Apple calls the displays on its iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad “retina” displays because they have so many pixels packed so tightly that it’s impossible for the human eye to tell one pixel from another while holding the device a comfortable distance away from your face.

Android tablet makers are expected to step up their game soon, with Acer, Asus, and Lenovo bringing 10.1 inch tablets to market with 1920 x 1200 pixel displays.

But laptop screens are another story. In fact, 1366 x 768 pixel displays have only just become more common than 1024 x 768 pixel screens. But Intel envisions a day when laptop displays will offer the same retina-style pixel densities as phone and tablets… and that day could arrive as soon as next year.

Intel screen resolutions

The further you position a screen from your eyes, the lower the pixel density needs to be for it to qualify as a retina-style display. But today’s 1366 x 768 pixel displays simply don’t cut it.

So here’s what Intel sees happening in the computer space over the next few years:

  • Phones and media players with 5 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel displays (this is already happening)
  • Tablets with 10 inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel displays
  • Ultrabooks with 11 inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel displays
  • Ultrabooks with 13 inch, 2800 x 1800 pixel displays
  • Laptops with 15 inch, 3840 x 2160 pixel displays
  • All-in-one desktops with 3840 x 2160 pixel displays

You may have noticed that all of these resolutions, with the exception of the 5 inch form factor, offer a higher resolution experience than a top-of-the-line 1080p HDTV with a measly 1920 x 1080 pixels.

The difference is that you sit as far as 10 feet away from your HDTV, while a laptop probably sits 2 feet or less from your eyeballs.

Part of what will make these new higher resolution displays possible are changes in the way Windows and other operating systems handle pixel density. While Windows 7 and earlier operating systems have allowed users to change some DPI (dots per inch) settings, for the most part things look messy when you do that, with some fonts and graphics rendering larger than others.

And if you don’t adjust your DPI settings (as well as the sizes of scrollbars, toolbars, and other items) then text and pictures may be too tiny to read on small, high resolution screens.

This isn’t as much a problem in iOS or Google Android because the operating systems are designed to resize graphic elements so they simply look better on high resolution screens, not smaller. Windows 8 will be able to do something similar — at least with apps using the new Metro style user interface. It’s not yet clear how desktop-style apps will look on a super-sharp 3840 x 2160 pixel display.

While it’s possible that we could start to see new laptops and desktop computers with these high resolution displays, my guess is that they won’t flood the market immediately.

Until supply and demand increase sufficiently, high resolution displays will still cost a heck of a lot more than the 1366 x 768 pixel displays that seem to be everywhere today… and it took a long time for that resolution to finally become more popular than older 1024 x 768 pixel screens. Retina displays might remain the exception rather than the rule for years to come.

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25 replies on “Intel: Retina laptop, desktop displays coming in 2013”

  1. There’s a lot of misinformation about what constitutes a true retina display. Apple would have you believe that we don’t move our head or eyes. We do of course and our brains are (unfortunately) great at knitting together an effectively much-higher resolution image than the rods and cones in our retinas record in one fix.

  2. yea for the next cristmas maybe now for this conform whit a touch and 1080p for a reborn archeology laptops price, they really squeeze people whit intel work…

  3. 13 inch, 2800 x 1800 pixel display seems like an unusual aspect ratio. Is this a typo?

    I wish they would revive 4:3 ratio as an option.

  4. I just want a laptop that isn’t a joke for spread sheets. 720/768 is a joke and 1080 is at best fair. 1200 to 1440 would be good after that the text starts to get small, though it is nice to have the option to go higher. I do not care about gaming and except for some editing it is not important for photo and video to be much higher than 1080.

  5. All-in-ones will not have the speed to run a 3840×2160 until companies like HP and ASUS stop putting such weak components in them. Standalone monitors will do well, though, for traditional-style desktops.

    OLEDs will not increase power consumption, by the way. And they have CRT-like contrasts. I don’t think people realize what a quantum leap in image quality a 3840×2160 OLED will be. It will look like medium-format photography. My only concern is their reliability. Early OLEDs, such as those from eMagin, had high numbers of dead pixels and only about a 50% chance of a perfect working lifespan of a year. Early adopters will have to get extended warranties.

    Oh, and I will physically hurt any designer who puts a textured antiglare coating on these. Seriously. You’ve been warned, dudes. It’s bad enough that 1080p doesn’t even look HD with these coarse coatings, but on a 4XHD display it will make the investment pointless. The only AG coatings that are good are smooth optical ones used on eyeglasses and old Xerox LCDs (with a glass front). Besides, glare is much easier for the brain to tune out than textured grit and grain all over everything.

  6. I want: large screen high res, 12 GB RAM, 1T SSD, 2T HD, Backlit keyboard, fast processors, usb3, DisplayPort, Native wireless mouse (Not needing a plug-in radio adapter)

    Gonna probably plug it in all the time, so battery is not that big an issue.

  7. Laptop screen technology devolved into HD-style screens having less resolution, in case everybody that uses a laptop does not have an HD at home, or else simply must watch a movie every where they go.

    1. Yes and no, while not every aspect of modern screens are ideal for everyone the LCD technology hasn’t “devolved” and in some ways has already improved.

