The King is freaking Naked! – Debunking the Retina Hype

Configuring Retina – Courtesy The Verge

I have decided to stick my neck out here and swim against the tide. Yesterday, Apple released another “Retina” device and of course the usual pandemonium in the tech world as expected.

Since Retina made its debut I have been watching the Tech blogosphere go gaga with ooo’s and aaa’s but I haven’t seen anyone compare the advantage of Retina to its disadvantage. The only advantage is the DPI density, that you can look at you pixel to so called “infinity” and still not notice any jaggedness of fonts and pictures etc. You know what, I am writing this on standard resolution screen, I don’t notice any jaggedness in this Word document. I haven’t noticed jaggedness since ClearType technology and its variations in other OSes.

So what’s the point? Looking with naked eyes (or with four eyes it you wear glasses) you can’t see jaggedness on anything above 100DPI. You will have to do your best at that level to see anything wrong with the screen, and by the time you reach 150DPI its just a waste of pixel density. I know some of you will crucify me, and cite headaches and all at anything below 200DPI, you know what, it’s just an excuse to your partner to buy yet another addictive device. Yes, you can’t see any difference anymore with naked eyes after 150DPI. Do you know how they show the difference between normal DPIs and Retina display on all Tech sites? They show the difference under a microscope. Yes, under a freaking microscope. Tell me, which of you do your day-job under a microscope looking at your computer display. It’s plain nuts!

Which brings me to Retina’s disadvantages:

  1. Like almost all Apple’s products, it is a brag right! Yes, there is nothing to Retina than to brag my d@#ck is bigger than yours. Anyone who has a need to brag as such should see a shrink because you are compensating for a need in your life.
  2. It is inefficient. Because of increased resolution, there are more wasted pixels on the screen. These pixels have to be powered, supplying power to something you don’t need is inefficient, it’s a waste of resource, and environmentally irresponsible. The power you supply to these pixels have to be generated which impacts the environment. By the time you take the energy to power those extra pixels and multiply it by the number of Retina devices, you begin to realize we are talking of serious impact on our planet. Like they say, “if you don’t do it for your money, do it for your grand-children”. The next generation bears the brunt of our current obsessions with devices. Retina is so inefficient that it requires more battery on the “New iPad” than iPad2, grows hotter than iPad2, has less battery-life than iPad2, etc etc.
  3. Requires Apps Re-Writes. It is a normal cry now, anything that sports “Retina” display has to have the “right” apps for it. Sad that none of the Tech blogs are calling Apple to this inefficiency: Apple creates a problem where none exists, and therefore has to be fixed by devs. The following logic hold if you can figure it out:
    1. When you put high resolution on a small screen, your screen elements suffer if it doesn’t scale. It’s a simple question of proportions. The screen elements are made to a certain specifications, especially on a Touch device. A button in an App need to be a certain size to accommodate an average finger size. Certain font sizes are chosen for readability per DPI. So what happens when you increase resolution and your elements are fixed, they seem tiny and unreadable on the small screen. Therefore elements have to be made bigger. For example, a 320×240 standard graphic element now has to be made 640×480 to be made usable on a retina screen and so on and so forth. You get the picture. A size 10 font has to be made size 20 font to be readable. All for nothing, just because someone convinced you higher resolution on a small screen is better.
    2. App devs need to drive more pixels for games on a small screen. Can you imagine, you are playing an HD, Xbox level resolution game on one third or fourth of the screen estate. It’s a waste. Its lots efforts to make the elements visible on the screen. The game still looks small despite the fact that it’s a large resolution game.
    3. I can’t think of any more disadvantages off the top my head at the moment, but I am sure you will think up of other. If you comment, I’ll add them here.
    4. [Update] Someone pointed out another disadvantage offline: The manufacturing cost, not in terms of price, but in terms resources needed to produce it. All the energy waste during production, and the waste materials and chemicals from the production that will probably end up dumped in the ocean somewhere.

So please stop this Retina screen madness and see Retina for what it is: A sales gimmick. Nothing more, nothing less. There are people clamoring now for Retina Windows 8 devices, believe me, you don’t need them. If Apple has succeeded in pocketing every blogger out there (I know most of them are pushing their Apple stock), then let it be that this “little fella” here have the nerve to shout it out loud: “The King is freaking Naked!” Save our environment, stop inefficient use of Technology.

