Sunday, October 30, 2011

Understanding Display "Resolution" (Retina display)

When I first heard the "Retina display" of the iPhone explained, the perplexed reaction I had was "what for?"  By the way, "Retina display" is just a marketing term for a density of greater than 300dpi.

Display area is probably the most expensive piece of real estate in the world after the Disney Store in New York city's Times Square.  When you have a large spreadsheet to analyze, every pixel is priceless.

Why would you want to waste 960x640 of screen real estate at 326dpi?  It's not about discernible (read snobby) people being able to tell the dots when the display density is below 200dpi.

For paper printouts, yes, you would want 300dpi or better.  But for an electronic display which is refreshed at 30 times a second?  For an electronic display showing moving images or video?

My main beef with high resolution displays on cell phones is that the density is too high.  The density should be reduced to make the display more readable when each pixel is put to good use.  Notice I said "put to good use".  The iPhone's beautiful display is not put to good use with the applications we are seeing. See explanation.

The Samsung Galaxy Note has 1280x800 pixels and at a density of 285 dpi.  This works out to a size of 5.3 inches diagonal.  Now, 1280x800 is same or more abundant than the full-size displays of 85% of the laptop computers shipped in the world today!  I could do some serious work on the phone with this amount of addressable and displayable pixels.  The current Galaxy Note goes into all of my pockets comfortably.  At 250dpi, this would give a screen size of 6".  I think this would be better for an all-purpose computer that can be with you all the time.  My eyes, which are more than half a century old each, are ok for such a display.

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