Posted: January 13th, 2013 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Main | Tags: Gary Heiting, hiDPI displays, iPad, Jakob Nielsen, pixel density, readability, Retina Display, text | 3 Comments »
Text on a non-Retina iPad versus a Retina iPad. Sharper text is much easier on the eye and much more pleasurable for reading.
The Retina iPad doesn’t just look aesthetically better — it works better.
The ultimate expression of design is how something works, and by that measure the Retina iPad is much better designed than older ones, despite looking identical when turned off. Usability expert Jakob Nielsen said in an interview that the Retina iPad’s display will cause people to use the device more because it’s a more enjoyable user experience, particularly for reading text.
Nielsen highlighted the crispness of typography on the Retina iPad. He said the higher resolution display really impacts both reading speed and eyestrain, two issues that plague other consumer-grade computer monitors. Two issues that also have caused people to shy away from reading longer-form content on computers.
“All commercially available computer screens have all had bad typography,” he said. “For the entire history of computers we’ve always suffered under reduced reading speed and increased eyestrain compared to print.”
Retina Displays are Apple’s term for hiDPI displays (dots per inch). These are displays with significantly more pixels per inch than displays had just a few years ago. First smartphones received more pixels and more than 300 DPI is fairly common in flagship smartphones. In 2012 we saw tablets get significantly more pixels, sometimes four times or more pixels than models from just a year earlier. We’re beginning to see hiDPI displays make it up into laptop computers, and we’re not far away from desktop displays getting hiDPI displays.
Gary Heiting, OD, and associate editor of AllAboutVision.com said in an email that eyestrain is a primary component of computer vision syndrome. Heiting said eyestrain and computer vision syndrome symptoms include burning, stinging eyes; red eyes; dry eyes and/or watery eyes; increased sensitivity to light; intermittent or constant blurred vision or double vision (that resolves after resting the eyes); difficulty changing focus (from your computer screen to across the room, or even from the computer to printed material or other objects on your desk); seeing “afterimages” or color fringes around objects when looking away from your computer screen; and (frequently) headache.
Nielsen explained that traditional computer displays don’t have enough pixels per inch to properly display text, resulting in coarser typography where character shapes and forms don’t differentiate and stand out enough. Serifs and curves are not as clean as they are supposed to be (or how print typography looks). Because the shapes and forms of the individual letters are harder to make out than printed text, this causes us to spend more time on each letter and word, slowing us down and causing eye fatigue.
Our eyes have to work harder to read text on a computer monitor than they do a newspaper. Even if we don’t perceive it while we are reading, we feel it in fatigue eyes and a lack of desire to read long text on computer monitors.
Many people print out long articles rather than read them on a computer monitor, Nielsen said. The Retina iPad and some of the other hiDPI tablets that have been released are finally changing that.
“This is the first time in history we’ve had a computer that actually provides the same word-for-word readability as print,” Nielsen said. “That’s unprecedented.”
Heiting said the focusing demands on the eyes are lessened by the Retina iPad, more closely approximating the experience of reading a printed book.
“Because of its high resolution display, the iPad reduces or eliminates the eye’s perception of light/dark borders between pixels, which is the cause of focusing (accommodative) fatigue — a major (arguable the major) cause of computer eye strain,” Heiting said.
The Retina iPad features 264 pixels per inch (list of display PPIs here). The first two iPads were 132 PPI. Apple’s best-selling laptop, the 13-inch Macbook Air, is 128 PPI. The standard 15-inch Macbook Pro is 110 PPI, and the 27-inch iMac is 109 PPI. The new 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is 220 PPI.
It’s important to note that the farther away you sit from a device, the less PPI that is required. Your HDTV most likely has a PPI well under 100, but it looks great from 10 feet away on your couch (here is a PPI calculator to figure out what the PPI is of your computer monitors and TVs). The mark of whether or not a display is “Retina” quality is whether or not you can make out individual pixels from a normal operating distance.
Apple considers both the Retina iPad and the iPhone 4/4S/5 Retina Displays, despite the fact that the iPhones have a higher PPI at 326. While a 27-inch monitor that you sit two feet or so away from doesn’t need the same PPI as a tablet or a smartphone to look good, it does need significantly better than 109 PPI to come close to the crispness of typography on the Retina iPad or the kind of crispness that is easier on the eyes. A 27-inch monitor would most likely need more than 200 DPI to be Retina class, which would require a considerable amount of computing power to run — beyond what even most higher-end laptops and desktops ship with.