[Update: 2012-07-09] For those of you bashing me on my stand on Retina, you’d better read this from the CIO Journal! “Apple withdraw from Green Electronics initiative”  Apple has just removed itself from the Green Electronics initiatives as none of its current devices meets the goal of energy efficiencies. And before it is hit by class action suits, Apple has decided to withdraw itself there losing permanently the Good for Green logo right.

[Update: 2012-08-04] Engadget carried a piece about Retina and Windows Desktop that I think confirmed my assertion in this post. What really got my attention is the following quote:

Windows on Retina display
Making full use of the Retina display’s 2,880 x 1,880 resolution, the Windows desktop is startlingly huge with tiny text and dwarfed navigation buttons lost within it. Pegging the dpi at 200 percent, however, strikes a balance between readability and definition. System text, icons and windows are easy on the eyes, but third-party apps are hit-or-miss, as they require developer support for large, crisp and readable visuals. With a bit of tweaking, the oversized-desktop is useable, but a 1,920 x 1,080 experience is a bit easier on the eyes, and is more forgiving of apps that lack support for the extra pixels.

As you can read, the large Desktop on a small screen is a waste, the editors had to increase the fonts DPI to 200 to be able to read anything on the screen. Navigation buttons were “dwarfed” making them un-usable. So you tell me what is the efficiency of a large Desktop on a small screen in which you have to increase the screen elements to be able to see anything. I think its stupid.

[Update: 2012-08-11] A guy just published the complete maths of 20/20 Vision and Retina proving my point. Read it and convince yourself Retina is just a gimmick to sell you expensive devices.

23 thoughts on “The King is freaking Naked! – Debunking the Retina Hype

  1. I’m late to the party here but I just wanted to add that the RMBP is the luxury sedan as opposed to the perfectly functional average mid-sized sedan. Few among the masses will rationalize spending the money for the laptop, but why try so hard to mark down the accomplishment? I’ve demo’d the laptop and its specs are quite formidable– and its beautiful– especially the screen. Your way of thinking, which isn’t ‘wrong’ certainly, would seemingly have everyone driving around in Ford Focuses and packing our lunch.

    Apple’s planned product lifecycle is an entirely separate issue– while a problem for those who must have the newest coolest thing, it also enables Apple to be in the top ten most profitable companies in the world, and thus to them, its their job to continue their success with marketing hype– which most companies utilize. The larger problem you may be pointing out here is the capitalist system. And there brother, I agree with you.

  2. Sigh… I see all the Apple lovers who’ve just waste… err I mean spent money on their overpriced retina devices are voting down all the sensible comments.
    Of course the author is correct – Apple basically have run out of ideas to push another ipad/iphone on its naive user base so they came up with a new gimmick.

  3. I’d have to agree that this Retina stuff is a marketing gimmick, right up there with the 3D screens and other nonsense. This however would work much more efficiently when released to a larger formatted screen (iMac). Many graphics wont be optimized for this for awhile; in all truth most companies wont jump on optimizing screens for this until multiple laptops get out of the 1366×768 average. Costs to host larger file images isn’t in the budget for most companies, and they really don’t care about Apple or the amount of people using Apple unless they are the majority.

