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  • Why an iPad 2 Retina Display Makes No Sense... Yet


    Taiwan newspaper DigiTimes is reporting today that Apple will be including a Retina Display on the next iPad that will be twice the resolution of the current display. And yes, before anyone else says it: the fact that it's in DigiTimes is almost enough alone to conclude that this report is bunk. There are, however, other valid reasons to discount the rumor.

    #1 RAM. Doubling the current iPad's resolution means going from 1024 x 768 pixels all the way up to 2048 x 1536, and as John Gruber notes over at Daring Fireball, that's almost as many pixels as the 27" iMac at 2560 x 1440 resolution. The iMac comes with 512 MB of RAM on its graphics card, though, and the iPad has only 256 MB total, which must be shared by the CPU and the GPU. It takes a lot of memory to power that many pixels, even if such a screen could be produced cost-effectively. Which brings us to...

    #2 Moore's Law. This famous observation about semiconductor development states that the number of transistors that can be put on a given chip doubles approximately every 18 months. This trend also holds for LCD screens, which are manufactured using similar technologies. Doubling the resolution of a screen, though, doesn't mean doubling the number of pixels, but doing something more like quadrupling it. Blogger Avery Pennarun did an interesting analysis that figured the doubling time to get an iPhone 4-like Retina Display on an iPad-sized screen. The result: not until Christmas 2013. (However, according to this analysis, we'll have desktop-sized Retina Displays by Christmas 2015.)

    Anyway, Gruber - whose Apple sources are so good he is constantly accused of being on the payroll - says that people on the inside are telling him the iPad 2 will have a 1024 x 768 screen. He also says that there are 2048 x 1536 iPad prototypes at Apple... but that they're not for the iPad 2.

    Source: Daring Fireball
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Why an iPad 2 Retina Display Makes No Sense... Yet started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 31 Comments
    1. Jahooba's Avatar
      Jahooba -
      Man, i would absolutely love for the iPad to quadruple it's pixels. Sadly I don't think that will happen. It's too big a jump for Apple to make -- heck, it's Apple people -- they've got like 80% of the tablet market and they're going strong. There's no reason for them to panic and make the most advanced PC ever made -- they can take their time and stick to their small upgrade roadmap and still be well within their sales margins.

      But I can't so much agree with reason #2 of this article. The current retina display came out of the blue and quadrupled its pixels just fine, why not the iPad? Nobody saw that coming, so what makes people so sure that we won't have super-high-res screens before 2015?

      Quote Originally Posted by Meglomaniac View Post
      speculation and rumors... all bla to me

      my opinion it makes a lot of sense either the resolution of an 11 inch macbook air or a retina.
      also camera makes a lot of sense.

      but just keep screaming rumors and speculation if you say enough different things 1 day you will be right if not in ipad 2 then ipad 3.

      also just say every week that a new iphone or ipad is going to launch next week you will also be right 1 day.
      Gawd, shut up already. No one is forcing your eyes to read these articles. Look behind you - is someone holding a gun to your head and making you read? Nope. So why do you partake in something then denounce it? It makes you look like a fool. Wise up and don't read articles you're not interested in.
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      I don't understand why so many demand dual core. What possible performance upgrade do you all think you will see on this device?
    1. thaforgottenone's Avatar
      thaforgottenone -
      so this means that the iPhone 4 is better than the iPad and up coming iPad 2 because of display and ram. dont get me wrong i like the iPad but i have both iPhone 4 and iPad and through my experience the ipad crashes more. i hope its better.
    1. Meglomaniac's Avatar
      Meglomaniac -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jahooba View Post
      Man, i would absolutely love for the iPad to quadruple it's pixels. Sadly I don't think that will happen. It's too big a jump for Apple to make -- heck, it's Apple people -- they've got like 80% of the tablet market and they're going strong. There's no reason for them to panic and make the most advanced PC ever made -- they can take their time and stick to their small upgrade roadmap and still be well within their sales margins.

      But I can't so much agree with reason #2 of this article. The current retina display came out of the blue and quadrupled its pixels just fine, why not the iPad? Nobody saw that coming, so what makes people so sure that we won't have super-high-res screens before 2015?



