Apple Retina Display - Which versions are there?

For several years now, Apple has been using the so-called "Retina Display" for the screens of its products. This is intended to ensure on the respective device that the users cannot see any individual pixels at the usual distance. The aim is to create the impression of a natural picture and, when displaying text, the illusion of printed writing instead of pixelated letters and characters. Over the years, however, this technology has developed further, with LCD panels being followed by OLED and mini-LED lighting. Here you can find out which Apple Retina display versions are available and in which Apple devices they are installed.

Apple Retina Display - Which versions are there? Which devices have Liquid Retina, Super Retina and XDR technology? And what does that mean? You can find answers to these questions as well as further information here.
Apple Retina Display - Which versions are there? Which devices have Liquid Retina, Super Retina and XDR technology? And what does that mean? You can find answers to these questions as well as further information here.

Why is it called "Retina" display?

The word retina describes the retina of the eye in both German and English. The retina display can therefore be translated as “retina screen”. The idea behind this is that the human eye can no longer make out individual pixels at an average viewing distance from the screen. The displayed image is then no longer "pixelated" and looks printed or natural. 

Photos are more beautiful to look at, videos look like they should and text is more pleasant to read. The Apple Retina display is intended to offer users a more pleasant experience when using the integrated screens of the iPhone, iPod, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook and iMac. There are different ppi sizes for different distances between the eye and the screen, i.e. the number of pixels per inch.

Here some examples:

  • Plus models of iPhone 6, 6S, 7 and 8 as well as iPhone SE 2: 401 ppi
  • Apple Watch, iPad mini, most iPhones: 326 ppi
  • Several iPad models of various sizes: 264 ppi
  • MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air: 221 to 254 ppi
  • iMac, iMac Pro, and Pro Display XDR: 218 ppi

What is the average viewing distance you are considering?

There is of course a difference between the viewing distances of the iPhone, Apple Watch, MacBook, iMac and Co. This is why the pixel density of the individual displays also differs. A retina display on the iPhone must have a larger ppi number (pixels per inch) than an iMac because the viewer's eyes are usually closer to the screen. You can use these average distances to the eye to classify the individual retina displays and their pixel density:

  • Apple Watch, iPhone, iPod: 25cm
  • iPad: 38cm
  • MacBook, iMac: 51cm

A display doesn't necessarily get better just because the pixel density increases. The ppi number can remain the same for the different Retina display versions and generations or even decrease slightly. What makes up the technical improvements are mostly new display and lighting options. One of them is the switch from LCD to OLED screens. But also the backlighting by mini LEDs, as in the iPad Pro, in the XDR monitor and in the MacBook Pro models from 2021.

Retina display

The retina display for a more natural display of image content on Apple devices came up with the iPhone 4 in 2010. Up to models of the iPhone 7 and the iPod touch 4 and 5, the Apple Retina display was also used. In addition, this designation of the first version is used in different generations of the iPad, iPad mini, iPad Air and iPad Pro (12,9 inches of the 1st and 2nd generation, 9,7 inches and 10,5 inches). The Apple Watch is also equipped with this screen.

Liquid retina display

In order to be able to distinguish other versions of the retina display, such as the super retina display with OLED panel, from the LCD models with in-plane switching (IPS), the term “liquid retina display” was introduced for the latter. This refers to the LCD panel (LCD = Liquid-Crystal Display), but should nevertheless highlight the retina technology. The Liquid Retina Display is used, for example. B. on iPhone XR and 11, iPad mini 6, iPad Air 4 and 11 inch iPad Pro.

Super Retina HD / XDR display

The Super Retina display with HD or even XDR designation came up at the same time and describes OLED displays in Apple products that have a high pixel density. In the smartphone sector, it came up with the iPhone X and is used from the iPhone XS and 11 Pro to the 12 (Pro) and 13 (Pro). It is not used with other devices. Even though both are based on OLEDs, the Super Retina XDR display has better specs than the Super Retina HD display: HDR, higher contrast and brightness, better color accuracy, etc.

Liquid Retina XDR display

After the renaming of the retinas, which are also based on LCDs, to the "liquid" name, there was also a development towards HDR display with more true-to-color images, wider color space, higher brightness, higher contrast and so on. The Liquid Retina XDR display finds z. B. Use in iPad Pro 12,9 inch (5th Gen) as well as in MacBook Pro 14 inch (2021) and MacBook Pro 16 inch (2021).

Retina 4K / 4.5K / 5K / 6K display

While the aforementioned versions are used on mobile devices, this is now reserved for the iMac, iMac Pro and Pro Display XDR. The respective designation is based on the maximum resolution that can be displayed on the screens of the desktop computers or monitors. The iMac with 24-inch display and M1 chip (2021) has z. B. a Retina 4.5K display. The exact resolutions and pixel densities are as follows, depending on the screen:

  • Retina 4K display: 4.096 × 2.304 pixels @ 219 ppi (21,5 inch iMac)
  • Retina 4.5K display: 4.480 × 2.520 pixels @ 218 ppi (24 inch iMac)
  • Retina 5K display: 5.120 × 2.880 pixels @ 218 ppi (27 inch iMac and iMac Pro)
  • Retina 6K display: 6.016 × 3.384 pixels @ 218 ppi (32 inch Pro Display XDR)

Overview of all devices, sizes, designations, resolutions and ppi values

Listing all devices, data and values ​​would mean either too large or too many small tables for the local blog. But if you want to view the information listed in this guide in an overview, then I recommend the retina display article in the English Wikipedia: Click here. 

There the individual versions, resolutions, pixel densities in ppi and px / cm as well as other information are well summarized. In addition, the overview there will be filled with the new devices, even if we forget that here: D The current status of the information here is November 3, 2021. Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to leave a comment!

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