The latest rumor about the iPad 3 is that it will get a higher resolution display, with Reuters claiming that it might even be five or six times the resolution of the current iPad, which has a 1024 x 768 screen. Not so fast, says DisplayMate, a company that specializes in display calibration, optimization and testing. Even an iPad with 2048×1536 resolution, which would boast four times the pixel density of the current model.
While it would undoubtedly represent a marketing coup for Apple to be able to say the iPad 3 has a true Retina Display, DisplayMate says it would also come with a considerable cost — such a device would require “significantly more processing power, more memory and battery power,” and the screen’s “display brightness efficiency” would be much lower.
DisplayMate says that because of the typical distance at which users typically view their iPads, which it claims is 15-18 inches away, it can actually get away with achieving the same Retina Display silky smoothness with only a 240 pixels-per-inch (ppi) count, instead of the 300ppi entry point referred to by Steve Jobs when the iPhone 4 was introduced. Even so, the resolution required would be “overkill,” says DisplayMate, but there is another way.
Apple can still improve the iPad’s screen without making unnecessary sacrifices by compromising with a 1600 x 1200 display resolution, according to DisplayMate. That would achieve a 206 ppi, which would still represent a huge improvement over the existing screen, without nearly as much of a cost in terms of resources and battery life. DisplayMate says that scaling apps designed for the existing iPads shouldn’t be a problem at that resolution.
Apple gains a marketing coup by creating an iPad with quadruple the resolution of the current model, and I have little doubt that’s what we’ll eventually see. The company is already putting resources that support such a display in its OS, after all. But it’s not something Apple has to pull out of its hat at this point, given the competition so far, and making less dramatic changes that preserve the iPad’s other key selling features (speed and battery life) is a much more likely development for the iPad 3.