Tag Archives: Retina Display

The MacBook Pro (or PC laptop) that I would bring to college

Starbuck falling asleep while studying. The laptop and tablet combo is a good one for college.

Starbuck falling asleep while studying. The laptop and tablet combo is a good one for college.

The topic of what computer to take to college comes up often here. Jeremy and I may not fully agree on this (he’d say MacBook Air), but here is my advice.

I’m specifically highlighting which Mac I would recommend to take to college (with some equivalent PC options as well), because this is a recent question we were asked. I also use a MacBook Pro for graduate school and had to make this very decision two years ago.

Price certainly matters. Form a budget. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need this computer to work well for at least four years, and I know many people who bought cheaper computers and had to replace them before college was over.

A good computer could even last you through graduate school.

Computers have gotten a lot cheaper over time, and there may be some temptation to get a random laptop for $450, but that could be a big mistake. I spent about $3,000 on computer for college, and that wasn’t abnormal at the time.

One of the big reasons that computers have gotten cheaper since I was in undergrad is that quality has dropped a lot. It was much more difficult to get a really cheap computer that was filled with poor compromises.

I’m not suggesting you need to spend $3,000 on a computer, but I’d hesitate to go cheap with this decision. It’s important.

Displays matter. Go HiDPI (Retina)

If you’re going to be doing a lot of reading or writing — and this is a lot of college students — I’d really only look at laptops with HiDPI displays. The most famous is the Macbook Pro with Retina Display, but there are several PC options as well. We explain how HiDPI displays can reduce eyestrain and make reading easier.

HiDPI stands for high dots per inch. It means more pixels and smaller pixels. It means fonts so clear that you can no longer see the pixels (your eyes will thank you for this). It means images that look like high-quality prints. It’s kind of the difference between an HD and non-HD television.

HiDPI is the future of computer displays, and it is already the present on smartphones and tablets. There is no reason not to get on this bandwagon now, and you’ll thank yourself for doing so in a few years.

I get many of my textbooks as Kindle ebooks. This is usually cheaper and much lighter and space conscious. I can often read these books on my iPad and iPhone too, making it easy to sneak in a few minutes of reading here or there. But sometimes I don’t want to carry an iPad or Kindle with me.

My MacBook Pro hooked up to my external monitor. It's a great way to do heavy-duty work.

My MacBook Pro hooked up to my external monitor. It’s a great way to do heavy-duty work.

There is also a Kindle Web app. Normally, I wouldn’t want to try to read a book on a low-resolution computer monitor, but now that I have a HiDPI display, I can also use my laptop for book reading.

Trust me, this makes a huge difference. I had a bad case of eye strain during college, largely from working on the student newspaper, and HiDPI displays are a way I manage my eyestrain today. My computer, smartphone and tablet are all HiDPI, and I’ll never buy a non-HiDPI display again.

This is why I do not recommend the MacBook Air, despite it otherwise being perhaps the best general college laptop around. Text isn’t as sharp on the display, and it will fatigue your eyes faster. The 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina is 3.46 pounds, and while it is not MacBook Air light, it is plenty light enough to carry around campus. I have the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and with the right bag, its 4.46 pounds doesn’t bother me.

The MacBook Air may go Retina as early as this year, and as soon as that happens, many of you may prefer the MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro is a more powerful machine, but the MacBook Air should appeal to more college students with its lighter weight and lower price. The lack of a HiDPI display, however, is not worth it to me, unless you are in a major that doesn’t require a lot of reading and writing. Or if you’re in a major that doesn’t require a lot of computer use

There is no such thing as too much ram

I would go with the maximum amount of ram you can afford. I’d also go with additional ram over a faster CPU any day of the week. This may not matter now, but it may come in handy 4-6 years from now. Newer applications and operating systems tend to use more memory over time, and this will leave you better prepared for tomorrow’s applications.