Heiting mentioned the work of Bryan Jones, Ph.D and retinal neuroscientist at the University of Utah. He investigated and evaluated Apple’s claim that the new iPhones and iPad are Retina Displays and found those claims to be accurate. At a viewing distance of approximately 15-18 inches, which is the recommended distance for use of a tablet computer, around 240 PPI would hit the resolution limit for someone with 20/20 vision.
Up to 50 percent of computer workers experience eye strain during or after work, Heiting said. With smartphones, tablets and computers at home and at the office, we’re staring at computer screens more than ever.
“Increased screen resolutions — not just for smart phones and tablets — could have a very significant impact,” he said.
Nielsen expects that one day all consumer computer monitors will have higher pixel densities. Smartphones and now tablets are leading that charge because of their smaller displays, but Apple has begun shipping hiDPI monitors in their MacBook Pro line. In the next few years, we’ll see hiDPI monitors at larger, desktop resolutions.
Nielsen doesn’t expect big monitors to get high pixel densities for a few years, perhaps up to five more. Not only is it more expensive to ship larger displays with lots of pixels, it takes more CPU and GPU computing power to power the displays.
It’s not just reading that is affected by having a better display. Anything that is done on a computer would be affected.
“With a high resolution screen you can get more work done,” Nielsen said. “It’s not just for reading, it’s also for analyzing spreadsheets and any office work. For any kind of knowledge work it really pays off in increased productivity for employers by giving their employees better tools.”
The Retina iPad and future higher resolution displays offer exciting possibilities for news producers. People will be reading more.
“Better hardware leads to simply more words being consumed, which means more engagement with the content,” Nielsen said.
Chris Mueller, art director for Vanity Fair, said that the Retina Display really improves text and images on the Vanity Fair iPad app.
“The type is much more crisp, which helps legibility for smaller elements and improves the reading experience greatly,” he said. “Photos now have an HD quality with incredible detail and radiant color. The overall difference is notable and it really enhances the way the magazine looks on a device.”
The display on the Retina iPad has been compared to glossy magazine print. Journalism can look really good on it, in a way that journalism doesn’t look in other tablets and computers.
“The Retina Display means everything is sharper and easier to read,” said Greg Clayman, publisher of The Daily. “The overall high-quality of the display looks more like crisp paper – it’s a pleasure to look at for long periods of time.”
Posted: June 25th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Podcasts | Tags: Apple, iOS 6, Macbook Pro, Microsoft Surface, OS 10.8, OS X Mountain Lion, Retina Display, WWDC 2012 | No Comments »
We analyze WWDC 2012 in depth.
We go over what we’re excited about with iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion and what we don’t quite understand.
We also discuss how the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display completely changes my computer plans for this summer. I had been planning on buying a 13-inch MacBook Air and 27-inch Thunderbolt Display for so long. But now?
We also discuss Microsoft Surface. Is this the first real iPad competitor?
Listen to this week’s show:
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Posted: June 21st, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Main | Tags: Apple, eye strain, High DPI displays, Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, pixel density, Retina Display, Thunderbolt Display | 2 Comments »
I had previously wrote and talked my about my plans to get a 13-inch MacBook Air with a 27-inch Thunderbolt Display. It seemed like the perfect on-the-go and at-home setup I could think of. Then Apple released a high DPI laptop display.
High DPI (dots per inch) displays are the future of computing (Apple calls these Retina Displays). These displays are already taking over on cell phones and tablets. I wouldn’t recommend getting anything less than a cell phone with a least 300 DPI or a tablet with at least 250 DPI. Your eyes will thank you.
And so, why would I recommend going with a non-high DPI laptop now that one is available? The new MacBook Pro has 220 pixels per inch (PPI). The 13-inch MacBook AIr has 128. We’re not talking about remotely comparable experiences here (the farther away you use a computing display, the lower the PPI needed for a good experience, which is why cell phones really need a lot of pixels per inch).
Yet, I’m conflicted. I’d prefer something lighter than the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The MacBook Air that I had my sights set on is about 1.5 lbs. lighter. That’s a big deal when you’re on the go a lot, and I will be traveling to school a few times a week and working from different locations with my laptop.
