Earlier this morning Apple introduced its next-generation MacBook Pro equipped with a Retina Display. The 15.4-inch panel features a native resolution of 2880 x 1800, or exactly four times the standard 1440 x 900 resolution of a regular 15-inch MacBook Pro. As we've seen in the past however, an ultra high resolution screen in a small form factor can make for some very difficult to read text. The Retina MBP ships with a version of OS X Lion however that supports a number of scaling modes to take advantage of the ultra high res display.

By default, the Retina MBP ships in a pixel doubled configuration. You get the effective desktop resolution of the standard 15-inch MacBook Pro's 1440 x 900 panel, but with four physical pixels driving every single pixel represented on the screen. This configuration is the best looking, but you don't actually get any more desktop space. Thankfully Apple exposes a handful of predefined scaling options if you do want additional desktop space:

Apple offers five scaled settings including the default pixel doubled option: 1024 x 640, 1280 x 800, 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200. Selecting any of these options gives you the effective desktop resolution of the setting, but Apple actually renders the screen at a higher resolution and scales it to fit the 2880 x 1800 panel. As a result of the upscaled rendering, there can be a performance and quality impact. It's also worth noting there's no default option for 2880 x 1800, which is understandable given just how tiny text would be at that resolution. I suspect it won't be long before users figure out how to manually add a zero-scale, 2880 x 1800 option. 

The gallery below shows the impact of these scaling options on desktop area as well as how much of the AnandTech front page you can see at each setting.

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  • ispaure - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    Plays Far Cry 3 on High @ 1920x1200 |25-30 fps|, base 2.3Ghz model w/ 8gb RAM Reply
  • xp3nd4bl3 - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    Anand, how about some first impressions of the display?! Is it a waste of pixels from any reasonable sitting distance or does it completely blow your mind? Or somewhere inbetween? Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    For a person with 20/20 vision 15" away, it's the same experience as an iPhone 4 at 10". Whether it's a "Retina" experience or not, I don't know.

    I cranked the numbers below:

    http://goo.gl/dNkj6
    Reply
  • xp3nd4bl3 - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    Thanks for that. Reply
  • SodaAnt - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    Suprise suprise, when you sit 2ft away from your 15" laptop, which is pretty normal for me and most people I know, all you need is a 1080P display to get retina quality, demonstrating how useless all the extra pixels are.

    Further, it also shows that from 2.5ft or greater, my 2560*1600 30" display is plenty to get retina class resolution.
    Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    Yup, there exists a distance such that EVERY screen is as "Retina" as the iPhone 4 at 10" (the perscribed distance from Apple). Reply
  • SodaAnt - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    True, but the key is different usage scenarios. You are a lot more likely to be 10" from your iPhone than you are to be 10" from your laptop screen. In fact, I can't imagine a single case when you'd be less than 2 ft from your laptop display. Thus, apple's display doesn''t really make any sense, though the fact that its probably a IPS display will make most consumers think its a lot better, plus the fact that it isn't 768P. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - link

    I'm sorry, I worded my sentence poorly.

    I meant, "there exists a distance (not necessarily 10") such that every screen is as "Retina" as [the iPhone 4 at 10"]."

    I didn't mean to suggest that we need to compare _every_ device at 10", only that the iPhone 4 meets the "Retina" qualification at around 10", so the resulting angle is used as a benchmark for other screens at varying sizes, pixel counts, and distances.
    Reply
  • Einy0 - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    This is exactly why this resolution is worthless on a 15" laptop or even a 17" laptop. 1080p is the absolute max useful resolution on a 17" screen. I suppose there are a few people who can see that kinda resolution but they are few and far between. I regularly have to turn 22" and 24" displays down 1440x900 or lower for the 40+ crowd at work. Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    You don't get it, clearly. This isn't just for more desktop real estate, or to game on higher res. It's to make everything more detailed. This is entirely dependent on the content you'll be looking at. The Apps will scale so they're not really a big deal. But yes, this is for those that can take advantage of it. A power user if you will. Is this not what they've always asked for? Now that it's here people are saying it's pointless.... Yes let's stop tech at here. God forbid we ever reach lifelike quality displays... Reply

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