Retina Display

The term "retina display" is a hardware term coined by Apple in June, 2010. It describes a display that has a resolution of over 300 dpi. The iPhone 4, which was also announced in June, 2010, has a screen resolution of 326 dpi and was the first Apple product to include a retina display.

The name "retina display" refers to way the high-resolution display appears to the human eye. When a display has a resolution over 300 dpi, most humans cannot recognize individual pixels when viewing the screen from a distance of about 12 inches. Therefore, the pixels seem to run together, creating a smooth appearance. This is similar to digital audio that is recorded with a high sampling rate. Since the audio samples are so close together, we perceive the sound as a smooth analog signal.

Since some people have better vision than others, there is no scientifically accurate number that defines a retina display. In fact, some people may in fact be able to identify individual pixels in a retina display. Still, compared to a typical computer monitors, which has a resolution of 72 dpi, a retina display will look noticeably sharper to all users.

Retina displays are especially useful for reading text on a small screen, such as an iPhone or iPod Touch. The increased resolution makes small text legible and medium-sized text easier to read. As display technology continues to evolve, retina displays are expected to be made available in larger devices, such as the iPad and HiDPI monitors.

Updated December 16, 2011

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