  4. Hello I thought I should get involved with this rant as well, with all the “Retina Zombies” attacking you; it’s only fair to have an ally.
    First of all I am a photographer, and a filmmaker, that only believes in updating technology out of necessity rather than luxury.
    Second I too like the Zombies was hypnotized by the “Retina hubbub” at first glance. Then popping out of reality I realized that I didn’t need it before in the past existence of my life and at the moment I know that I didn’t need at my current state in life (2012).
    I do agree though that there is a difference between retina and non-retina (after side by side comparison), however I remember when the change from tube TV’s to flat screen, and SDTV to HDTV came around.
    Like a lot of people they had to have it now! Hypnotized by this new phenomena and craze, there was no cure until they emptied their wallets, bank accounts, or even maxing out there credit cards to buy flat screen TV in the thousands of dollars. And now after all the flat screen HD TV pandemic is over, you can now get a 48” HD Flat screen TV for less $400.00 in 2012.
    The thing is we can get advanced over price technology now or we can it later for a fraction of the cost. Including all the benefits of having the technology improved. Patience always has paid off for me, and saved me lots of money. I agree for what you’re paying at this point in time we can make do without it.
    Looking at my 10” LED netbook LCD screen, while typing, I realize this suits me just fine. Regarding a comment above about how “the eye can make out differences,” while this is very true our eyes are also forgiving as well (all filmmakers know what I mean), and if we stop doing this side by side comparison and live with only the regular screen for a an hour, a day, a week, or however you long it takes for “retina rehab” to kick in your eyes and brain will correct and forgive the regular dpi experience once again.
    I googled “retina display hype,” because I wanted to see whether other people thought Retina was hype and I found your page to be number one. I saw all the comments against you, and I thought if they are already sold that retina is the “gold standard.” Then why do they have to go to the heathens and try to convert them into an apple worshipper ( I mean consumer) even to the point as crucify them and strip them as human beings and take away their “god given rights.” It just strikes me as pathetic on the AC (Apple Consumer) and such of a waste of time, and it’s funny that people would be willing to search this stuff on there apple computers with their retina screens to find people who oppose their Will, “thou shall buy a retina screen and/ or believe in the retina prophecy.” It’s funny to see how the AC have to always defend and prove that there product is the best product that was ever made. When its typical for an ac to bash someone at a coffee shop for having anything less. That shows how good apple is at marketing and converting worshipers I mean customers. The funny thing once they buy the trash (and it is after 365 days) it’s time to buy next newest and latest thing from apple, and It keeps going and going and going. They really do know how to make you go bankrupt.
    People have the right to believe and buy what they want; it’s our lives.
    “Can’t we all just get along,” Jack Nicholson.

  5. i am a microsoft fan and can not really see the difference between the Zenbook prime 1080p screen and the MBP screen. also compare this on a 15 inch screen to a 10 inch Transformer pad infinity. i like 1080p vs 768 so much more.

  6. Did you notice the part about apps like Final cut actually being able to render full 1080p raw and compressed videos with alot of real estate left on the screen?
    This simple fact i think renders your entire argument weak… and your Eco-Spew and Manufacturing cost is just pulling straw; without citing actual data to support your claims.

  7. Even if the difference is visible, it is a marketing gimmick, and appeals to basic instincts (like the general aspect of the machine).
    It has no functional justificiand not really necessary to push a technology before it present itself “naturally”. The industry in general would have come gradually to this resolution in a few years, and evolved like it always has, the efficiency would have been sorted out, and the size of the os’es element would have gradually grow as well. Now it creates problems that didn’t exist, and good excuses for apple to reinforce an even more closed environment, where everything would have to go through the retina process, leaving maybe a lot of applications on the side.

  8. Whelp, you got page view by linking this on the verge, I guess that’s what you wanted.

    I think other people have done a fairly good job knocking down your other claims, but I felt the need to point out that your eco-argument is entirely ridiculous. You’re complaining about the power usage of a laptop that will now be pushing more pixels. Your average desktop uses FAR more power than even a high-end laptop like this, specifically because laptops are all about power efficiency. Apple’s using better batteries, sure, but how do you think they can get 6ish hours out a battery? By being efficient! If everyone who was going to buy a desktop instead bought a laptop, even one with a retina screen, they would use far less energy.

    Also, this is the energy use you choose to rail against in your life? Go get people to use fluorescent light bulbs! Throw out your toaster!

    • Hmm, hello. I guess by this post, and other posts on this blog actually, you can see I don’t blog for living. Its not my day job. So I actually don’t care about page views. This is about calling us fanboys to our responsibility. For once to get us use our brains that we seem to have lost in our insatiable yearning for the next killer device. Everything in Nature has its price. The question that beg to be asked is, do we really, really need Retina? My conclusion is we don’t.

      • I don’t know that that changes anything – a lot of people who don’t blog for a living pimp their blog to gain views, because they wouldn’t be writing if they didn’t want people to read it.

