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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  • ragnarokvr1 - Wednesday, July 04, 2012 - link

    I'm utterly sick of reading about macintosh "innovation", it reminds me of people referring to Stracraft "2" as a revolutionizing video game in the series. ANYTHING macintosh does DELL does better, at a cheaper price.
    Comfort of keyboard? That's a PERSONAL TASTE, I personally HATE keyboards that have their buttons separated by spaces in-between, it makes me look down every time I type as if I was laying my hands on a computer for the first time back in 97.
    I have NO IDEA what this writer is on about, all macintosh does is take components from Intel, AMD or NVIDIA, stick them in a lackluster chassis, stick an outrageous price tag on it and call it a revolution. I thought this was a professional website. I guess I was wrong.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Friday, July 06, 2012 - link

    Starcraft 2 is one of the best games of the last five years, the laptop industry follows Apple's lead, and you have terrible opinions. Reply
  • ragnarokvr1 - Friday, July 06, 2012 - link

    it's people like you that make this world a living hell Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Friday, July 06, 2012 - link

    Look who's mad.

    I'd be mad too if in my world I deluded myself into thinking that overweight housewives were supermodels and vice versa
  • ramb0 - Sunday, July 08, 2012 - link

    i hope for your sake you're just trolling. Otherwise, you're never going to be anything more than the loser you are today. good luck sir. Reply
  • Macgurl111 - Friday, July 06, 2012 - link

    Thank you for this review. When placing the 2010 mbp next to the rmbp it does look a bit dated. I have been using this for 2 weeks and so in love with it. Once again thank you for your review. And wow 442 comments on a website? :) Congrats haha Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, July 09, 2012 - link

    Tried one of these in store and the window resize animations were just painful, the frame rate was really slow so the animation was really choppy, and as the review states Safari scrolling was easily below 30fps on some pages. Hope these are fixed. Reply
  • K1 - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    My RMBP reached 96C when i opened multiple videos in youtube and played all in 1080p resolution. Once i closed them the temperature is immediately back to <60 (in a min or so..). I used 'Temperature Monitor' Reply
  • hummerchine - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Steller review Anand...I'm impressed beyond words. This is why your site is on my top-ten list of sites to check on a regular basis. I'm flabbergasted by all of the negative were so right on! Why in the heck do the negative ones even read your reviews? I mean, seriously...

    FANTASTIC job on everything you do...please keep it up!
  • hummerchine - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Uh, make that "Stellar"... Reply

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