      Gawd, shut up already. No one is forcing your eyes to read these articles. Look behind you - is someone holding a gun to your head and making you read? Nope. So why do you partake in something then denounce it? It makes you look like a fool. Wise up and don't read articles you're not interested in.
      no its just pathetic that if there is no real news they resort to this and that there are ppl like you in the world ofcourse...
    1. CZroe's Avatar
      CZroe -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paul Daniel Ash View Post
      #1 RAM. Doubling the current iPad's resolution means going from 1024 x 768 pixels all the way up to 2048 x 1536, and as John Gruber notes over at Daring Fireball, that's almost as many pixels as the 27" iMac at 2560 x 1440 resolution. The iMac comes with 512 MB of RAM on its graphics card, though, and the iPad has only 256 MB total, which must be shared by the CPU and the GPU. It takes a lot of memory to power that many pixels, even if such a screen could be produced cost-effectively. Which brings us to...
      Uhh...

      VGA 640x480 16 colors 1 MB
      SVGA 800x600 256 colors 1 - 2 MB
      XGA 1024x768 64K-16 million colors 4 MB
      SXGA 1280x1024 16 million colors 8 MB
      Super XGA+ 1400x1050 16 million colors 8 MB
      Ultra XGA 1600x1200 16 million colors 8 MB

      The only reason video cards have more than that is for holding textures and models in memory for local 3D rendering. Memory capacity on a 3D card only matters if you don't have enough to render the scene in memory without hitting the graphics bus. It's memory bandwidth that improves real-time rendering performance (FPS).

      Also, using the iPad as a starting point for calculating Moore's Law is a pretty bad idea. Pixels on displays don't double just because they can... in fact, they usually only increase with display size so that they can be effectively used/seen. The Retina Display is an anomoly. For instance, there is no reason to increase the pixel density of the iPhone 4's Retina Display again when we already can't resolve individual pixels. Even when you can, there is no reason to increase the pixel density of a 32" 1920x1080 LCD TV if 1080p content is the highest resolution content expected is 1080p.
    1. krosis's Avatar
      krosis -
      Quote Originally Posted by Meglomaniac View Post
      no its just pathetic that if there is no real news they resort to this and that there are ppl like you in the world ofcourse...
      There are people who like to speculate about the future, and discuss the relative merits of different ideas. If you're not such a person, you would probably benefit from just not clicking these threads.

      Going out of your way to post in a thread you didn't like reading in the first place, just to insult the staff writers and forum members is not a productive use of anyones time, and makes you look like a bit of a jerk.

      Just FYI.
    1. Ins0mniac's Avatar
      Ins0mniac -
      First of all, criticising people for daring to make informed and educated speculation about upcoming technology, makes you sound like an idiot Meglomaniac. If you're not interested in discussing upcoming Apple tech, what are you even doing here?

      That being said I think Gruber is right. Apple are the king of small incremental upgrades. I just can't see them putting so much money into a screen that many people won't even appreciate.

      I also don't think they will increase the resolution of the screen to such a crazy high number, until the graphics chip is capable of rendering 3D games at the same resolution. My understanding is that it has been established that the iPad 2 will have a slightly upgraded PowerVR SGX543 dual core graphics chip. Now as nice as this is, can you really see a mobile GPU being able to render detailed 3D games at 2048x1536 at a playable framerate? It's simply not possible without giving the thing at least 1GB of dedicated VRAM. Particularly as game textures would all have to be increased in size for it to look any good at that resolution. Otherwise who wants blurry up-scaled graphics? As that's the only feasible way it could work (native 2048x1536 graphics for the OS and 2D apps, while 3D content could still be rendered at 1024x768 then upscaled to the higher res).

      Once you factor in graphic intensive features like anti-aliasing, the PowerVR chip is nowhere near powerful enough to push all those pixels at such an insane resolution.

      Could it be done? Probably. Could it be done at an affordable price? No. Does Apple need to release an iPad2 with retina resolution yet in order to remain competitive? Absolutely not.

      Just doesn't add up.
    1. krosis's Avatar
      krosis -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ins0mniac View Post
      I also don't think they will increase the resolution of the screen to such a crazy high number, until the graphics chip is capable of rendering 3D games at the same resolution. My understanding is that it has been established that the iPad 2 will have a slightly upgraded PowerVR SGX543 dual core graphics chip. Now as nice as this is, can you really see a mobile GPU being able to render detailed 3D games at 2048x1536 at a playable framerate? It's simply not possible without giving the thing at least 1GB of dedicated VRAM. Particularly as game textures would all have to be increased in size for it to look any good at that resolution. Otherwise who wants blurry up-scaled graphics? As that's the only feasible way it could work (native 2048x1536 graphics for the OS and 2D apps, while 3D content could still be rendered at 1024x768 then upscaled to the higher res).

      Once you factor in graphic intensive features like anti-aliasing, the PowerVR chip is nowhere near powerful enough to push all those pixels at such an insane resolution.

      Could it be done? Probably. Could it be done at an affordable price? No. Does Apple need to release an iPad2 with retina resolution yet in order to remain competitive? Absolutely not.

      Just doesn't add up.
      Performance was the last big obstacle for me, although not quite for the same reasons, and not anymore. I also think you underestimate the performance of current mobile GPUs.

      As far as I know, the SGX 543 isn't in any devices yet, so estimating it's performance is difficult, but look at a comparison between the 535 and the 540: GLBenchmark 2.0 Released - Modern SoCs Benchmarked. The 540 appears to have at least double the performance of the 535 (more than double the fillrate), and I don't think it's unreasonable to assume the 543 will have at least somewhat upgraded performance from that (ignoring for now possible dual chip setups). Also remember developers can tweak their engines to the platform. We've already got the latest versions of 2 historically defining game engines running on the current iPad with only 256MB of ram. The entire installation for Infinity Blade is only 330MB. John Carmack has some great comments about developing for mobile platforms and their impressive relative power compared to previous generation consoles. Here's a nice interview with him by Ars Technica: Primal Rage: a conversation with Carmack, and a look at id's latest where he discusses the merits of mobile devices as major game platforms, and also how the PowerVR texture compression on iOS lets them do more than they could on some other mobile platforms. One of the things he's talked about is how they stripped out texture data for the iPad Rage app. One of his points was you can't exactly distribute a 20GB iPad app like you can on the PC (2GB is the current limit, android is apparently far worse), so "insane" highest-level textures aren't an option anyway.

      Speaking of textures, as far as VRAM is concerned, don't let the commonplace 512MB and 1GB cards fool you into thinking that's a requirement. Download a tool like GPU-Z and look at how much memory is actually being used. If they need to, most modern games can fit into a 100MB texture memory footprint, and pushing 512MB generally requires the very highest texture setting (when that's even possible). I can run Unreal Tournament 3 at 2048x1536 with max settings in a huge CTF map with 20+ players and still not use more than 400MB VRAM. And that's on a desktop. Mobile use on a small screen can certainly use lower detail settings. Just dropping from high to medium texture resolution (a difference which is just barely noticeable) cuts my VRAM use down to 200MB. Then factor in that mobile games naturally have a more limited scope than their desktop counterparts. Infinity Blade does a nice job of only showing you one enemy at a time, having a very limited world geometry, and limiting your camera view. Rage for iOS is on rails for a reason: to limit how much content they needed to put in the game. They've said that if you could free the camera and look around at the spots the camera never looks at, you'd see there's almost nothing there. They also only sampled textures at the resolution that you actually see them. In both instances, the developers acknowledged the limitations of the platform, and tuned the game to work in that environment. Most of the other 3D games I've played on iOS don't fill the screen with detail in the manner that PC titles do.

      Also consider that excluding shader performance, 2048x1536 has been reasonable for a long time. I was able to run Quake 3 at that resolution at smooth framerates for the last 8 years, including on a PowerVR GPU (Kyro II) that was 2 major generations earlier than what's in the iPhone right now.

      I do agree that shader performance (and to a much lesser degree texture / ROP performance) is the limiting factor. I've just seen too many examples of developers tweaking engines in ways I had never expected just to run on current hardware, to feel it's impossible or even impractical to apply to next generation hardware. While as a general principle you want more shader detail / texture data at larger frame sizes, you also need less detail per pixel as the pixels get physically smaller.
    1. iPhoneThereforeIAm's Avatar
      iPhoneThereforeIAm -
      OK Apple, so you wanna stay with a 3:4 aspect ratio.
      So give us 1280 x 960, dual-core and one maybe 2-GB of RAM.
      I'd sacrifice a camera for that.
      Oh, and if you could package up a sister unit in 8" format, you'd steal most of the Android market too.
    1. elite_jounin's Avatar
      elite_jounin -
      ipad 2 WILL have retina display. period.