Why The iPad 3’s Retina Display Is A Game Changer [Opinion]

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retina displayApple went to significant trouble to stuff a Retina display in the new iPad. The battery had to be made bigger to provide the same endurance with more pixels, so the entire chassis is a bit bigger and thicker than before.

Was it worthwhile? Absolutely. The new retina display is a game changer that makes all previous tablets look like dinosaurs. You’re going to want to have a tablet with a high-resolution display from now on – and here’s why.

Text Looking Fine

retina display

The sharpness of the new display is obvious from the moment you use the iPad 3. Packing a resolution of 2048×1536 into a small area makes everything look precise and detailed in a way that isn’t possible on other tablets. That’s nice. But sharper image quality isn’t a game-changer. To see where the retina display really pays for itself, you need to load up a webpage or document with fine text.

With more pixels packed tighter, the display can handle small fonts that simply blur and pixelate on other tablets. The difference is subtle until you place two tablets side-by-side. That’s when it hits you. The new iPad can display virtually what a person can possibly read, and it looks good while doing it, even if you hold the tablet absurdly close to your face.

The Consequences Of Tiny Text

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Now you might be thinking – so what? The ability to resolve small fonts is nice, but does it really impact day to day use?

Yes, it absolutely does. Since small text can be displayed accurately, it is possible to load webpages and read them with absolutely no pinch-to-zoom adjustments at all. This applies to any webpage. Gone are the days of having to scroll about or zoom in to read fine text. You simply type in a URL – and everything else is taken care of.

The result is a big improvement in the perceived speed of your experience. You spend much less time adjusting a webpage so that it is viewable and more time simply enjoying the pages that you visit. The same goes for any documents that you might open on your iPad.

Apple’s steadfast use of the 4:3 format pays off, as well. Some Android tablets are planning to offer 1080p displays, but they will still be only 1080 pixels in height compared to the 1536 pixels of the iPad 3. This will put 1080p tablets at a disadvantage when rendering webpages.

Apple made a bit of a gamble when it decided to go with a high resolution display, but it has paid off. Using the iPad 3 to browse the web is a revelation. Future devices must have a high resolution display to be competitive. It is now mandatory. A tablet that doesn’t have it is a dinosaur.

It’s Not Just The Pixels

retina display

Most people have spoken about the resolution upgrade of the iPad 3 as if that was the only enhancement. It isn’t. Apple has also improved image quality by increasing the color gamut supported.

According to testing by Tom’s Hardware the iPad 3 can render about 66% of the Adobe RGB1998 color gamut. Far from perfect, to be sure – but significantly better than the previous iPad and better than any Android tablet, as well. Colors seem to have more “punch” and the contrast between dark and bright areas is more definitive than your typical tablet display.

Dealing With Old Resolutions

You may be wondering what the doubling of display resolution means for apps. Many of them don’t support retina yet, and updates may be long in coming for some titles.

Fortunately, the iPad 3 has no problem dealing with apps that don’t yet support the higher resolution. Apple’s may have increased the pixels, but it has merely doubled them while retaining the same display format. This makes scaling a relatively simple process.

Make no mistake – if you looking for the results of scaling, you’ll find them. Apps that don’t support retina natively appear a tad bit blurry. No more than they would on an iPad 2, most likely – but if you place your eyes near the display you can see the scaling in action.

Most people don’t use their tablets six inches away from their face, however, so it’s effectively a non-issue. And even apps that haven’t been programmed to display at the native resolution of the display will still benefit from the improved color gamut.


One of the frequently discussed questions about the new iPad among our staff is its value in comparison to the iPad 2. Many own one, and Apple has slashed the price on the old model to $399 for the basic 16GB/WiFi entry. Is the new model worth an upgrade?

My opinion is yes, absolutely, even if just for the display alone. The improved web navigation made possible by the better display results in a much better overall experience, while the quality improves are sure to win over gamers and lovers of media content.

The result is a game changer. All tablets released from this point on must consider the retina display and will have to either match its resolution or significantly undercut the iPad 3’s price. Any tablet that fails to do either will, uh, fail. What do you think?

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