I believe in using computers for years and years and running them into the ground. I had an eight-year-old PowerMac as my daily machine for awhile. I plan on using this MacBook Pro for many years.

A lack of ram will hurt your ability to use a machine for a long time. A hundred dollars or so now could mean several years of additional life out of your machine later.

As of March 2014, I’d recommend going with at least 8 GB of ram. You probably won’t notice the effects of anything above that, but going with more ram will provide greater future proofing, which may come in handy post graduation when you can’t afford a new computer.

SSD all the way

I never want to own a computer again with a traditional spinning hard drive. Everything is faster with a solid state drive (SSD). Applications spring to life in an instance. You can go through hundreds of photos without hiccups.

SSDs also use less energy, allowing for longer battery life. You don’t want to rely on bringing a power cord to class because many classrooms don’t have power outlets. It’s usually my classmates with traditional hard drives that are crowding around the power outlets during class.

SSDs are also more durable, especially to drops. College students drop stuff. An SSD hard drive could save your data and your grades.

All MacBook Pros with Retina displays and MacBook Airs come with SSDs standard. But if you’re going to get a PC laptop, get an SSD. This is what my Windows 8 laptop has, and you’d be shocked at how fast it boots up and wakes from sleep. Spinning hard disks are for big storage needs, and you can always get an external hard drive if you need more storage.

With external hard drives with 2 TB of storage less than $100 now, don’t worry about internal storage. Speed, durability and reliability are more important for your internal hard drive.

Consider an external monitor

I’m writing this post with two monitors right now. I have my text editing window on my MacBook Pro, and I have websites and resources that I’m looking up on my 22-inch external monitor. Having two monitors makes you more productive and cuts down on errors.

Here is a very good 22-inch LED monitor for $150. The other advantage of an external monitor is that it allows you to go with a smaller laptop, because if you ever need more screen real estate you can just plug in your external monitor.

Most college students would be best served with a 13.3-inch laptop such as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I think this size is the best balance between power and portability.

Now, I do have the larger 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (partly because there was no 13-inch version at the time), and there are advantages. The 15-inch version is quad-core and can support a dedicated GPU. If you don’t know what this means, you probably don’t need them.

Students doing video editing, photography, 3D animation, computer science (for compiled languages, not Web development), graphic design and perhaps a few other areas would benefit from the increased power. But for writing papers and doing research  — what the vast majority of college work is for most students — a 13-inch laptop is fine. And frankly, you can do all of those things I mentioned above on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, just a little slower.

It is very hard to find a HiDPI external monitor, however. This issue will be sorted out in a few years, but right now your best option is to get a 22-inch 1080p monitor. It’s not HiDPI, but it will be fine for a secondary monitor as long as you do most of your work on your HiDPI laptop monitor.

Look at all of your computing and technology needs together

Form am overall budget to spend on computing and technology. If you want to do photo journalism, for instance, budgeting for a decent digital camera would be wise. Many of you like using an iPad or Kindle for textbook reading. Budget for that as well.


Reading for class on my iPad.

You may get more enjoyment and productivity out of going with a cheaper laptop plus a tablet than you would out of a more expensive laptop. I would encourage you to think of your technology needs together and form an overall budget.

I do a lot of my reading for school on my iPad and Kindle, both of which I received before graduate school, but if I had nothing right now, I would budget for a tablet and a laptop. This would require me to make sure my laptop didn’t eat up my entire budget.

Unless a paper book is a lot better than the ebook (this does happen with more graphical textbooks), I go with the ebook.

Backup, backup, backup

I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to backup your data. There is no excuse for a college student today to lose data. If you do, it’s because you didn’t prepare ahead of time.

The most important kind of backup that anyone can have is remote. Local backup is an added layer of protection that I’d recommend, but remote backup handled by a company who specializes in data integrity is a must.

