Retina Displays Also Coming to Next-Generation iMac?

As part of ABC News' roundup of the latest MacBook Pro rumors, Joanna Stern claims that not only the MacBook Pro family but also the iMac line is set to gain ultra high-resolution "Retina" displays.

The laptop will see the introduction of the “Mac Retina Display,” which is said to have a very high resolution. ABC News has similarly heard from its own sources that both the next MacBook Pro and the iMac would be getting very, very high resolution displays. Apple refreshed its new iPad with a Retina Display in March.

The MacBook Pro has long been the focus of the Retina or HiDPI display rumors, but it seems natural that Apple would want to move all of its displays to the standard. What is unclear, however, is just how Apple will implement the increased resolution given that most Macs already approach Retina resolution at typical viewing distances.

Many have assumed that Apple will follow the model used in the iPhone and iPad, doubling the resolution in each dimension with a screen carrying four times the pixels of its predecessor. That specific suggestion has already been made in regards to a rumored 15-inch MacBook Pro with 2880x1800 display compared to the 1440x900 display in the current model.

But as screen sizes get even larger, quadrupling the number of pixels starts to bump up against the hardware capabilities of graphics chips and display interface standards. While a 17-inch MacBook Pro coming in at a Retina resolution of 3840x2400 might be possible, the more significant issues surface with the iMac, which is also gaining higher-resolution displays according to today's report.

The 21.5-inch iMac would see a pixel count in the range of the 17-inch MacBook Pro as its 1920x1080 resolution would be bumped to 3840x2160, but the 27-inch iMac would move from its current resolution of 2560x1440 to a monster Retina display at 5120x2880. The same panel could also be used in a revised Apple Thunderbolt Display should hardware be able to support the resolution.

imacs 2011 lion
Consequently, some have suggested that Apple would increase display resolution on its Mac lines by a smaller amount than seen on iOS devices, with current variation in pixel density among Mac models already introducing some flexibility in interface element sizes. But with most Mac models offering pixel densities in the range of 100-130 pixels per inch (ppi), moving to a somewhat higher density such as 160-170 ppi to qualify as a Retina display still imposes some difficulties for developers and users.

While user interface elements do vary in physical size depending on the machine they are displayed on, they are designed to be usable in the typical range of 100-130 ppi. Moving to something in the range of 160-170 ppi, for example, could result in user interface elements becoming too small for users to click on with ease unless applications are specifically updated with new elements designed for that pixel density range. Otherwise, elements could be scaled to approximate the physical size seen on lower-resolution displays, but this scaling would undoubtedly degrade image quality.

David Barnard has argued that Apple could still use the pixel doubling motif on larger Mac displays without necessarily having to quadruple the number of actual pixels if users would be willing to accept a smaller workspace than seen on current machines. In one example, Barnard describes how rather than moving the current 2560x1440 27-inch iMac all the way to 5120x2880, Apple could instead offer a display at 3840x2400 that would present itself with a Retina workspace of 1920x1200.

Apple could build a 3840 by 2400 pixel 27-inch screen that presented itself as a pixel doubled 1920 by 1200 pixel display. That’s effectively an 84ppi screen @1X and 168ppi screen @2X. [...]

What you should notice is that the text and UI elements are physically smaller on the current 109ppi iMac than they’d be on the hypothetical 84/168ppi 27-inch iMac. This may be frustrating to some users, but I actually prefer my old 94ppi 24-inch Cinema Display to any of Apple's higher PPI displays. I like that the system default 12pt text is larger. The sacrifice is in the usable workspace, and that’s a matter of taste.

So while Apple appears to face some challenges in bringing its Retina display concept to the Mac, the company seems to be committed to making the transition. It simply remains to be seen how the company will implement the move, as hardware rumors and hints within OS X Lion and Mountain Lion are certainly pointing toward Retina Mac displays sooner rather than later.

