back to article Neuroscientist: iPhone 4's 'Retina display' not bullsh*t

An America retinal neuroscientist has focused his boffinistic eye on the iPhone 4's much-touted high-res display, and has come to the conclusion that Apple's claim that the "Retina display's pixel density is so high, your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels" is true. "I'd find Apple’s claims stand up to what the human …

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So what?

So what if the resolution is that high? It's also pretty useless.... On my n900 (800x480), I also can't see the pixels, or can zoom out so that the text becomes so small I can't read it (and no, that isn't because there are not enough pixels to create the small letters).

Same goes for my 19" 1600x1200 desktop screen and 1920x1200 15" laptop LCD (3 years old!).

Did Apple just invent something new? Nope. LCD tech has had enough resolution for years.

I would compare this as to putting a 1000HP engine in a small car. Technical marvel? Probably. Useful? Nope.

Maybe Apple should concentrate on making their screens perfectly readable in sunlight (high-fives to the transflective TFT of the n900!), or antenna design (har har)

Apple marketing speak. Nothing to see, move along...

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Useless?

I've always thought that the iPhone's screen was absolutely fine, and couldn't see the point in this new high resolution screen either. Then I saw it yesterday and understood - it is one of the finest screens I've ever seen on anything, and made the text brilliantly clear.

As for the expert saying it's good enough for the eye, but not the retina, well, surely they should have called it the Eye Display, not the Retina Display. Too long? How about iDisplay?

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Megaphone

and...

Next set of Macbooks will have HDMI ports... FIRST NOTEBOOKS EVER to have this technology... right? ;o)

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Anonymous Coward

Useless for whom?

If you can't see the pixels on an n900, I'm sure you won't see the pixels on a new iPhone - not every bit of new technology benefits everyone. Personally, I *can* see the pixels on my Toshiba G900 (3" WVGA, 313ppi, 2007) and I can see the pixels on a 360ppi ink-jet printout, so I have no reason to believe I wouldn't see the pixels on a new iPhone. (I can see 313ppi at about 12" - I tried it with a test image - but I'm comfortable slightly closer. My distance vision isn't very good, but apparently I'm better than 20/20 at close range.)

The new iPhone appears to have a lovely screen (after the yellow goop has dried). Commendations to Apple for breaking their habit of claiming 100ppi is good enough for everyone. Now I just want the screen in an Android phone...

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Memo from the Accounting Dept.

Dear Boss,

Kindly refrain from giving this free lunch to more than one Retina at a time. Our Financial Wizards tell us it could set a bad precedent.

Accounting Dept.

Kingdom of the Blind, Inc.

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Anonymous Coward

Title

I have to admit that I had a play with an iPhone4 in Tesco yesterday and at 12" and I can't distinguish individual pixels.

So I fired up the old Touch HD and then the Desire and guess what - I can't on them either.

Last eye test was 20:20.

What gives?

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20/20

Hi,

20/20 is the lower limit of the normal visual acuity. People with "normal" vision can have an acuity up to 20/12. The acuity test is not about distinguishing individual pixels: it is about discriminating gap between pixels. Both Touch HD & HTC Desire are slightly subpar to the iPhone 4 (they are 250 dpi).

See this blog for a thorough analysis of this controversy:

http://www.kybervision.com/Blog/files/AppleRetinaDisplay.html

Hope this helps!

Bill

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WTF?

Astonishing.

"We now await Soneira's rebuttal to Jones' rebuttal of Soneira's rebuttal of Discover's rebuttal to Soneria's assertion that Steve Jobs is a jive-ass mofo."

No, not the tear-inducing size of the icarumbaPhone 4's pixels. Astonishing that Apple are still not sending flowers, Christmas cards etc. Truly baffling. Really.

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Stop

how about ...

finding a young person with exceptional vision, say 20/10 in both eyes and ask if they can see the individual pixels at 10 inches distance ?

to be "scientific" .. I'd suppose you'd need to test with about 10 such people and somehow obscure what resolution screens they are looking at between 3-4 choices

a theoretical debate is a waste of time if you can perform proper observational tests

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Pint

@Flybert

I'd rather solve it "scientifically" by applying models that have been observationally tested (like these), then piss off to the pub early.

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Anonymous Coward

Observational tests

Anecdotally, there are people who can see the pixels on the retina display. I suspect there are a lot of people who can take a 360dpi inkjet print-out (or even a 600dpi laser printer output, if you look closely enough) and see the dots. I'm among them. Also, because I have sub-par vision, I'm comfortable looking at a screen more closely than 12", so I'm more likely to be able to see pixels.

That's not a criticism of the screen - it's the best yet - but Apple do have a history of saying "this is the best screen you'll ever need" irrespective of the competition.

