Why does the MacBook look so good non-native?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by Somnesis, May 23, 2015.

  1. Somnesis macrumors newbie

    May 23, 2015
    Hey :)

    One thing I’ve always noticed on retina Macs is the slight fuzziness when using non-native resolutions. So I was kinda dubious when Apple launched this Mac to run at a non-native resolution by default.

    Then I went to check it out at an Apple Store, and strangely, I didn’t find the non-native resolution to be an issue. I’ve wondered why this was.

    After my MacBook finally arrived, I put this to the test. I put this Mac right next to a 15” retina and ran both at non-native resolutions.

    And I can concretely say that on the 15”, text is definitely fuzzy whereas the MacBook renders the text pretty crisply. What gives? Both have comparable pixel densities so I don’t think it’s that. And surely it can’t be OS X doing this in software right?

    If I switch the 15” between native and non-native, I can tell the difference is *drastic*. On the MacBook, I can’t really tell any difference.

    Can anyone explain this?
  2. Kiwi 99 macrumors regular

    Kiwi 99

    Apr 4, 2011
    I'd like to second the question. Just tried it on 2012 12" rMBP, and what the OP is saying looks true on first glance. I just cycled through the various options offered on the Displays panel. The rMBP only looked crisp on "default", the rMB looks crisp on all of them.
    I hadn't noticed this effect, but I had noticed how switching resolutions on the new rMB seems to be much easier than other models, and sometimes I'll switch it during the day depending on what mood I'm in. Partly because I know it looks good no matter which I choose.
  3. matt2053 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2012
    The rMB has the densest PPI of any MacBook Apple makes.

    Edit: Nevermind that's not true, it'a about tied with the 13" rMBP.
  4. ValSalva macrumors 68040


    Jun 26, 2009
    Burpelson AFB
    I agree with the OP's opinion. Marco Arment's blog post in which he explains why he's returning his rMB mentions that he thinks the rMB display is blurry at non-native resolutions. I think I'm pretty picky but must say I couldn't see any blurriness on one at an Apple Store.

    Sometime when my nearest Apple Store is nearly empty I'd like to set up a couple of adjacent rMB's, one at native resolution and the other at the Apple non-native default to see if I can see a difference. But I really don't think I'll see any difference. Seems like magic.
  5. Sym0 macrumors 6502


    Jun 6, 2013
    I just switched mine to a scaled res and it looks just as crisp, but all the **** is so small I'm not sure you'd be able to pick those sorts of differences.
  6. nksk, May 23, 2015
    Last edited: May 23, 2015

    nksk macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2014
    I too have been thinking about this. When the first rumors surfaced, I was horrified I'd have to settle for 720p of screen real estate, but now I'm running this thing at "1440x900" and everything looks crisp as hell.

    They must have some amazing new scaling algorithms. Probably something that takes the subpixel arrangement into account like font smoothing's been doing for years.

    I'd love to know more about what they do.

    Like do they render things like photos at the final resolution immediately? That should look better than rendering them at 2880x1800 and scaling down, like they do for UI elements. And what about text? You'd think font smoothing would need to take the actual screen resolution into account too.
  7. Axeros macrumors member

    Mar 11, 2014
    One possibility is that the screen pixels on the rMB retina panel have a wider aperture than those used on other devices. So the screen hardware is in fact different from that on the rMBP.

    To deliver the gorgeous Retina experience on the sleek new MacBook, we had to innovate on every level, right down to the pixel. So we redesigned the pixels to create a larger aperture, allowing more light to pass through. This enabled us to use LED backlighting that’s 30 percent more energy efficient than the Retina display on any other Mac notebook, yet still achieve the same level of vivid brightness.​

  8. xmichaelp macrumors 68000


    Jul 10, 2012
    This is interesting to me...

    Does anyone with a 5k iMac notice if the scaled resolutions look fuzzy or sharp?

    Because if both the iMac and rMB have sharper scaled resolutions then they must've changed something over rMBPs.
  9. TheSteves macrumors member


    Apr 23, 2015
    Planet Earth
    i recognized the same thing and came to the same conclusion.

    but also we don't know anything else about the machine's display...
  10. Somnesis thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 23, 2015
    @nksk But don't you think that if they did software changes in the rendering algorithms they'd bring that to the other Macs too? Kinda a douchy thing not to have that on your flagship Macs just to make this Mac look better?

    @Axeros As I understand reading that, it's mostly to do with the amount of light and energy efficiency, no? Not actual clarity or anything?

    This is such an interesting thing that I don't think any reviews have addressed, even the detailed Anandtech one. Hmm...
  11. Axeros macrumors member

    Mar 11, 2014
    The quote from Apple is indeed about energy efficiency. But it also reveals that the screen itself is different from the rMBP. So I wouldn't assume that it has no effect on the visual clarity of the screen.

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