“Retina” MacBook Pros shipping next year? It’s possible


    Apple could be ready to launch a MacBook Pro with a “Retina”-class display beginning sometime next year. A new display of unspecified size reportedly being built for Apple will have a 2880×1800 pixel resolution, according to sources speaking to DigiTimes. Although the source may seem sketchy, the claims are plausible, and such a display would be a perfect fit for Lion’s little-known, resolution-doubled “HiDPI” display technology.

    A 2880×1800 pixel display would have a density of about 220 pixels per inch at a 15.4″ size, which is double the density of the current default 1440×900 display. Such a pixel density coincides nicely with Lion’s hidden HiDPI display options, which double the number of pixels used for user interface elements. The technique is essentially identical to that used in iOS to create “Retina” graphics for the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and fourth-generation iPod touch. Such pixel doubling is also believed to be behind an upcoming iPad hardware revision with an expected 2048×1536 pixel 9.7″ display, with a roughly 266ppi pixel density.

    While 220ppi doesn’t quite approach the 326ppi of the current iPhone “Retina” display, it would make the visible appearance of pixels difficult to distinguish at typical laptop viewing distances. A generally accepted standard of the resolving power of the human eye is that a person with 20/20 vision can just barely discern two distinct elements that are one arc minute (or 1/60 of a degree) apart. For a display with 220ppi, the individual pixels would disappear at about 15.6″; sitting up at a desk and typing, my face is about 16″ away from the display of my MacBook Air.

    The sources allegedly come from “upstream component suppliers” who suggest that Apple could release new MacBook Pro models as early as the second quarter of next year. And while DigiTimes does not have a good record for accuracy, this timeline does make it somewhat plausible. Apple is expected to have similar resolution displays ready for the iPad 3 in early spring, and the same technology would likely be used to make such a high-resolution display suitable for the MacBook Pro. Furthermore, Intel should be shipping its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors around the second quarter of next year. Apple will undoubtedly refresh its MacBook Pros to use the new processors, and its upgraded graphics are capable of driving such a high resolution display.

    Apple’s display resolutions for laptops have been slowly creeping upward, especially since the launch of revised MacBook Air models on October 2010. The 11″ model has a pixel density of 135ppi, while the 13″ model is 128dpi. A high resolution display option for the 15″ MacBook Pro also checks in at 128ppi, while the 17″ MacBook Pro measures 132ppi.

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    “Retina” MacBook Pros shipping next year? It’s possible


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