The so-called “retina” display for the new iPad is by far its most obvious — and technologically remarkable — feature. After all, the upgraded screen crams more than 3 million pixels in an area smaller than a piece of paper. How did Apple do it? A display analysis company has the answer.
First, it’s important to understand the challenge. Besides the added difficulty in miniaturizing smaller components, when you shrink pixels down to the size they are in the new iPad, the tiny little wires that send signals to the pixels start to get so close together that they can affect each other. The problem is called cross-talk (or, more precisely, capacitive coupling), and Apple’s right when it says on the iPad features page that it can affect the quality of your image.
To overcome the issue, Apple separated the actual pixels from the signal wires with a thin resin layer, according to this brief analysis from DisplaySearch. By putting an acrylic film just 3 micrometers thick in between the pixels and the wires, it eliminates cross-talk and also has the benefit of increasing the screen’s “aperture ratio” — the amount of screen space that light actually passes through (if you look close enough at an LCD screen, you’ll see lines between the pixels which contain components that drive the pixels).
The technology is called a Super High Aperture, or SHA, design. You can see how it differs from a regular LCD in the DisplaySearch table below.
And this may come as a shock, but Apple didn’t invent the tech. DisplaySearch says SHA screens were pioneered by Sharp and JSR years ago, but they weren’t widely adopted because of the cost of production and difficulties in manufacturing large quantities of the screens. However, the recent demand for high-resolution mobile displays has led to a surge in production. More than 25% of today’s LCDs include the new tech, says DisplaySearch.
It also means Apple is exaggerating just a wee bit when it says that to create the iPad’s retina display, it had to design the device “in a completely new way.”
How much of a game-changer do you think Apple’s 2,048 x 1,536 retina display is? And is it the main reason you’d buy one? Sound off in the comments.
BONUS: The New iPad in Detail
1. Retina Display
The most touted feature of the new iPad is its ultra-high-resolution "retina" display, which clocks in at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels -- a million more pixels than a 1080p HDTV. Thanks to the extra pixels and the iPad's new graphics processor, the screen has 44% better color saturation. The screen's pixels are so small, Apple says it had to change the design of the LCD itself to elevate the pixels above the circuitry to prevent distortion. Apple calls it the best display ever made for a mobile device, and -- from the specs -- it's hard to disagree.