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Retina Display MacBook Pros in 2012? Why it could happen.

The MacBook Pro (s aapl) could get a substantial boost in screen resolution, according to sources upstream in Apple’s supply chain talking to DigiTimes Wednesday. But how likely is it that Apple will actually produce these monster graphical powerhouses in 2012, as reported?

Challenges with high-res displays

Apple would have to address significant challenges in order to bring a 2880×1800 resolution display to a MacBook Pro, which DigiTimes reports is in the works. Currently, the max screen res on the biggest MBP is 1920×1200, so a bump up to the reported resolution wouldn’t require a doubling of vertical and horizontal pixels, but it would be a considerable step up.

And taking that step would come with a cost in terms of requiring more processor power, and in terms of battery life, too. Also, producing high-res displays at scale is a tricky thing; the higher the resolution, the more difficult it would be for Apple to produce screens in THE numbers they require. But, next-generation chips from Intel (s intc) could address some of these problems, especially as Intel says it’s investing more on graphics and media.

What Apple stands to gain

Some might think that Apple stands to add relatively little to its MacBook Pro with the introduction of a much higher-resolution display; Apple’s notebook market share has steadily risen for many years, after all, and the last time it changed its max resolution at the top end of its laptop offerings was in 2008. Do users really need higher resolution in a notebook?

The short answer is yes. Digital graphics and video pros invest in larger-screened MacBook Pros precisely because of their real estate advantage relative to other computers. Advancements in this area mean that Apple can continue to maintain a competitive advantage with pro users who still seek portability as well as power, and don’t want to depend on connecting to an external display to accomplish certain tasks. And with HD resolution offerings set to become more common among PC laptops, any measures Apple can take to stay ahead of the game will go a long way in terms of consumer perception.

OS X Lion also suggests that this is something Apple has been working toward for a while now, since it contains resolution independent features that allow developers to include “2X” graphics resources just like those found in apps compatible with the iPhone’s Retina Display. That the system is basically ready to go in Lion suggests the introduction of Macs that can take advantage of it during the lifetime of that OS.

Less of a leap than you might think

A jump up in resolution is actually something Apple is just about due for in its MacBook Pro line anyway. And the proposed change isn’t about something as dramatic as doubling res, as it is with the rumored iPad 3. It’ll no doubt be a big step up, but one in a key area that consumers will easily be able to see and experience, which is crucial in a market where big, visible feature changes are now relatively few are far between.

3 Responses to “Retina Display MacBook Pros in 2012? Why it could happen.”

  1. I’m hoping they come out with a anti-glare high-res 13″ MacBook Pro like the 15″. 12-13″ I find is the best for portability but the low-res screen on the current model is not much use beyond word processing. The MacBook Air comes close but it’s screen has a lower gamut and there are reports of excessive fan noise. My first laptop, a 15″ Dell had a resolution of 1600×1200 10 years ago, but recently manufacturers have stuck with low-res screens.