Microsoft recently claimed that its Windows 8 RT-powered Surface tablet’s display would appear sharper than the latest iPad’s to many people. This despite the fact that the Surface display has a mere 1366×768 resolution compared to the latest iPad’s mighty 2048 × 1536 Retina display.
The difference in pixel density is vast - 148ppi versus 264ppi respectively - but the Surface does have a form of technology that gave rise to these claims.
The Surface sports a ClearType display, which utilises sub-pixel rendering. This means that the little red, green and blue sub-pixels that make up a single pixel can be treated as independent image elements, rather than being bound to a rigid pixel shape. In certain cases this can make the screen appear to have up to three times its true resolution.
As with the majority of other LCD displays, the iPad’s Retina display uses standard pixel rendering, so it’s more limited than the Surface in this one way.
Because of this distinction, Microsoft engineer Steven Bathiche claimed that “Doing a side by side with the new iPad in a consistently lit room, we have had many people see more detail on Surface RT than on the iPad with more resolution.”
However Raymond Soneira, President of DisplayMate Technologies, recently put these claims to the test - and dismissed them out of hand. According to AppleInsider, he claimed that it was “very unlikely that [the Surface] will turn out to be visually sharper than the new iPad 3.”
He reached this conclusion by taking an Asus netbook that uses a similar ClearType display to the Surface, and comparing it to the iPad 2 and the iPad 3.
He found that while the screen was “significantly sharper” than the iPad 2’s, it fell some way short of the new iPad’s sharp display.
However, Soneira does accept the possibility that the Microsoft Surface Pro, with its 208ppi 1920×1080 ClearType display, could well outshine the latest iPad when it finally launches.