      It’s just compromises abound with considerations for costs, power consumption, and how much resolution is actually needed for a given screen size. While screen quality deals with more than just resolution or aspect ratios.

  8. I’ve been hanging on to this 1920 x 1200 Dell laptop way past it’s usable life. Hurry up and get here Hi Res!

  9. doesnt this imply that mobile PCs will be moving away from gaming entirely as soon as next year? Hell, even a high end desktop graphics system would have trouble maxing settings on that 13″ screen. Even if gpu performance *doubles* next year, mid-range desktop cards would tend not to be able to handle that 13″ screen… and this is in an ultrabook, where *entry-level mobile* graphics is about max.

  10. Scaling is still a issue for classic desktop but not for Metro.  MS is bringing dynamic scaling to Windows 8 and for new apps at least this will not be a issue.

    Mainly it’s the legacy apps that will have a problem with the scaling.  Though MS is putting in some solutions to ease these issues, and desktops can be customized for just about any resolution, but ultimately those old apps need to be adjusted for the new screens.

    Make no mistake though, higher resolution screens are coming regardless.  They’ll just need a transition period as everyone adjusts to them.

  11. More than likely apple and other companies will use arm type processors to power the displays and regular CPUs to do the computing they will work together to help save battery life.

    1.  Hybrid systems are a possibility but they’re not a complete solution or necessarily the best solution. 

      The power savings of just switching to ARM doesn’t negate that everything else still uses the same amount of power like the LCD and doesn’t mean much if the user keeps on using applications that require the use of the x86 processor and you definitely don’t want to be running both of them at the same time.

      So you’ll mainly see them used with a clear distinction between usage, like the ARM chip for tablet mode and the x86 when docked to a keyboard dock.  Often including a switch between Operating Systems.

      While a ATOM and Core i Processor combination may be preferable for some as that allows the running of the same OS in both modes and simply scales performance.

      The technology is still evolving though, so we’ll see how it plays out.

  12. The analysis assumes that 20/20 vision is “normal”. In fact its the lower limit of “normal” below which your vision is considered to need correction. Most people have about twice that resolution.

  13. I still haven’t replaced my 4+ year old Fujitsu lifebook because nothing can beat it for taking notes – 1400×1050 in 12″ = 145ppi, Wacom active digitizer.    I go to meetings where people are typing notes on the screen keyboard of their Android or ipad tablets and just shake my head.  Then I plug in my convertible and show them the sketches I just made and a flowchart for decision making and a quick gaant chart of how we should proceed, all in OneNote.

  14. Intel may want it to happen, but it won’t, because manufacturers want those $500 laptops and consumers will buy $500 laptops. If you want a laptop with something more than 1366×768, you have to look at laptops costing $1000+.

    And consumers just want laptops with screen sizes. A 15″ laptop that costs $500, for example. They will snub their noses at a 15″ laptop with a high-res display (we’re only talking 1440×900 here – not even the higher resolution modes) if it costs $1000 even though it may be better in every way.

    1. Once upon a time laptops with screen resolution of 1366×768 used to cost $1000+.  Over time, as more manufacturers adopt HiDPi displays and the cost of manufacturing drops, I don’t doubt we’ll see laptops with HiDPi displays drop below $1000 (and no, I don’t mean $999).

  15. “Ultrabooks with 11 inch, 1560 x 1440 pixel displays”

    Is this a typo? Should it read ‘2560 x 1440’ ?

  16. I wonder if Apple has any plans for high-res laptop screens sooner than that. I am kind of surprised that after the buzz of the retina display on the iPhone 4 they never talked about it.

    Also, I really hate that “retina display” is apparently coming into common usage. Just give me DPI and resolution, please.

    1.  Problem is cost and power consumption.  Higher resolutions screens still have to lower productions cost and be made in large enough quantities to not induce a price premium.  While the higher resolution presently requires increased back lighting.

      This is one of the reasons why Apple had to increase the battery capacity of the new iPad by 70% to counter the increased power consumption.  However, this is harder to do on laptops that don’t have any more room for a larger battery.  Especially with a equivalent increase in capacity for batteries that are already larger and heavier than used in ARM tablets.

      Newer technology is coming out soon to help alleviate this, such as the use of ambient light to help lower the back lighting requirement and more efficient screen technology.

      Apple does have plans to push the higher res screens as soon as possible but it remains to be seen if it’s all that practical yet but they are likely to be one of the first…

      Mind though it’s more than just DPI we should be concerned about but also screen quality.  Higher resolution won’t mean as much unless the screen quality, colors, etc. also goes up.

      Part of the reason people like the new iPad screen is because it has about 30% better color for example and not just the higher resolution.

      1.  Battery technology advances rapidly. So, maybe by 2013, better CPU/GPU and battery technology will make such resolutions practical. I have been anticipating 300dpi monitors for some time now. Having a monitor equal a low end printer for resolution would be great.

        1.  Uh, no, battery technology hasn’t really improved much in over a decade. 

          Every advance so far has been fairly strictly on the electronics side of things.

          While screen technology has similarly taken a very long time to see any advancements and it’s only the CPU/GPU side of things that has really advanced rapidly.

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