I also never saw myself seriously considering a 15-inch laptop. I find that 13-inch displays are the sweet spot. They work well in a desk or on the go. The 11-inch Air and similar laptops also make more sense to me as laptops than 15-inch ones do, but they really benefit from an external display for longer work sessions.
But that Retina Display. 220 pixels per inch. 2880 by 1880.
How could I go with anything but a high DPI display if I have the choice? Within two years, I would expect all Macs to ship with Retina Dislays. Within five years, the only way to get a non-high DPI display will be to buy a really bottom-of-the-barrel computer — something that I wouldn’t recommend for work purposes. Buying a non-Retina Display Mac is buying into the past.
I don’t think I could do that. I’ve suffered from eye strain for several years, and the high DPI displays on the latest iPad and the last two iPhones have made a real difference in my life.
My eyes became less fatigued. It’s easier for me to read, write and get work done. A lot of people will discover that their eyes feel a lot better when they start using displays with higher pixel densities.
Eye strain doesn’t just manifest itself with pain. Eyes train can cause chronic dry eyes, headaches, migraines and other physical issues. It can also cause you to must not want to work anymore.
It’s a serious issue.
As a person studying usability and computer interfaces, I’m torn between the increased usability of a higher DPI display and the increased usability of a lighter, smaller computer. And my back and shoulders would prefer the lighter laptop.
I expect it to be at least a year (more likely two) until we see Retina Displays in MacBook Airs do to the GPU and battery demands. We may see a 13-inch MacBook Pro before then, but that will still be a bit heavier than a MacBook Air. I need to buy a new computer this summer.
Obviously, I’m leaning heavily towards the MacBook Pro, despite it’s bigger size. But I haven’t made up my mind yet.
Note: It’s not the resolution that matters but rather the resolution / display size while also taking operating distance into account. Sitting on a couch, text is perfectly readable on an HDTV, but get up close and everything goes to hell.
That Thunderbolt Display is definitely not happening, however. There is no sense in spending $1,000 on a display that will be obsolete in a year or two and that will look out of place next to a high DPI laptop screen.
What are your thoughts? Will you be buying a non-high DPI display again? How big of a laptop would you buy?
Posted: June 15th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Notes | Tags: Macbook Pro, Retina Display | No Comments »
Joanna Stern on the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display:
After 20 minutes of using Apple’s new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, I switched back to my own six-month-old MacBook Pro to send an email. But when I looked at its screen, I thought my contact lenses had actually fallen out. For a second I was worried; everything on the screen looked less crisp and less bright. It’s not an old machine, but it was really as if an optometrist had switched my prescription, or I’d been forced to use my old glasses. Everything just seemed blurry by comparison.
Posted: June 15th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Main | Tags: Apple, Macbook Pro, Retina Display | No Comments »
Early reviews are in, and people are impressed with the new Retina Display Macbook Pro.
Some are falling in love.
But there are caveats, and these caveats won’t be solved that quickly. We’re in for a bumping ride to a high pixel density future for laptops and desktops.
The biggest and most glaring issue are all the applications and websites that are not Retina Display ready. As we have seen with watching standard definition content on a high definition TV, non-Retina content looks worse on the new Macbook Pro than it does on traditional displays. This leads people to purchase a top-of-the-line computer to get an inferior experience.
Applications like Word are significantly less usable on the new Macbook Pro. Here is an application built for writing, and it displays blurry, out-of-place text.
The applications and websites that are updated look gorgeous and are more usable. High pixel density displays are the future. Make no mistake about that.
Getting to the future is often a bumpy road. How long will it take applications and websites to be updated to support high pixel density displays? That’s the real issue that has to be cracked with the new Macbook Pro and future high pixel density displays like the Retina Display.
Commercial applications that are under going ongoing development should be updated quickly. Some already have been, and I would expect most applications that are sold in the Mac App Store to be updated by the end of the year, if not significantly sooner.
Many people use applications that are open source or that are no longer regularly updated. These applications may lag considerably behind other applications in getting updated. Unfortunately, applications that are no longer being developed will not be updated, leaving users to either put up with a worse user experience or to hopefully find a suitable replacement.
In the business world, we often put up with old applications and websites because they help us get our jobs done, and we don’t have suitable modern replacements. It is these tools that will hold back high pixel density computing the most.
The Web transition will take much longer and legacy websites will remain with low pixel densities indefinitely. HTML text will immediately look great, but photos, videos and art assets may look quite bad.
