While I previously concluded that iOS 6 stole the show at WWDC, Apple’s announcement of the Retina display MacBook Pro is definitely a close second. While I abandoned my MacBook Pro when the second generation MacBook Air arrived on the scene, this is the only MacBook Pro since that’s genuinely tempted me to go Pro again.
The fuss, of course is all the about the pixels. It’s the first time that Apple’s used its previously iOS-only Retina display in a larger-format OS X device. Shipping the world’s highest resolution notebook display is a brilliant move on Apple’s part because like it tempted me, it’s sure to tempt many Mac users away from the less-expensive MacBook Air and toward the (presumably) higher-margin MacBook Pro.
One aspect of the MBP Retina display that piqued my interest is Apple’s claim that it has 75 percent less reflection than previous MBP displays. Not being a fan of Apple’s switch to high-gloss displays, I always opt for the “anti-glare” option whenever available — even when Apple charges a premium for it.
The problem is that even though one could interpret Apple’s statement as saying that the new Retina MBP has an anti-glare screen, they’d be wrong. Dr. Raymond M. Soneira, President of DisplayMate Technologies Corporation refutes Apple’s claim and notes that it’s more like “a 25 percent reduction to 75 percent Reflectance.”
Soneira has been studying Apple’s screen reflectance (translation:glare) since 2004 and all of his Mobile Shoot-Out articles include lab measurements of total and mirror reflections from displays. While he’s glad that Apple is making glare (or lack thereof) a marketing issue, it appears that Apple is cooking the books a little when it comes to actual results.
According to Apple the MacBook Pro Retina display doesn’t have a separate pane of glass over it with an air gap (like the new iPad 3 does) which effectively lowers the screen reflectance (like it does on the iPhone 4). Just not as much as Apple would have you believe.
Anecdotal evidence from users in the Apple discussion forums appears to concur. The Retina display is less glossy that the previous MBP model, but has more glare than the prior incarnations anti-glare screen.
The good news is that at 220 Pixels Per Inch (PPI) a person with 20/20 vision won’t resolve the individual pixels on the display as long as their viewing distance is at least 15.6 inches, which meets Apple’s criterion for a “Retina” display. Although Soneira notes that 220 PPI isn’t even close to resolution of an actual human retina, which is about twice as high.
I believe that the Retina display will eventually trickle down into the the MacBook Air (and all Macs for that matter) so I’m willing to stay with the MacBook Air for now — besides it saves me some weight in my backpack and keeps some weight in my wallet.