What will Apple's iPad 3 'retina display' mean for you?

It seems almost certain that the Apple iPad 3 will have a retina display, but will that come at the cost of poorer performance or lower battery life?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The forthcoming iPad 3s' retina displays may come with performance and battery life costs.

The forthcoming iPad 3's retina display may come with performance & battery life costs.

The rumors appear to be true. The next model Apple iPad 3 will have a 'retina display' display. MacRumors has their hands on what appears to be the iPad 3's display component With four-times the pixels of the earlier iPad displays, the reputed iPad 3, screen with its 2048x1536 resolution, will have twice the resolution of the iPad 1 and iPad 2, which can only boast 1024x768 resolution. That's all well and good, but what will it mean for you?

Dr. Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate, the world's leading display and display tuning company, isn't in the least bit surprised at Apple's move. Soneira wrote: "The next generation iPad will quadruple the number of screen pixels with a resolution of 2048x1536." This in turn, will indeed give the iPad 3 a Retina Display [because it] does not require the same pixels per inch (ppi) as the iPhone 4 Retina Display because it is typically held much further away from the eye, whose visual sharpness is based on angular resolution rather than linear ppi resolution. The iPad is typically held 15-18 inches away as opposed to the iPhone 4's 12-15 inches. As a result, to meet the 300 ppi Retina Display specification made by Steve Jobs at WWDC for the iPhone 4, an iPad Retina Display would need only 240 ppi. So an iPad Retina Display could start anywhere above 1862x1397 pixels."

Still, we don't know who's making this display, so it's hard to work out exact what else the screen will be capable of. Soneira speculates, "Sharp is rumored as a supplier for the iPad 3 Retina Display. Sharp's IGZO is a technology for producing the thin film transistor (TFT) Active Matrix in a display - just like Low Temperature Polysilicon, which is the technology it is competing against in the current iPhone 4. So IGZO could be used to make an IPS display, which has the best Viewing Angles (but they aren't the often quoted 170+ degrees). My guess is that if Apple uses IGZO it will be IPS because Apple is unlikely to backpedal on Viewing Angle performance."

So, this is all great news right? Great resolution means sharper images, which means happier users? Yes? Well, not necessarily according to Soneira. "Technically an overkill and comes with a large penalty in cost and performance - requiring significantly more processing power, more memory and battery power, plus lowering the display brightness efficiency."

In other words, the iPad 3 display may indeed be the sharpest tablet display out there, but it may lead to slower overall performance and lower batter life. Of course, the iPad 3 is rumored to have a quad-core Apple A6 processor that could probably take care of the display's need for a faster processor, but that could only come at the cost of lower battery life.

So before getting too excited about a great iPad 3 display, I'd wait to see the first comprehensive reviews come in. I'm certain that Apple wouldn't release an iPad 3 unless it faster than its predecessors, but I'd really like to know what its battery life is going to be like before replacing my current iPad.

iPad 2 image courtesy of Apple.

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