When Apple announced its updated 15″ MacBook Pro yesterday, the company became the first to offer a notebook that far exceeds a 2 megapixel resolution. Typically, higher-end 15″ or 17″ notebooks have used the 1080p resolution, which is an effective 2,073,600 pixels, but not content to just barely inch past that, Apple increased it by a factor of 2.5x. This results in the staggering resolution of 2880×1800, or close to 5.2 megapixels.
At that resolution, Apple’s 15″ notebook has a higher resolution than all consumer 27″ and 30″ desktop monitors. The 30″ that we use for benchmarking graphics cards has a resolution of 2560×1600, which to many, is considered to be drool-worthy. But Apple even beat that by about 25%. Remember, we’re talking about a 15″ display here.
For a couple of different reasons, I find this release to offer further proof that Apple is more about releasing things that few people need just for the sake of it (or rather, to have bragging rights). While images are going to be crisper at their full-resolution, that’s about where the benefits end for such a high-res screen. Photo and video editors might stand to gain, but even then, it’s going to be a niche thing due to the screen size. On a 30″ monitor, 2880×1800 makes a ton of sense, but not on something quite this small – and again, Apple itself admits that its with magnification where the differences will be better appreciated (and who looks at their monitor with a magnifying glass?)
Further, because both desktop OSes and most content are not designed around such high-resolutions, using regular applications at a resolution like 2880×1800 could introduce various issues. From what I’ve heard so far, a lot of websites look “fine” in Safari on this MacBook, but none of the other Web browsers are optimized out-of-the-box for it. And increasing the DPI will affect just the fonts, not the images. Google’s logo at ~400×150 looks fine on a regular desktop monitor, but it’s going to be small on this.
To help put 2880×1800 into perspective, I full-screened a Web browser on our monitor capable of 2560×1600. This resolution falls short of 2880×1800, but the aspect ratio is identical. The outgoing MacBook Pro 15″ had a 1440×900 resolution, so to simulate the same content on the previous model, we simply took a full-screen 2560×1600 shot and resized it to 1440×900. If you happen to run that resolution, you can look at this image full-screen to get a slight idea of what it would look like on the 2880×1800 model. Bare in mind though that in reality, the content would be even smaller, as 2880×1800 has 25% more pixels than our example here (unfortunately, we couldn’t simulate that resolution easily).
As you can probably tell, the Web isn’t exactly designed for such high-resolution. While most fonts are going to be scalable, images are not. If you’re used to a 1000×750 image filling up about half of your screen, expect to squint when looking at it on a 2880×1800 15″ display. Anand has a better example in a new article. If you look at the laptop sitting there, it’s pretty easy to tell that the fonts are small. Otherwise, the entire screen does look undeniably crisp.
What I’m most curious about at this point is whether or not an ultra-resolution like this is going to become somewhat common down the road. Will Dell follow-up with something similar? ASUS? Only time will tell. What do you guys think about massive resolutions like this?