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The Full HD PC vs iPad Rant

8 Mar/12

Argh!  Apple yesterday unveiled the new iPad, and it’s lovely with lots of fantastic new hardware including a full ‘retina display’.  This will give the new iPad a display resolution of a staggering 2048 x 1536 on just a 9.7 inch screen which is just immense given that most tablets don’t even have a full HD display.  But this brings me on to the main thrust of this article, and I felt it was right and proper to call it a rant up front, and just get that bit out of the way, because this really does make me angry.

Apple can squeeze a display as fine as this into tablet while at the same time, and for a long time now, PC monitor manufacturers have stopped at the standard full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080.  Sure you can buy PC monitors with resolutions higher than this, including Apple’s own Cinema Displays, but only if you want to spend $700+ on the privilege.  All at the same time Apple have squeezed this 2048 x 1536 resolution into a 9.7 inch consumer tablet!

One company that won’t be complaining about the current maximum resolutions on PC screens will be Microsoft who’s new Metro UI for Windows 8 really isn’t suited to huge resolutions and even huge monitors.  As all the Metro apps run full screen they would simply look daft on huge monitors and the Start Screen would offer so many Live Tiles on a high resolution that you’d probably never find anything.  So as far as Microsoft are concerned an upper limit of 1920 x 1080 pixels must be fine.

But what of IT Pros, engineers, musicians, designers, artists, draughtsmen and just plain show off’s?  What about the people who have been crying out for affordable high resolution displays but that, since the advent of “High Definition” (which is an oxymoron in this circumstance) simply can’t afford them.

I was prepared until yesterday to give monitor and screen manufacturers the benefit of the doubt.  It is expensive to develop hardware after all and the actual cost mark-up on monitors can’t be very large.  Making screens stop at 1920 x 1080 means they can use the same panels we see in small TVs, thus saving money and, you’d think, bringing the prices down for everybody.

But now we’ve seen that affordable, ultra high resolution screens can be made for very little money comparatively that can fit into a small tablet.  These displays will, theoretically, be harder to make than large screens due to the high pixel density and the tiny pixels.  This new iPad has a pixel density of a whopping 264ppi, which is considerably higher than the 30ppi designers will commonly submit print images at.

I don’t know if you’ll agree with me but I felt the need to get this off my chest.  The new iPad is absolute proof that the monitor manufacturers for PCs can easily make ultra-high definition screens for us and at cheaper prices than they are currently doing.  Why we’re stuck with what we’ve got isn’t for me to speculate (not while I’m annoyed anyway).  I’ll leave that for you to guess.

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