I would either go with Backblaze, Crashplan or another similar backup-everything-for-a-fixed-cost-every-month service or with Dropbox, if you need syncing and the ability to pull up files for class. You can even go with a combination of the two services by utilizing the free Dropbox account for storing smaller amounts of data. Several of my classes have used shared Dropbox folders, and it is a great tool even if you don’t use it for backups.

Backblaze and Crashplan are dead simple to operate. They backup everything on your computer in real time. They are always running and always backing up your data. If you have an Internet connection, your data will be backed up. Both are around $50 a year or so.

If you go with a Mac, I’d also suggest using Time Machine. A simple USB 3.0 hard drive will do just fine, and it will provide fast, local backups for under $100. The benefit of a local backup is that they are much faster for retrieving lost data. It can take a considerable amount of time, sometimes days, to get all of your data back from a cloud backup service.

Time Machine also does versioning. Sometimes you just want to get back a file you deleted, and Time Machine will provide daily backups for at least the last month. You’ll want your Time Machine hard drive to be at least twice as big as your internal laptop hard drive so that it can handle doing many versions.

Don’t forget your academic discount!

You don’t need to go through your college or its technology center to get an academic discount. Most major computer makers offer educational discounts through their online stores.

Don’t buy a random laptop; a computer is more than just specs

The quality of a laptop goes far beyond specs. You can have two laptops with identical specs, and one will be great and the other will cause you to pull your hair out. In particular, there is huge variance in the quality of keyboards and trackpads.

If you want to get a laptop that I don’t specifically recommend here, at least read reviews elsewhere to get a good idea of what you’re getting into. Using a computer in store is a good option too. I’ve used countless laptops with virtually unusable trackpads. Do you really want to carry a portable mouse with you everywhere (and be almost unable to use your computer when you don’t have it)?

There are some really bad keyboards out there, especially on thinner laptops. Some are very hard to type accurately on.

Every Apple laptop has an incredible trackpad. I’ve never seen a PC laptop with a trackpad that is anywhere near this quality, and I never feel like the trackpad doesn’t meet my needs.

Macs have very good keyboards too. I’d say the keyboards on Lenovo ThinkPads are the best, and they generally have good trackpads too. My No. 1 PC recommendation is usually to check out a ThinkPad first.

I have a Toshiba Windows 8.1 laptop, and it is virtually unusable without an external keyboard and mouse. Yes, it is light, relatively fast and has an SSD and all the modern specs, but its keyboard and trackpad is atrocious. It’s hard to believe that this was allowed to be shipped, and this experience is not that uncommon for PC laptops.

A good keyboard and trackpad is worth hundreds of dollars.

My MacBook recommendations

Every computer listed below has distinct strengths and weaknesses. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is the most balanced, but you need to ask yourself what your needs are. I felt having a lot of CPU and GPU power was important for the kind of work I do, and that’s why I went with the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina for most college students

  • 8 GB of ram and a 256 GB SSD are fine for most students. I wouldn’t be opposed to upgrading the ram to 16 GB and the SSD to 512 GB.

15-inch MacBook Pro for power user college students

  • This is a little more confusing. There are two distinct versions here. Most just have integrated graphics, but one model has dedicated graphics. This makes a big difference in price. If you need a dedicated graphics card, this model has a loaded CPU, GPU, lots of ram and a big SSD. It should last you many years. It’s the model I have, and I highly recommend it.
  • If you’re not going to get the version with a dedicated graphics chip, the main reason to get it is for the bigger screen. You have to ask yourself if a bigger screen is worth $500. I’d say that for most of you, the 13-inch version with an external monitor is the better option.

11-inch MacBook Air

  • The 13-inch MacBook Pro and 13-inch MacBook Air are similar in size. I think most students would be better off just going with the Pro, unless money was a big issue. In that case, the MacBook Air is a solid option.
  • The one thing a MacBook Pro can’t compete on is really small size. If you want a really portable laptop, the 11-inch MacBook Air is compelling. It still has a full size keyboard and a great trackpad. You can still hook it up to a big external monitor and all of that. But it is really small and light. You can basically take it anywhere. If you envision yourself always with your laptop, typing away in all sorts of nooks and crannies, this might be a compelling option.
  • This laptop will be a writer’s dream when its a Retina display.

