What is a Retina display? Apple’s screen tech explained
If you’re in the market for a new iPhone, MacBook or Apple Watch, you may have come across the term Retina display.
But, what exactly is a Retina display and where can you find it? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Retina, Liquid Retina, Super Retina XDR and all the other Retina screens Apple has released over the years.
What is a Retina display?
Retina is a trademarked term that refers to any IPS LCD or OLED display with a pixel density high enough that Apple has determined that your eyes won’t be able to make out those pixels at a certain viewing distance.
The goal is to market a smoother and more natural-looking screen than the non-Retina alternatives on other devices.
“The pixel density of Retina displays is so high that your eyes can’t detect individual pixels at a normal viewing distance. This gives content incredible detail and dramatically improves your viewing experience,” explains Apple on its website.
Apple has brought out a number of variations on the Retina name over the years, including Retina HD, Liquid Retina HD, Liquid Retina XDR, Retina 4K, Retina 4.5K, Retina 5K, Retina 6K, Super Retina HD and Super Retina XDR.
While these labels may seem confusing, they’re simply Apple’s way of distinguishing between different generations of Retina displays with different criteria and resolutions behind them.
Where can you find Retina displays?
You can find Retina screens across many of Apple’s product lines, including its laptops, computers, phones, watches and tablets.
The list of retina-enabled Macs includes:
- 13.3-inch MacBook Air (2018 or later)
- 13.6-inch MacBook Air (2022)
- MacBook (2015 or later)
- 13-inch MacBook Pro (late 2012 or later)
- 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
- 15-inch MacBook Pro (2012 or later, except for mid-2012)
- 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019 and 2021)
- 21.5-inch iMac (2015 or later, except for late 2015 and 2017)
- 24-inch iMac (2021)
- 27-inch iMac (2014 or later)
- Apple Pro Display XDR
- Apple Studio Display
You can also find Retina displays on smaller Apple devices, like the iPhone (2010 and later), iPad (2012 and later), iPod Touch (2010 and later) and Apple Watch (2015 and later).
While all of the above feature Retina displays, they do vary in resolution and the number of colours they support, meaning it’s important to check the exact specs before you buy.
What about non-Apple products?
Because the term “Retina display” was coined by and belongs to Apple, you won’t see it on any non-Apple products, which can make it tricky to compare these displays with rival screens. This also means a Retina display might not necessarily be the best-looking option.
You can look at factors like the size and pixel density of other LCD and OLED screens to get an idea of how they match up to Apple’s, but the easiest way to determine which is best for you is to look at them yourself.