What Is the Difference Between a Retina Display and Normal?

The term ‘Retina Display’ was coined by Apple’s marketing team, and there is no official standard. Apple decides if it’s worth being a Retina display or one of its many variations of Retina. Here’s a breakdown of what typically is Retina and how they compare.

What Typically Makes it Retina?

For Apple, it’s all about pixel density. Your screen is made up of tiny pixels which display different colours that make up the image you see. Pixels are tiny, however, the smaller you make them, the more you can fit in the same area. A standard pixel is typically around 0.26mm wide whereas Retina is closer to 0.16mm.

Pixel density makes a big difference, especially when looking at the screen from a short distance. If you’ve ever got close to your TV, you may have noticed that the screen becomes blocky and you can see lines or waves. The distortions you see are where your eye can see between the pixels. TVs are designed to be viewed over a meter away, so the pixel density isn’t crucial. This would be a problem if your phone did the same thing.

Apple uses different densities of pixels across different devices depending on how far away users will typically view the screen. For example, a 2019 MacBook Pro has a ppi (pixel per inch) of 227 whereas the iPhone 11 Pro Max has a ppi of 458.

In short, Retina means a sharper, clearer image.

Does Retina Look Different To a Normal Display?

A Retina display will improve the overall experience of the screen, especially while binge-watching Netflix; however, you’ll see the most significant difference in text. Whether it’s reading emails or texting the words will be crisp on the screen with less fuzziness around the edges.

Variations of Retina

Retina HD

When the iPhone 6 plus was released, it met the international standard for HD. Apple wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to fit the well know HD term in.

Super Retina HD

The iPhone X had the next significant bump in pixel density to 458ppi, so Apple added the word super to the start. Why not.

Liquid Retina HD

Apple used an LCD display for the iPhone XR so rather than using LCD they decided on ‘Liquid’. It does sound better.

Retina 4K & 5K

The ‘4K’ or ‘5K’ denotation after Retina is in reference to the number of pixels horizontally. 4K meaning 4,000 and 5K meaning 5,000. The standard requires the horizontal pixels to exceed this amount, and that’s what Apple did with their iMacs in 2014 & 2015.

Do I Need a Retina display?

Honestly, it’s a preference, but there are circumstances where we highly recommend it. For example graphics designers, writers and office workers are going to have a much nicer time on a Retina display. The display will allow you to work accurately, read more comfortably and have a more substantial amount of screen real estate to put your windows. For those not using it for work you’ll find watching videos and TV is a whole lot nicer.

Now in future, we hope when Apple throw some display jargon at you you’ll have a little better understanding of what they mean. If you’re in the market for a Retina MacBook or iMac then check out our store or get in touch with our team!