My graduate school computer setup

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display

  • 8 GB of ram
  • Dedicated graphics chip
  • External 22-inch monitor
  • External keyboard and mouse for heavy duty work at my desk
  • OmniOutliner for note taking in class
  • Ulysses for writing reports
  • Microsoft Word for formatting written assignments
  • Coda and Sublime Text 2 for writing code
  • Photoshop, Illustrator and Pixelmator for graphic design

iPad with 32 GB of storage

  • This is the main way I read textbooks and PDFs (we read a lot of journal articles).
  • Kindle textbooks work well and sync back to Kindle, phone and Web.
  • It syncs to OmniOutliner, allowing me to read and edit notes that I take in class.
  • I have the 9.7-inch version, and I think it works better for many textbooks than smaller tablets, but if you mostly read novels or text-based books, the iPad Mini and similar smaller tablets may be a better option.
  • I have the wifi-only version, and most college campuses are covered with wifi. I wouldn’t worry about getting a version with a data plan.

iPhone 5 with 32 GB of storage

  • I mostly just use this for email and checking in on our online learning system.
  • I also read Kindle books on this. If you’re going to read Kindle books for class, I’d recommend getting a smartphone that has the Kindle app. It’s more useful than you’d think.


  • I’m talking about the basic black and white E-ink Kindle here. It has great battery life, is durable with a cover on it and is very, very easy on the eyes.
  • This is how I read textbooks right before bed so that the blue light from my iPad doesn’t keep me up late. It is not recommended that you use an iPad right before bed. The same goes for any laptop not running software such as Flux. Flux is a free utility that I recommend every computer user run (when not doing color sensitive work). You will sleep better with this installed.
  • I have the version “with special offers.” It saves money, and it doesn’t impact the user experience.

Recommended PC laptops

ThinkPad T540p with solid state drive

  • This is a 15-inch laptop with a HiDPI display.
  • It also has an optional dedicated graphics chip for more graphics-intensive work. This is the closet thing you’ll get to a 15-inch MacBook Pro from a PC.
  • It’s heavier than I’d like at almost a full pound more than 15-inch MacBook Pro.

ThinkPad X1

  • This is the closet thing to a PC MacBook Air. It’s very well made, and it weighs less than 3 pounds.
  • A HiDPI display is optional for $150. I think it’s money well spent. But, again, if you don’t think you need a HiDPI display, you can forgo it and this is still a great laptop.

Acer Aspire S7-392-6807

  • Considered one of the best Ultrabooks around.
  • Very nice design.
  • Is not a HiDPI display, but it is 1080p. It’s similar to a MacBook Air.

Thinkpad T440 with solid state drive

  • It doesn’t have a HiDPI display, but if you feel you don’t need one, this is a very good, reasonably priced Windows laptop. Great keyboard too.

Leave a comment below if you have questions about what you or your child should bring to college. We’ll do our best to give you answers based on your needs.

For more on technology in the classroom and thoughts on what to bring to college, check out Episode 101: Technology in the classroom.

Retina/HiDPI displays will reduce eyestrain and should lead to more reading


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.”

Episode 41: Getting to the Surface of WWDC 2012

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:


Download the MP3

Show notes:

MacBook Pro with Retina Display or MacBook Air? Compromises abound.

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?

“When I looked at its screen, I thought my contact lenses had actually fallen out. “

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.

The Retina Display conundrum

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.


Episode 32: Can I see your Facebook password? It’s for work.

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?

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Retina Display iPad reduces eye strain

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.

Source: Mashable.

Episode 27: ESPN, The Sports Cliche Factory

ESPN SportsCenter Set

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.

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