Beware the allure of Apple's Retina Displays

Apple's Retina Displays are a knockout, but they can make just about every other display look ugly.

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
MacBook Pro Retina.
MacBook Pro Retina. Apple

Apple's Retina Displays are drop-dead gorgeous. But be careful what you wish for.

Like many, I got the third-generation iPad because of the 2,048-by-1,536-pixel-density Retina Display. And, like many, I didn't see a huge difference at first.

That was then. Now it's painful to pick up my Dell laptop with its 1,366x768-pixel 13.3-inch display and Windows 7 fonts (note: font-smoothing utilities go just so far).

And while my 11.6-inch MacBook Air fares better than the Dell (it packs the same number of pixels but into a smaller area giving it a higher PPI or pixels per inch), I'm suddenly questioning my preference for portability (the Air is under 2.4 pounds) and wondering if I should go with a 4.5-pound 2,880-by-1,800 MacBook Pro Retina instead.

In short, I have become a pompous pixel ass. Thanks to Apple.

And it's not so much images and graphics that grate -- they're usually fine by comparison on Dell's display -- but text. It's become hard to tolerate the choppy, jagged text on Dell's display.

But I shouldn't single Dell out. I just happen to have a Dell laptop. This could apply equally to any Windows machine with a 13.3- or 14-inch 1,366x768 display.

Change is coming, though. In addition to existing very-high-resolution laptops like Sony's Vaio Z, newcomers like Vizio are touting machines with breathtaking high-pixel-density displays. For instance, I would have no problem staring at the 15.6-inch Vizio Thin+Light laptop's screen every day.

And Microsoft's Windows 8 Pro (Intel-based) Surface tablet is expected to have a Retina-like display. As I'm sure others will.

Wait, did someone mention a 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina?