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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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  • Re:No OS support. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:53PM (#40265835)
    Edge visibility when "stacked" is probably the greatest physical hurdle

    I dunno - people *loved* the old Sony Trinitron CRTs, even though they had painfully obvious shadows from the stabilizing wires on the aperture grille.
  • by phluid61 ( 2501032 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:54PM (#40265839)
    TFA actually addresses that explicitly. In fact, it's the thrust of the entire article. "As I type this, I’m sitting ~32 inches away from a 27-inch monitor with a resolution of 1920×1080, or 81.59 PPI. At that distance, my monitor would need to pack at least 107 PPI (pixels per inch) in order to qualify as a Retina display."
  • by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:55PM (#40265855)

    As I've suggested before, the existence of ill-behaved applications is one major reason why we don't have high-DPI monitors. (And as others have pointed out, the low cost of 1080p TV panels is another.) Windows 7 scales DPI pretty well, but some applications go out of their way to break it.

    There have been strong rumors for a while that Apple is preparing a Retina Display for the new MacBook Pro. If they keep the price point to $999 (and they did a good job of maintaining existing price points on the new iPad), it might be a good deal even for those of us who don't care for OSX – just blow off the default image and install Windows 7. The ultrabook market, like the tablet market, is one area where Apple is actually competitive in price.

    Also, at the most recent consumer electronics shows, many TV manufacturers have demonstrated quad-HD (3840x2160) sets. While these will be very expensive at first, they will be heavily pushed as the next big thing, and prices will go down to reasonable levels eventually. I currently use a 32" 1080p TV as my monitor; it works great, but you can see a tiny bit of pixelation if you lean in close. A Quad HD 32" TV would be a retina display in all but name.

  • Re:Software support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:56PM (#40265863) Homepage Journal

    Good news: the 4k television standard is going to break this egg by delivering a working chicken, and computers will then promptly figure out how to adjust.

  • Re:dynamic range? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by White Flame ( 1074973 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:03AM (#40265911)

    I'm not sure this means what you think it means. HDR is a *scanning* feature, not a display feature, the benefit being that you can extract very minute intensity transitions and expand them out clearly.

    You'd only need HDR in a physical display if you can regularly see the banding between consecutive shades of those 256 levels on the display (and if you can, your display is most likely not calibrated). Also, if monitors got backlights twice as bright, and blacks significantly darker, that would exaggerate the range and require more levels of control. Neither of these cases are quite likely, nor are they IMO as important as getting past the commonplace 1080p "barrier".

  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:07AM (#40265941)

    But if you are willing to go up to a larger screen, 27" or above then you can get a size of 2560x1440. But you have to pay for it.

    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.

    What we really need to do is to blame the HDTV format which forces us to get those letterbox size screens.

    The designers of ATSC chose a 16:9 aspect ratio because it matches many theatrical films and offers a better viewing experience than 4:3 on movies and TV shows. It wasn't their intent to create a de facto standard for computer monitors; that is due to cost-cutting on the part of the consumer electronics industry.

  • Re:No OS support. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:10AM (#40265961) Homepage Journal

    High density PPI displays are extremely expensive to produce because of the zero-defect-over-large-surface-area manufacturing issues.

    This. The failure rate for a panel equals the subpixel failure rate times the number of subpixels. A 2x increase in DPI means at minimum a 4x increase in the percentage of defective panels, and that's if you managed to keep the subpixel failure rate constant as you doubled the density. In practice, I'd expect it to be worse than 4x. And even at current DPIs, I've read that large LCD panels still have about a 10% reject rate as of a couple of years ago, which means you'd probably have to toss about half of them if you doubled the DPI....

    On the other hand, if they did it right, they could ostensibly build the panels in such a way that a defective panel could be remanufactured into a dozen smaller panels for mobile phone use (discarding the one with the bad subpixel), and then they could cut their waste to near zero. I wonder if anybody has attempted such a design....

  • Re:No OS support. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:12AM (#40265975) Homepage Journal

    Depends on whether they are stuck on or off. One stuck-on pixel is completely unacceptable and very, very obvious even at a glance. Several stuck-off pixels are often unnoticeable unless they are near one another.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:28AM (#40266067)

    No idea how old it is but I'm using a 1920x1440, 23" CRT. It's basically irreplaceable. I got it off a relative about 5 years ago.

    Yes it weighs 90lbs but I care more about actual function than formfactor. Why am I the only one?

  • Half (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:38AM (#40266109)

    B) expect the Retina Macbooks to be in the $2000-2500 range.

    Since I correctly halved the consensus guess of the original iPad at $500, I'll also guess we'll see a retina Macbook Air for $999.

    Apple doesn't like changing prices, up or down. The only precident for such is the Mac mini, which did have a price jump for the lowest model.

  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:49AM (#40266165)

    How you got modded Informative is beyond me. Repeat after me: 1080p is a resolution, not a density, and you need to standardize on a density to achieve economy of scale.

    Manufacturers make panels with specific pixel densities. They can then cut those panels to a number of different sizes in order to achieve a number of different resolutions. If I cut a high-density panel at a small size, I can get 1080p, or I could cut a low-density display at a large size to also achieve 1080p. 1080p just means that there are 1920 pixels across the display and 1080 pixels down the display, but it gives no indication of how you got there. And because there are dozens or hundreds of different density panels to choose from, you cannot achieve economies of scale unless you standardize on specific densities.

    As for "good enough", it's all a matter of what we can see. The iPhone 4's display was called a "Retina Display" because it had passed the threshold at which the human eye could distinguish individual pixels when held at a normal viewing distance (12" was what they said, I believe). Similarly, the new iPad has a Retina Display even though it had a lower pixel density, because they consider a normal viewing distance for it to be slightly further away. "Good enough" for most people will be at the point when they can no longer distinguish pixels. At that point, the pixel density race will likely become about as moot as the dpi race between printer manufacturers was, and as the megapixel race between camera manufacturers is quickly becoming (note: there are benefits to more megapixels, but they're already past the point where the normal user cares since most of them aren't blowing up their images afterwards).

    Of course, there are benefits to going even higher in density than "retina" levels, since Vernier acuity [] allows us to still distinguish slight variations in lines, even if we are not able to distinguish the individual pixels making them up. As a result, you can still make curves look smoother or straighter by increasing the pixel density further.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:00AM (#40266215) Homepage Journal
    Recently...I was looking for a new set up, both for a job I was contracting to do (windows based)...needing large screen for multiple windows at once...and also, I had just bought a new Canon 5D3, and looking to edit high resolution stills and HD video....this was on a macbook pro I gave myself last year. Contract was paying for the monitor, nice side job.

    Anyway, wanting something nice, I had a major surprise trying to find something larger that 1080p.....I shopped around and finally found the best deal I could on a Dell u2711....2560x1440.

    I paid about $800 on it, most priced it then about $1K.

    I was shocked, not so much at the price, which was steeper than I'd thought...but at the sheer lack of higher resolution monitors out there even available.

    I mean...nice that TVs are all nice 1080p, but the influence has seemingly killed the computer monitor market.

    I guess like how the general public has forgotten what good sound reproduction can be, and the value of it.....we've lost how nice a higher end resolution monitor can be for working. Sure...multiple monitors are nice, but why not START with a nice big high resolution one...and and pair THAT with a 2nd nice one?

    Sure is nice having a LOT on one screen....having multiple 'screens' with lots of real estate on them is even nicer.....double that eventually..and..well...

  • by JohnboyHolmes ( 743838 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:02AM (#40266451)
    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.
  • Re:No OS support. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:51AM (#40266765) Journal

    Can't Windows just scale the image if the app is not marked as "multiple DPI compatible"? Instead of scaling the text etc, why doesn't Windows just render the image (like a screenshot) and scale that (together with active areas)?

    Since Vista, it's precisely how it works - the app has to have a flag in its manifest that basically says "I know what DPI is and will adjust accordingly". Old apps don't have it, since it was added in Vista. If an app doesn't have it, Windows tell it to render at 96 DPI, and then bitmap-scales the output.

    It works in a sense that it prevents broken layout, overlapped widgets etc that plagued non-DPI-aware Windows apps running at non-standard settings for a long time. But it still looks crappy, since now you've got those huge oversized logical pixels. And if it's not scaled by a nice whole number - 2x and such - then you have to approximate the scaling, too, which is even worse.

    If you want to fit more things on the screen, by a 2550x1440 or 2550x1600 27" or 30" display. 30" is big enough that you actually have to move your hand to focus on different parts of it. So that, we already have, so long as you're willing to pay around $1k. But it would also be nice to have nice, sharp text without hacks like ClearType pixel snapping.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @04:11AM (#40266819)

    A few months ago I got a used IBM T221. 3840 x 2400. It makes ALL the difference in the world! I can actually easily fit 3 browsers up side by side even when viewing all those fixed-width fullscreen-expecting websites out there, and they all look sharp and crisp. I can have a tall browser, tall IDE, and two extra large xterms all within instant field of view, all rendered clearly. A pleasure to look at.

    My coding productivity has gone up simply by not having to constantly click around to uncover one buried window or another. I can fit dense text, code, and references on the screen without making it unreadable due to too few pixels per character.

    And then there's picture editing. You haven't truly seen godly image quality, until you've seen a well-composed picture taken with a good-quality camera rendered in all its glory at better than 4x the resolution of HDTV. And, of course, video editing: a full-resolution HDTV clip takes up one corner of the screen. Plenty of room for menus browsers and even a second or third video source.

    Simply put, you have no idea what you're missing. It really is *that* good.

  • Re:Easy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SimonTheSoundMan ( 1012395 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:06AM (#40266961) Homepage

    He's talking about $100 point and shoot cameras, 14 mega pixels on a 1/8 inch sensor. The D800 isn't anything special, it has the same pixel density as a Canon 7D/60D/450D. D800 does a good job with noise as it has an newer generation sensor. Look at the Sony F65 for newer tech, 18 stops dynamic range, amazing colour and handles high ISO really well, but you'll only get that at a price of $100,000. I shoot with a D4, it is clean at high ISO. You get what you pay for.

    I also shoot with a Contax 645 with Leaf Aptus II back. Produces 27mp images, has good colour and dynamics, but totally unusable past 200 ISO. $40,000 camera with older tech, medium format is dead if no new technology is made. Here you do not get what you pay for.

  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:26AM (#40267157)
    This might be because the fonts get fatter when using a lower resolution, improving readability. If you instead increase the font size, in many cases the font weight does not increase much at all.
  • by khipu ( 2511498 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:46AM (#40267225)

    About 10 years ago, you used to get a small range of high-end monitors, and they cost around $1000. That really hasn't changed much. Back then, consumer and TV displays just weren't usable for a lot of computer desktop use. What has changed is that there is a glut of HD displays because of their use in consumer electronics. That has caused computer monitors that happen to have the same specs as consumer displays to fall in price dramatically. But the high end $1000 displays are still there if you want them, and there really are almost as many devices at the high end of the market as there used to be (meaning, maybe a handful). It's just that your expectations have changed and you don't consider them a good deal anymore because HD displays for less than $200 are actually quite good. There's also diminishing returns: a 30" 2560x1440 monitor just isn't a lot better than one (or two!) 1920x1080 monitors, whereas a 1920x1080 is a lot better than a 1280x800 monitor.

  • by bertok ( 226922 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @07:05AM (#40267281)

    Don't want to be a dick, but my Macbook Pro 17" has the same key spacing as my Apple Keyboard.

    Like this one [], with the speakers on either side of a tiny, cramped keyboard?

    Or did your mean the new new 2012 models [], which clearly have exactly the same keyboard for both the larger and smaller models?

    Or maybe your point is that that Apple has made their normal keyboards [] cramped too?

    Compare those to real keyboard [], made for people who use them for typing: It has a gap between the numbers and function keys, the ESC button is separate, the function keys are grouped in sets of four, the arrow keys have a space around them in all directions and are normal sized, and there are dedicated keys for insert, delete, home, end, pg-up, and pg-dn, in the standard position, with a space around them.

    By the way, I just compared the width of my laptop to my normal, standard-sized desktop PC keyboard. Ignoring the numeric keypad, which I never use, the laptop is 4 cm wider than the desktop keyboard. There is absolutely no reason why it couldn't have been made to have the exact same layout!

    The doubly stupid part of this whole thing is that laptop keyboards are replaceable. They're manufactured as this little metal tray thing that can be separated easily from the rest of the laptop. Why don't manufacturers make half a dozen different layouts, and let people chose? Some people may want a numeric keypad, some may want dedicated ins/del/etc... keys instead, some people may want media-control keys, others might prefer properly spaced function keys, etc...

  • Re:No OS support. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Confusador ( 1783468 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @08:48AM (#40267621)

    If you want to fit more things on the screen, by a 2550x1440 or 2550x1600 27" or 30" display. 30" is big enough that you actually have to move your hand to focus on different parts of it. So that, we already have, so long as you're willing to pay around $1k. But it would also be nice to have nice, sharp text without hacks like ClearType pixel snapping.

    You've hit on my problem: I don't really want a 30" monitor, I want to be able to see the whole thing at once, sitting fairly close to it. 23" is my preference, but 25" would be OK. Why* can't I have a 2550x resolution at that size?

    *note, this is rhetorical, the whole thread is about why.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.