One of the most persistent rumors about possible upcoming new Apple MacBook laptops (aside from a 15-inch MacBook Air or the end of the 17-inch MacBook Pro) is that they will include upgraded high-resolution Retina Displays, like those on the iPhone 4/4S and third-generation iPad.
But, would this fairly significant change be worth it? If Apple breaks from the laptop norm (for example, by upgrading the 15-inch MacBook Pro's 1,440x900-pixel display to a purported 2,560x1,600 pixels), I'd have concerns about battery life, system size and weight from a potentially larger battery, and even price, as higher-resolution panels cost $100 more by some estimates. And consumers could be confused if Apple breaks a long-standing tradition of how laptop screen sizes and screen resolutions relate.
The current high-end resolution for laptops is 1,920x1,080 pixels, which we sometimes refer to as full HD or 1080p -- that's the same as Blu-ray HD video. On a 17-inch desktop-replacement laptop, it's great, and it mostly works on a 15-incher as well. The handful of 13-inch laptops with 1,920x1,080-pixel screens I've seen are hard to read. For even higher resolutions, Apple would have to have a workaround for this. The most likely way a Retina MacBook would work would be using HiDPI. My colleagues Josh Lowensohn and Brooke Crothers explain:
If Apple bumps up the resolutions on these displays and keeps them the same size, it has to treat pixels differently using a a special mode called HiDPI. The feature understands that there are more pixels, but that the scale of the display is the same. Apple added the feature to its OS X 10.7 software last year, but it isn't readily available to users. Some third-party software, including the recently-updated Air Display app for iOS have unlocked it so that users can try it out on their third-generation iPad.
Most MacBooks are already outside of the laptop resolution mainstream, with 16:10 screens on everything except the 11-inch MacBook Air, which is the company's only 16:9 laptop. As these are some of the only 16:10 laptops left, some kind of change wouldn't be surprising.… Read more