Related Roundup: iMac
Buyer's Guide: iMac (Neutral)
Related Forum: iMac

Popular Stories

iPhone 17 Plus Feature

iPhone 17 Lineup Specs Detail Display Upgrade and New High-End Model

Monday July 22, 2024 4:33 am PDT by
Key details about the overall specifications of the iPhone 17 lineup have been shared by the leaker known as "Ice Universe," clarifying several important aspects of next year's devices. Reports in recent months have converged in agreement that Apple will discontinue the "Plus" iPhone model in 2025 while introducing an all-new iPhone 17 "Slim" model as an even more high-end option sitting...
iPhone SE 4 Vertical Camera Feature

iPhone SE 4 Rumored to Use Same Rear Chassis as iPhone 16

Friday July 19, 2024 7:16 am PDT by
Apple will adopt the same rear chassis manufacturing process for the iPhone SE 4 that it is using for the upcoming standard iPhone 16, claims a new rumor coming out of China. According to the Weibo-based leaker "Fixed Focus Digital," the backplate manufacturing process for the iPhone SE 4 is "exactly the same" as the standard model in Apple's upcoming iPhone 16 lineup, which is expected to...
Apple TV Plus Feature 2 Magenta and Blue

Apple TV+ Curbs Costs After Expensive Projects Fail to Capture Viewers

Monday July 22, 2024 5:11 am PDT by
Apple is scaling back its Hollywood spending after investing over $20 billion in original programming with limited success, Bloomberg reports. This shift comes after the streaming service, which launched in 2019, struggled to capture a significant share of the market, accounting for only 0.2% of TV viewership in the U.S., compared to Netflix's 8%. Despite heavy investment, critical acclaim,...
iPhone 16 Pro Sizes Feature

iPhone 16 Series Is Just Two Months Away: Everything We Know

Monday July 15, 2024 4:44 am PDT by
Apple typically releases its new iPhone series around mid-September, which means we are about two months out from the launch of the iPhone 16. Like the iPhone 15 series, this year's lineup is expected to stick with four models – iPhone 16, iPhone 16 Plus, iPhone 16 Pro, and iPhone 16 Pro Max – although there are plenty of design differences and new features to take into account. To bring ...
iPhone 17 Plus Feature Purple

These 5 Features Will Make the iPhone 17 the Biggest Update in Years

Monday July 22, 2024 4:02 pm PDT by
The upcoming iPhone 16 models that we're expecting to see in September are going to be quite similar to the iPhone 15 models, but rumors suggest that Apple is making big changes in 2025. We've been hearing hints of an all-new device in the iPhone lineup, and it may be the most expensive iPhone Apple has offered to date. New 'Slim' Design Rumors have taken to referring to the new iPhone 17...
iPhone SE 4 Thumb 1

iPhone SE 4 Rumored to Launch Early Next Year With OLED Display, 48MP Camera, and More

Monday July 22, 2024 7:22 am PDT by
The fourth-generation iPhone SE will offer a series of major upgrades over the current model, the leaker known as "Ice Universe" claims. The information was listed in a post on Weibo, which also detailed the specifications of the iPhone 17 lineup. As previously rumored, the fourth-generation iPhone SE is expected to feature Face ID and USB-C, marking a major upgrade from current and previous ...
bsod

Microsoft Blames European Commission for Major Worldwide Outage

Monday July 22, 2024 11:55 am PDT by
Last Friday, a major CrowdStrike outage impacted PCs running Microsoft Windows, causing worldwide issues affecting airlines, retailers, banks, hospitals, rail networks, and more. Computers were stuck in continuous recovery loops, rendering them unusable. The failure was caused by an update to the CrowdStrike Falcon antivirus software that auto-installed on Windows 10 PCs, but Mac and Linux...

Top Rated Comments

MacFather Avatar
159 months ago
Deleted.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
appleguy123 Avatar
159 months ago
Having a retina display while actually losing screen real estate seems a bit counterintuitive...
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ryth Avatar
159 months ago
OMG...sensory overload.

My lord....now all they need to talk about is the Mac Pro and we're set.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the whole line-up revealed at WWDC.

MacBook Pro
iMac
Mac Pro
Displays

The graphic card(s) for that 27" are going to have to be very very powerful.

Man...if these are true, I'm now torn between a MBPro and iMac.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PDFierro Avatar
159 months ago
So much news for one day!
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Inakto Avatar
159 months ago
Wow. If they make the whole Apple linup Retina they will be so ahead of the game :0
Apple out-spec'ing most pcs on the market... Who'd have thought :)
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Castiel Avatar
159 months ago
'iMac' and 'Retina' look fantastic in the same sentence. :D
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)