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Displays Hardware Technology

Where Are All the High-Resolution Desktop Displays? 565

MrSeb writes "Ever since the release of the iPhone 4 with its 326 pixels-per-inch (PPI) Retina display, people have wondered about the lack of high-PPI desktop displays. The fact is, high-resolution desktop displays do exist, but they're incredibly expensive and usually only used for medical applications. Here, ExtremeTech dives into the world of desktop displays and tries to work out why consumer-oriented desktop displays seem to be stuck at 1920x1080, and whether future technologies like IGZO and OLED might finally spur manufacturers to make reasonably-priced models with a PPI over 100."
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Where Are All the High-Resolution Desktop Displays?

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  • No OS support. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zadaz ( 950521 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:28PM (#40265649)

    Neither of the most popular desktop operating systems (Windows, OS X) work very well at arbitrary DPI. Windows is surprisingly ahead of OS X at the OS level, but lots of windows applications misbehave if you change the DPI settings. For example hard-coded interface layouts can mean that controls will be displayed outside the window area and are therefore inaccessible.

  • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:33PM (#40265703)

    The DuraVision FDH3601 [] from EIZO is one example.

    Expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for it, though - these are targeted at oil companies and government.

    Conveniently, the latest Intel chipsets can apparently handle such "4K" resolutions.

  • Focus Circle (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anna Merikin ( 529843 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:38PM (#40265725) Journal

    A pad or phone is usually held closer to the eye than a screen on a laptop or desktop is placed. At normal distances, (say, two feet) a 20-inch 1080x1920 monitor's dot pitch is barely visible. A 5-inch monitor held 6-inches from the eye will need exactly the same resolution to appear as clear.

    On the larger end, the lack of computer sales volume seems to have led manufacturers to limit cheaper large-screen offerings to HD -sized playback; one can still find professional large-screen monitors with enormous resolutions for photo- and video editing at very high prices. ,

  • Meh (Score:2, Informative)

    by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:45PM (#40265773)
    I don't care about DPI, I care about resolution. Laptop standards have degraded. A high powered laptop now has a 1920x1080 screen where as 18 months ago they has 1920x1200. Lovely downgrade. Hurray progress?
  • IBM T221 (Score:5, Informative)

    by White Flame ( 1074973 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:48PM (#40265799)

    That might have been high dpi, but the resolution was nothing special. In 2001 IBM blew that out of the water @ 204dpi covering a full 22", and nothing sine has come close. It's the only piece of computer hardware where "I wish they made 'em like they used to" comes to mind. []

  • Less necessary (Score:5, Informative)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:20AM (#40266029) Homepage

    I'd like to see high resolution displays as much as the next guy, but it's much less necessary on desktop displays and television sets.

    I'm sure someone will freak out about me saying that, but here's the thing: it's not just about DPI, but about the viewing distance. The reason the retina display is called "retina" is that (we can argue about the validity of the claim, but...) it's roughly the maximum resolution discernible by the human eye at the distance you're expected to view a smartphone. That is, approximately a foot away from your eyes.

    Your desktop display should be about 3 feet from your eyes. My TV at home sits... I don't know, somewhere around 12 feet from my eyes. Though it might be really cool to get a 300 dpi television, I'm not sure it makes sense to worry about it when you're talking about a television that's 12 feet away.

  • Yeah, this article's assumptions about pricing already seem like some quaint notions around three years out of date. These higher-res monitors are now appearing in retail:

    EQ276W 27" LED Monitor []

  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:17AM (#40266299)

    Not as much as you might think, if you don't care about name brands. Search for "Yamakasi Catleap" on eBay. These are South Korean-made 27" monitors with 2560x1440 resolution. They cost $300-$320 including shipping. I don't own one myself, but they seem to be fairly well regarded by those who do. The panels are probably made by the same companies as the name brand monitors anyway, since there aren't that many panel vendors out there.

    Or when you think about it - prices haven't really changed all that much. Prices on the low end have dropped, but good stuff is still priced pretty much the same as it has over the years.

    A good 20" CRT monitor would've cost $2000+ easy in the 90s (one that could do 16x12 and not be fuzzy/blurry/blooming but nice and crisp). Heck, a 17" monitor doing 1024x768 flatscreen would've been several hundred bucks.

    Likewise, nice monitors are still several hundred bucks. It's just that we're used to seeing huge 20" LCD monitors go for $100 or less that makes us think they're a good deal. It's the same as a $500 laptop - the good ones still cost a lot of money (want a GPU and more than 1366x768? You'll be spending $1000 minimum).

    All that's happened to technology is manufacturers have perfected the art of making something to a price. A laptop for $500? What bits and pieces can we chop for that? A monitor for $100? Sure! What can we sacrifice?

    Ditto 1080p displays - because of the commodization of technology, the video circuits to drive a 1080p display is insanely cheap - when millions of TVs are made, it's easy to make a very cheap computer monitor by reusing the exact same parts.

