Achieving Retina

To make the MacBook Pro’s Retina Display a reality Apple had to work with panel vendors to build the panels it wanted at a reasonable cost, as well as deliver the software necessary to support insanely high resolutions. There was another problem Apple faced in making the rMBP a reality: the display pipeline of the GPUs Apple wanted to use didn't officially support scaling to the resolution Apple demanded of them. Let me explain.

All modern GPUs have fixed function scaling hardware that is used to efficiently scale between resolutions. A scaler either in your GPU or in your display panel is what lets you run non-native resolutions at full screen on your LCD (e.g. running 1680 x 1050 on a 1920 x 1080 panel). None of the GPUs used in the Retina Display MacBook Pro officially support fixed-function scaling of 3840 x 2400 or 3360 x 2100 to 2880 x 1800 however. Modern day GPUs are tested against 2560 x 1440 and 2560 x 1600, but not this particular 5MP resolution. Even 4K resolution support isn’t widespread among what’s available today. Rather than wait for updated hardware and/or validation, Apple took matters into its own hands and built its own GPU accelerated scaling routines for these higher resolutions. Fixed function hardware is almost always more efficient from a performance and power standpoint, which is why there’s some additional performance loss in these scaled resolution modes. 

What’s even crazier is Apple wasn’t pleased with the difference in baseline filtering quality between the Intel HD 4000 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPUs. As the Retina Display MacBook Pro would have to regularly switch between GPUs, Apple wanted to ensure a consistently good experience regardless of which GPU was active. There are a lot of filtering operations at work when doing all of this resolution scaling, so rather than compromise user experience Apple simply wrote its own default filtering routines. Since you want your upscale and downscale quality to be identical, Apple had to roll its own implementation on both. Apple’s obsessive attention to detail really made it possible to pull all of this off. It’s just insane to think about.

The Software Side of Retina: Making it All Work Driving the Retina Display: A Performance Discussion
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  • wfolta - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    You may be satisfied with 1920x1200 on a 17" notebook. But once you try 2880x1800 on a 15" notebook, you will see pixels when you go back.

    Your eyes are literally opened. (Given that you don' have uncorrected vision issues.)

    It's not a waste of money, and if you really believe you can't see the difference, you're free to keep your money in your pocket.

    The rMBP is the most balanced laptop out there. What people keep throwing out as "way better" are in fact unbalanced laptops that are great for gaming but big and heavy, or are tiny and have batteries that last all day but don't have much computing power, or ...
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Is it really? Because seriously, those surface temperatures look unpleasant to me.

    I think the point we're both driving at is that there is no "best laptop" and while this may come closer for many, it's still going to fail to meet some users' requirements.
    Reply
  • kasparsv - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    I mean do they look "bad" only in comparison with the rest of the system or are they actually worse-looking than on older MBPs? Reply
  • Randomoneh@gmail.com - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    I don't know if anyone already said this, but some some studies show that average person can perceive much higher quality than Apple would like you to think.

    Of course, their wording wasn't "You can't perceive higher quality than this." but they pretty much implied exactly that.
    Reply
  • Randomoneh@gmail.com - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Oh yeah, and I forgot to add that I greatly appreciate what Apple is doing in terms of quality of their products. Reply
  • cdhorner - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    I'm wondering what some of you working professionals with jobs like web/app developers are using as far as external storage.

    I'm looking for the first time to switch over from a desktop/office setup to a MacBook Pro, connected to an Apple 27" cinema display so I can work at a home office, as well as a secondary office location - and still have decent access to external storage. I've been looking at a cloud storage solution, but then the real point of having this in my opinion is to drop files on it - and access them directly through your file system (in OS X finder for example), with the ability to only store files for instance in the cloud and not on your machine as well in cases. Is this possible? I'm using DropBox right now, and at least under OSX it's pretty lacking...

    Do any of you guys have a similar type of setup/requirements?
    Reply
  • Fanfoot - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Anand,

    Fabulous review as always. One thing I'd love to see get some of your attention though is the trade-off between display resolution and battery power required. Obviously with the near doubling of WHr in the new iPad and the 23% increase in WHr in the rMBP, these higher resolution displays take quite a bit more power. Now obviously the early rumors that Apple would go with Sharp's IGZO panels for the rMBP turned out to be false, but I assume they're still a possibility for the long run, perhaps MacBook Airs for next year say, where there is less ability to make make the laptop thicker to add more battery and everything else has already been removed or paired down. I've never seen a real analysis of HOW MUCH more efficient IGZO is than IPS say. Would it allow a MacBook Air with 220ppi without increasing the battery size at all? Or is it really only slightly more efficient than IPS?
    Reply
  • Ritchey - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Wonderful! 3 external displays, all rendered useless as soon as you decide to click on full screen mode on the internal one... Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Hehehe... Not a problem worth mentioning in any review though, right? ;) Reply
  • jjjjj - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    I have heard that Mountain Lion fixes Lion's bad implementation of full screen mode. See http://www.apple.com/osx/whats-new/features.html#s... , although it's not clear from that description that it is actually fixed. Reply

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