        You’re just not making any sense though. It’s clear that you’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t not need retina, however as pretty much everyone here has pointed out, your reasoning is pretty damned flawed. Have you addressed any of the issues raised by commenters in general here, or the ones I tried to bring up?

  9. Uhhh the point is that apple is selling you a better experience than the others provide, you think people care about the forests of narnigoogle when they buy their 2012 6L range-hum-suv? You get what you pay for and like any step towards the future, higher res requires new hardware and in this case, software. You think 1080, 2k and 4k will come into mainstream over 1 or 2 years? Get real mate, apple isn’t the only party offering hi-res displays but god damn they’re doing it pretty fucking well!

    Ps. More power consumption? I pay for electricity bills k thanks.
    Pps. Have you even looked at a ‘retina’ screen? Think of it like moving from DVD to 720p, there ain’t no looking back ;)

    Good luck!

    • Nobody is denying you’re paying for your electricity, the point is consuming resource more than you actually need. Retina is a technology you can do without. iPad2 is perfectly visible without retina.

      • Television is perfectly watchable on a 720p screen. Music is perfectly listenable in mono, on a single cheap laptop speaker. McDonald’s is a perfectly edible meal choice. On a related note, the internet is a technology we can do without, as well.
        If you’re going to spam your crappy blog on other websites, at least try to make a single valid point in your lengthy, poorly written rants.

  10. I am not very fond of Apple and I am Windows person myself, but having normal 20/20 vision the difference between say the iPad 2 screen and the “New Ipad” is drastic ! Text look blurry/fuzzy and horrid at 100% zoom on the iPad 2 in comparison to the new one so I doubt your assertions have any validity.

  11. Too bad you guys are not getting the point I am making here. The point is the cost of the Retina display compared to its advantage. Take the new MBP with the Retina Display, I can bet you it will be consuming more power than its predecessor. It is worth it in terms of resource wastage? The point is you can live without Retina. Its not an omissible technology compared to other technological advancement. You might as well be carrying your HDTV around in your bag. That is the point I am making here.

    • This is a bad “point.” You can live without *lots* of technological advances. They’re still technological advances. You could live without WordPress (and we’d all probably appreciate it if you did), but you like it, so you use it. Same with retina displays and lots of other technology.

  12. Everyone who is even marginally educated knows that the “Retina Display” is a gimmick, and doesn’t give any visual or technical benefits whatsoever, in fact its existence is to the detriment of the technology that runs it.

    I was looking at the new battery on the iPad 3 and came to a fairly obvious conclusion. If the retina idiocy was removed, that tablet would run at least three times longer than the iPad 2 It’s because of the new battery tech that they’re pushing the gimmick – because longer battery life is not advantageous for THE CORPORATION, even though it may be for the customer, but the customer doesn’t come first on this issue (as well as many others I might add).

    But that’s sort of beside the point. Apple is showing us yet again how visual design will always trump efficiency and rationale for the majority, because that’s what they are, uneducated masses that look at something shiny and then are driven to sink whatever amount of capital they have accumulated (regardless of the proportion of their total) into an item that has a factor of uselessness at a fairly high margin.

    It is a fantastic phenomena to look at.

    I, for one, congratulate all of the people around me who buy the devices. They make me feel good about myself.

  13. When you look at your iphone or your ipad you can tell the difference because you hold it so close to your eyes, plus when you compare it to the previous generation its very noticable beuase frankly that generation was pretty low resolution. Right now I am looking at my 1920×1080 LCD monitor on my desktop from about 2.5′ away and it pretty damn “retina” to me.

    One other disadvantage you didn’t mention is pushing all those pixels degrades overall performance of the machine. Although I doubt it’s very noticable as the machine does have pretty beast specs for a laptop.

  14. I love it when people spew information like “The human eye can’t see detail past 100 dpi. The human eye can’t tell the difference between 30 and 60 fps.” I assure you, the human eye is an incredible piece of evolutionary biology — it can detect an unprecedented amount of detail whether you’re aware of it or not. Even if you’re not intently looking for the differences, your brain in fact decipher the difference between these resolutions and framerates, in ways that make your brain think “Am I looking at screen, or looking out a window right now?”

  15. Switching – on a daily basis – between iPad1 and iPad3 – big difference in clarity. Big difference.

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