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Retina, really? Maybe on select MacBooks

Will Retina finally come to the MacBook? Yes, on certain models, says fresh speculation.

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
Higher pixel density displays make text appear sharper, as seen here on the iPad.
Higher pixel density displays make text appear sharper, as seen here on the iPad. Apple

Retina rumors never cease. And now, according to the latest speculation, those ultra-high-resolution displays will land on select new MacBooks.

A fresh report, based on data from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI, shows Retina-class displays coming on a 13-inch "MacBook" and 15-inch MacBook.

Those models could be announced at Apple's annual developers conference WWDC2012 next week.

Let's be clear. Retina displays coming to new MacBooks is not the moral certainty that it was for the third-generation iPad. Naysayers say that all of that extra resolution is not necessarily a good thing on a MacBook and a place Apple may not want to go. Particularly when Apple 13-inch and 15-inch designs already support a relatively high 1,440-by-900 resolution (and 1,680-by-1,050 on the "Hi-Res" 15-inch model and up to 1,920 by 1,200 on the 17-inch model).

On the other hand, the "supply chain" -- that amorphous collection of Asia-based component suppliers -- is screaming Retina.

As a refresher, here's what CNET reported last month based on information from DisplaySearch. These are Retina-class displays that are shipping and available to Apple (and others):

  • 15.4-inch: 2,880-by-1,800 pixel density. That's 220 pixels per inch (PPI). By comparison, the current 15.4-inch MacBook Pro has a 1,440-by-900 pixel display and a PPI of 110.
  • 13.3-inch: 2,560-by-1,600 pixel density with a PPI of 227. By comparison, the current 13.3-inch MacBook Air is 1,440 by 900 pixels, and has PPI of 127.

Both of the above resolutions match the displays rumored for the 13.3-inch and 15.4-inch MacBooks. Again, the Pros would stay with high-resolution non-Retina displays, according to Kuo.

DisplaySearch analyst Paul Semenza provided an update of sorts to CNET this week. "LGD, Samsung, and Sharp are all starting up in this quarter on 13.3 [display] 2,560 by 1,600," he said, adding that 2,880-by-1,800 displays are now being supplied by LGD and Samsung.

"What's clear is that Apple's pushing...panel makers to come out with higher resolution panels because they've created a market demand for it, starting with their phones, now going to their tablets," DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim said to CNET last month.

That premium would cost Apple, Shim says. According to his estimates, adding a Retina-quality panel in Apple's 15-inch MacBook pro would cost Apple about $160 versus the $68 the company spends on its current models. It's $134 for such a panel on the 13.3-inch model, compared with the $69 Apple pays right now.

Current 13.3-inch MacBook Air with 1,440-by-900 display.
Current 13.3-inch MacBook Air with 1,440-by-900 display. Apple

(Via Mac Rumors)