iPad 3's dense display a challenge for manufacturers

The iPad 3's display is expected to be a Retina Display, similar to what the iPhone 4 and 4S have. But getting that kind of density on a 10-inch screen and making millions of them will be tough.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read
Apple Retina Display.
Apple Retina Display. Apple

The 10-inch-class screen on Apple's upcoming iPad 3 will be one of its most remarkable features. But getting to the higher resolutions is a big step, according to a source who spoke to CNET.

The follow-on to Apple's popular iPad 2 is expected to arrive as early as the first quarter of next year. And Apple is aiming high, as usual. The goal is to have a Retina Display-like resolution on the iPad 3, according to the source who is in contact with Asia-based suppliers who, in turn, are familiar with Apple's plans.

Apple defines a Retina Display as having "pixel density is so high your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels." For the iPhone 4S that means a 960×640, 3.5-inch display that packs in 326 pixels per inch (PPI). At about 12 inches from the eye, this is the most amount of detail the human retina can see, according to Apple.

That's dense. In fact, so dense that you won't see that level of density on an iPad 3 with a Retina Display--if it's in fact called that. Nor is it even necessary because typically the iPad's screen isn't held that close to the face.

The closest that iPad display manufacturers like LG Display and Samsung can get is 2048x1536 resolution display, according to the source. That's a PPI of 264, twice the 132 PPI on the iPad 2.

But whether manufacturers can make them in volumes that Apple demands is the question. "They have production plans for 2,048x1,536 displays. Starting in November. But those are only plans at this point," said the source, referring to LG and Samsung.

"It's not a question of making just one. That, of course, can be done. The challenge is making lots of them," the source said. "This is a quantum leap in pixel density. This hasn't been done before."

If manufacturers are not able to hit the volumes necessary for the higher resolution, there is an interim option of 1,600x1,200, according to the source.

The display is also expected to have a brightness of 550 nits. That's pretty bright, as the typical laptop display panel tops out at about 350 nits.

In related news, Samsung this week is showing off a 2,560x1,600-pixel 10.1-inch LCD Panel for tablets. That could potentially appear in future Samsung products.