    Anyhow, hopefully the Apple rumors are true and high-res displays are coming down the pipeline.

  • by kyrio ( 1091003 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:35AM (#40266347) Homepage
    Interesting. The Shimian and Catleap have been around for a few months now, at least, at under $350 shipped. Not only are they both 2560x1440 IPS displays, but the Catleap was able to do 120Hz, and a new set of 120Hz capable Catleaps are being produced.

    Sucks to be you.
  • Re:IBM T221 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:42AM (#40266379)

    I hear it won't have higher density than my T221, but iTards will eat it up anyway.

  • Re:distance to image (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:42AM (#40266381)

    No, it's not, it's the same dpi but further away. You do generally require less resolution the further away you get, but that doesn't mean that the resolution has been magically increased by screen pixies, it means you're further away from the screen.

    I have no idea where you got that idea from.

  • by proxima ( 165692 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:10AM (#40266485)

    The bottom line is that at the distances people view their desktop monitors, they don't want the buttons, graphics, and text to be any smaller than they appear with about 80-100 ppi screens. Give all but the most recent applications and operating systems a 130 PPI screen, and there will be UI items that don't scale. Some UI items, like text, will, leaving the interface feeling out of proportion. Higher PPI screens are available on laptops because 1.) Some people demand the implied screen real estate and 2.) Laptop screens are generally closer to your face. I won't discount the whole 1080p standard putting a natural cap on many screens these days (though my 24" BenQ is one of a dwindling set of 1920x1200 panels).

    This is why when Apple put high PPI screens in the iphone and ipad, it doubled the PPI. Existing apps would look the same*. Apps can trivially use perhaps the single greatest feature of high PPI: more crisp text with less dependence on antialiasing to mimic round corners.

    And it's why, I suspect, if Apple does release Macbooks this year with "retina" displays, they will be double the PPI. While Mac OS X in theory supports a reasonably scalable UI, applications may not. And web browsers will want to operate as if they're rendering in the lower PPI, though rendering text and non-bitmapped elements at the higher resolution. Eventually (maybe next year), we'll see expensive Apple Cinema displays doing the same thing. And there will be the normal competitors (especially Dell).

    But until recently, a 150 or 200 DPI LCD was crazy expensive to produce. Judging from the ipad 3, it also takes significantly more backlight capacity (provided by very bright LEDs in that case). We're just now entering a stage in which there are rumors about the 11" and 13" Macbook line getting them, maybe the 15". It will be a while before the 27" and 30" panels can be produced at a price people are willing to pay. That said, I'm holding off buying any more monitors or replacing my T series Thinkpad until they're available. I'm hoping I don't have to wait past 2013.

    * Or at least ought to. Some apps on a third gen ipad will actually look fuzzier than it should.

  • by geedubyoo ( 1980822 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:19AM (#40266699)

    40/40 vision is the same as 20/20 vision. 20/20 vision is considered to be "normal"; 20/40 is half as good as 20/20, while 20/10 is twice as good. The numerator refers to the distance of the observer from the chart in feet. The denominator is more complicated, but essentially refers to the distance between lines on the chart (according to Wikipedia this is measured in mm, which I find odd given that the numerator is measured in feet).

    Source: [] (

  • by lightknight ( 213164 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:22AM (#40266709) Homepage

    Indeed. 1080p is kind of a downgrade for those of us who had higher resolution monitors from yesteryear.

  • Re:No OS support. (Score:4, Informative)

    by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:42AM (#40267065)

    Windows is surprisingly ahead of OS X at the OS level, but lots of windows applications misbehave if you change the DPI settings.

    Apple have already started adding support for so-called HiDPI modes (that you can currently enable with a hack []) to OS X, which is the source of the rumours that they're going to release double-resolution "retina display" MacBooks real soon now.

    They're also in a good position to get applications fixed, since they can dictate standards for admission to the Mac App Store. Although, unlike iOS, you don't have to distribute applications through the App Store, there are plenty of incentives for doing so.

    Of course, once hi-def displays become standard, it should be easier to write resolution-independent code and rely on the OS to render things properly, without manually tweaking things to line up with pixels, and use vector-based icons without lovingly hand-optimising them for particular resolutions.

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @07:31AM (#40267353)
    Shimian panels are rejects from Apple, meaning that they often have problems.

    It's buyer beware and the fact that you have to get it shipped from Korea means that you're probably not going to be able to return it. That said, they're cheap and often good so, you know, there you are.
  • by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @09:27AM (#40267861) Homepage

    Looking around my office most people sit about 20" from their monitor but hold a smartphone 12" away from their face. With 20:20 vision are humans able to see 326ppi at 20"? I would guess not.

    Guess again. Printers use 1200dpi for a reason. While you can't spot the individual pixel at 600dpi we can easily tell 1200dpi looks better, and 300dpi print is so low res any human with normal vision can tell it is crappy printing from several meters away.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie