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 (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

MacFather Avatar
116 months ago
Deleted.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
appleguy123 Avatar
116 months ago
Having a retina display while actually losing screen real estate seems a bit counterintuitive...
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ryth Avatar
116 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
116 months ago
So much news for one day!
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Inakto Avatar
116 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
116 months ago
'iMac' and 'Retina' look fantastic in the same sentence. :D
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
sonny 2021 ipad mini pro dummies

Leaked Dummy Units Show iPad Mini 6 With Thick Bezels and Home Button, New iPad Pro Models

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:11 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple will release refreshed versions of the iPad mini and iPad Pro models in the first half of this year, potentially as soon as this month, and a new leak today has provided us with a possible preview of what to expect in terms of the devices' overall design and camera prospects. Tech leaker and Apple blogger Sonny Dickson this morning shared images on Twitter showing dummy ...
apple music for artists new icon

Apple's Revamped Apple Music for Artists Icon Leads to Speculation About iOS 15 Design Plans

Tuesday April 6, 2021 1:03 pm PDT by
Apple yesterday updated its Apple Music for Artists app with some minor bug fixes and improvements, but also one other notable change -- a new icon. New icon on the right The Apple Music for Artists app now features a simpler, streamlined icon with a pinkish red music logo rather than the multicolored logo that was used before. The icon also has an embossed look that makes it stand out from...
apple find my network

Apple Announces Find My Network With Support for Third-Party Devices

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced the launch of its Find My network accessory program, which is designed to allow third-party Bluetooth devices to be tracked in the Find My app right alongside your Apple devices. According to Apple, the first accessory companies to take advantage of the new Find My integration include Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof, with devices set to be available beginning next week. ...
new m1 chip

M1 Mac RAM and SSD Upgrades Found to Be Possible After Purchase

Tuesday April 6, 2021 5:34 am PDT by
Technicians in China have reportedly succeeded in upgrading the memory and storage of the M1 chip, suggesting that Apple's integrated custom silicon for the Mac may be more flexible than previously thought. Reports of maintenance technicians being able to expand the memory and storage of M1 Macs began circulating on Chinese social media over the weekend, but now international reports have...
Intel MBP Is Thin and Lighjt

Intel Ad for 'World's Best Processor' Features a MacBook Pro

Wednesday April 7, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Intel has been on a relentless marketing drive against Mac computers in recent weeks, positioning them as inferior to Windows laptops powered by Intel processors. In a slight slip-up, however, Intel has accidentally used a MacBook instead of a Windows laptop in one of its newest ads to promote one of its new 11th-generation chips as "the world's best processor." The ad appeared on Reddit and ...
tmobile 5g modem

T-Mobile Launches Unlimited 5G Home Internet for $60/Month

Wednesday April 7, 2021 2:18 pm PDT by
T-Mobile today hosted an Un-carrier event where the company announced the launch of a a new 5G home internet plan, which is priced at $60 per month and offers unlimited data. The service is available to more than 30 million Americans across much of the United States, including 10 million households in rural areas not typically able to access reliable broadband. Connectivity will be either 4G ...
iMessage Android featured

Apple's Rationale for Not Bringing iMessage to Android Revealed in Legal Documents

Friday April 9, 2021 2:22 am PDT by
It's no secret that Apple sees iMessage as a big enough selling point to keep the service exclusive to Apple devices, however new court filings submitted by Epic Games in its ongoing lawsuit with the company reveal just how Apple executives have rationalized their decision not to develop a version of iMessage for Android. Apple clearly recognizes the power that iMessage has to keep users...
14

Apple Seeds Seventh Betas of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the seventh betas of upcoming iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta updates coming one week after Apple released the sixth iOS and iPadOS 14.5 betas. iOS and iPadOS 14.5 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper profile has been installed on an iPhone or iPad. iOS 14.5 is the...
ipad pro and macbook pro

iPad and MacBook Production Reportedly Delayed Due to Global Chip Shortage

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:31 am PDT by
Apple is facing a global shortage of certain components for some of its MacBook and iPad models, causing the Cupertino tech giant and its suppliers to postpone production of the products, according to a new report from Nikkei Asia. According to the report, MacBook production is being hindered due to the shortage of chips mounted onto the circuit board before final assembly, which is a key...