone.

    Apple defined "Retina" as being the pixel density at which the human eye cannot discern individual pixels **when viewed at the "normal" viewing distance for that device**.

    For most, the "normal" viewing distance from a stand-alone monitor is somewhat greater than from a 15" rMBP (I also have a late '13 15" rMBP, and I know I view an attached 24" monitor from farther away than the rMBP's screen). My expectation is that a 24" 4K screen at normal viewing distance will appear roughly (or at least nearly) as sharp as a 15" rMBP screen at normal viewing distance.
  5. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Somebody has done a helpful calculator:

    ...of course, there's also an implicit definition that "retina" also means 'pixel doubled' i.e. system fonts, icons etc. are displayed at 2:1 scale so they are the same size as on a non-retina screen, but with more detail where available. This will make icons and system text a bit chunky on a 30" 4k screen c.f. a 1440p iMac27/Thunderbolt display. You'd need a 5k display to truly 'pixel double' a 27" 1440p screen. 'Scaled mode' is the solution - but that has a (probably imperceptible) quality hit and a (more likely to be perceptible) GPU hit.
  6. AppleDev879 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2011
    My main reason for potentially investing in a 4K display over a 1080p one is because I fear I'll be disappointed with a lower quality image compared to that of my current retina display. So for me, noticeable image distortion or GPU strain at a multiplied (HiDPI) resolution is something of a deal breaker. I would likely never use all of the 4K pixels un-doubled simply to add more space on screen. Is near-retina quality a reasonable expectation of a 4K display running with HiDPI, or am I in the market for the wrong reason?
  7. mneblett macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2008
    I believe you are in the right market, as I'm also waiting for a 4K screen for exactly the same reason. I looked at the current Apple Thunderbolt Display in the store, and -- having been spoiled by the 15" rMBP -- really didn't like the readily discernible pixels.

    I don't know whether a 4K screen will give "near retina" visuals (or course, the size of the screen matters, 4K on a 24" screen requires a higher pixel density than on a 30" screen). I do know that 4K looks to be the only thing for the next few years that will be both better than the current screens, while at least somewhat affordable.
  8. jkg4 macrumors newbie


    Jun 22, 2010
    Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    You'll be quite happy with the "retina" quality of the Dell 24" 4K monitor when running it in 1920x1080 mode using OS X 10.9.3 or higher.
  9. AppleDev879 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2011
    I guess I just have trouble bringing myself to spend $600+ on a non-IPS monitor that feels very first generation. From what I've read, 4K monitors are in their infancy right now, and will likely decrease in price as 1080p monitors did a few years back. So I wonder whether I should just save the money, deal with a lower resolution 27" monitor for now, and wait until 4K comes down in price. While certainly not near retina quality, I could pick up an ASUS MX279H for around $200, which is a price I'm much more willing to pay in the short term while waiting for the cost of 4K to come down.
  10. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    I would wait for the new product launches this fall to see what Apple does with their ATD. It is past time for them to up do a major refresh.
  11. teamgot963 macrumors newbie

    Jun 27, 2014
    that right,the PPI on a rMBP is about 220; on a 4k that would be about what, 20" at the standard 4k resolution? The retina is a retina because of pixel density, about 200-225 IIC. In a 15" screen, at 2880x1800.thanks[​IMG]
  12. macfacts macrumors 68030


    Oct 7, 2012
    If you want the retina/sharp text, and stay with "1080" resolution, then you'll have to pick a smaller size monitor. If you want a 27" monitor, you'll have to get a 4k monitor.

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