The new iPad has been out for months and has sold millions. It will sell tens of millions this year. Despite that fact, few websites have been optimized to display photos and art assets at a high pixel density.
This leads me to believe that the new Macbook Pro will not cause many websites to be updated with high resolution assets anytime soon. What will it take?
To get broad Web adoption, we’ll need more than Apple products to ship with high pixel density displays. Specifically, high pixel density Windows laptops would give Web designers and site owners the kick in the pants necessary to update their websites.
Windows 8 does come with support for displays with high pixel densities. While Android tablets aren’t selling that well (Kindle Fire and Nook Color excluded), if they get on the high pixel density display bandwagon, this will further push application and website developers to update their products.
Many reviewers are saying that the new Macbook Pro is the Mac to get. That may be the case, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to fully utilize its beautiful display for a few years. If you get the new Macbook Pro, you’ll have a front row seat to history, as we transition from a blurry, pixelated, anti-alised computing world to a crisp, rich, no compromise computing world.
New technology helps push us forward, but it can take time. This new computer is a landmark day in computing. We’re finally beginning to see displays that no longer look like we’re staring at a computer. What we see just looks real, living, breathing.
Don’t underestimate the usability benefits that these high resolution displays will give us. People will get less eyestrain, text will be easier to read and we’ll be able to display details that we’ve never been able to before.
This is a brave new world for computing. It’ll be a bumpy ride to get there, but in five years, our computing world will look so much better and clearer.
Posted: April 4th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Podcasts | Tags: April Fools, Facebook, iPad, Jakob Nielsen, Passwordgate, Penn State, Retina Display, usability | No Comments »
We discuss the growing controversy over employers asking employees for their Facebook login information.
Would you give a perspective employer your username and password to Facebook if it were the only way you could get that job?
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen believes that the new iPad with its high resolution display is a usability game changer. Specifically, it makes you want to use it more. This is the future of computing displays.
Also, is faking a students death an appropriate April Fool’s Day joke?
Listen to this week’s episode:
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Posted: March 19th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Notes | Tags: eye strain, iPad, Retina Display | No Comments »
Good news for people like me who suffer from eye strain:
Gary Heiting, an optometrist and associate editor of the site All About Vision, says yes.
“A key factor in something that’s called computer vision syndrome, or just eye strain from computer use, is screen resolution,” Heiting says. “The new iPad, with twice the resolution of the iPad 2, 264 ppi (pixels per inch) instead of 132, people are going to notice less pixelation, especially in a small typeface. It’s not just an enjoyment issue or an aesthetic issue, but it’s definitely a visual comfort issue, over time.”
Trust me, reading text on the new iPad is a pleasure and significantly better than the first two iPads. The new iPad’s Retina Display really is all about text. Even if it doesn’t pop the first time you see the display, reading on the new display is much easier to do for extended periods of time.
You don’t get that feeling of wanting to get away from the display like you do with lower-resolution displays. I often find myself not wanting to read long articles on my desktop monitors, and that’s a major reason I’m always using Instapaper to save those articles and read them later on my iPad. Reading on lower-resolution displays is taxing.
But it’s not just the resolution — it’s the pixel density. That’s what really matters. Apple is rumored to be coming out with laptops with higher pixel density displays. Everything will be the same size, just higher resolution, richer, easier to read.
It was always jarring going from the iPhone 4′s Retina Display back to the iPad 1. The lower-resolution display looked fuzzy and pixelated. This requires your eyes to work harder.
You do not want your eyes to work harder.
Posted: February 29th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Podcasts | Tags: Apple, ESPN, iPad 3, Jeremy Lin, journalism, Linsanity, NBA, New York Knicks, racism, Retina Display | No Comments »
We start off by discussing Linsanity and racism and how a racist slur has been used several times by ESPN employees while discussing Jeremy Lin.
We then discuss how the iPad 3′s Retina Display resolution will require all apps to be redone for it with higher resolution assets. The iPad 3 screen will look substantially better and much closer to a printed page when it comes to text, but news orgs will need to update their apps or their images, videos and other assets won’t look good.
And the apps that use images for text? Well they’ll be really screwed. Until apps that use images for text (which is a lot of iPad news apps) are updated, text will look worse on this new display. And when these apps are updated, because text is rendered with space consuming images, these apps will ballon in size.
So, render text with text, not images.
Listen to this week’s show:
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