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Apple Retina Display: debunked

All of this controversy around the Apple Retina Display has been already debunked a couple of weeks ago on this blog:

http://www.kybervision.com/Blog/files/AppleRetinaDisplay.html

It cannot be made any clearer...

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WTF?

Not exactly impressive.

Why make us read the whole thing when a quote will do for most of us:

"In my opinion, Apple's claim is not just marketing, it is actually quite accurate based on a 20/20 visual acuity.

"However it is also important to note that the maximum acuity of a healthy human eye is approximately 20/16 to 20/12, so it would be inaccurate to refer to 20/20 visual acuity as "perfect" vision (despite the popular belief). The significance of the 20/20 standard can be best thought of as the lower limit of the normal visual acuity."

And from there he goes on to waffle about how if Jobs had made a different claim, that different claim would be correct.

Not exactly impressive logic.

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Anonymous Coward

Sharper image is sharper proclaims boffin

We have the sharpest image ever, befuddled Apple fans misbelieve.

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Boffin

Look

it's 800x480. That's all you need to know. Really.

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But...

But it's not. It's 960x640.

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Unhappy

@10"

I'd be bloody lucky to see the individual letters let alone the pixels. I guess being over 40 means I'm not the target audience for an iPhone

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Exactly, cell phone companies ignore the Over 40 market.

Exactly, cell phone companies ignore the Over 40 market.

They make cell phones so small we have to put on reading glasses to use them. That is hardly conducive to mobile use.

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Jobs Horns

And..

Thats a bad thing how exactley????

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The Eyes have it

Probably why Pensioners are getting excited over the iPad.

At last a device with a large high contrast backlit with a zoom capability display that you don't need to be a computer expert in order to use.

Let's not forget that a large share of the over 60s also have surplus cash to spend.

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FAIL

Storm in a teacup

Read their marketing lit carefully: the display has a name, it is "Retina display". Note that it's just a name. They could have named it "Dark Ale".

(btw, most would agree with their claim that the eye can't see the pixels at a foot distance, which may or may not be also true for any number of other displays, phones or otherwise).

The misinterpretation is taking the name literally.

Silly people; as if Joe Smith has got to be a blacksmith, and John Baker must bake bread, and Sarah Bee buzzes around and stings (ouch)!

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Boffin

Problem with that...

The justification of using terms the wrong way for the sake of marketing has been an issue for a lot of tech stuff, as the misuse and/or exaggeration have increased recently.

For example:

My 1981 Stereo (which is around my age) is a 60 Watt stereo. Cranking the volume up to 10 will be very frickin' loud.

My mom's minicomponent says it is a "2600 Watt" stereo. If you compared my 60 Watt stereo with those numbers, you would expect for the entire house to vibrate with that sound, and all the windows to explode. Oh wait! It says "2600 Watt *PMPO*". Hey! The Sound Engineer tells me these are fake watts!!!

Hard disks have been conning people with the assumption that kilobytes, megabytes and gigabytes are calculated on base-1000, instead of the universally used base-1024. Thus, every time the prefix increases (mega to giga, giga to tera), you're getting LESS storage space for your money. RAM sticks do comply with the base-1024 standard, because non-base-1024 RAM would crash your computer. (This problem has been aggravated by pedantic engineers who insist on slapping the useless base-1000 to the kilobyte/megabyte, and even invented a rarely used "kibibyte", "mebibyte" and such. HDD manufacturers can now keep on ripping off consumers.)

Some newer cellphone cameras claim a large number of megapixels, however these are achieved by some weird process which blurs the extra megapixels. You'll find these cams with cheap Chinese knockoffs. Also, you may have noticed that some cameras offer real big zoom capabilites which are really achieved by "digital zoom".

Storage tapes, at least in the DAT area, will claim a 40Gb capacity ... then you find out that it gets full at 7Gb. WTF? Oh, that was 40Gb *compressed*. Bad luck, dude!

There are a lot of other claims that are outright lies, or playing with terminology, but it's pub o'clock over here, and I really, really gotta go now. Enjoy!

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Note that it's just a name

Right up until Jobs got up on stage and said why they called it that, then it became a claim that turned out to be an bit of a lie (ie bogus marketing crap).

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with computers it's a bit more complicated :-)

Kilo has been used for 1000 of something for quite some time before computers became popular and it is defined to base 10 not base 2.

"The kilo prefix is derived from the Greek word χίλιοι ("chilioi"), meaning thousand. It was originally adopted by Antoine Lavoisier and his group in 1795, and introduced into the metric system in France with its establishment in 1799. The General Conference on Weights and Measures was formed in 1875."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilo-

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Paris Hilton

I know I'm thick but...

Here's a really crazy idea. I mean a real thicko idea that I'm sure only someone as dumb as me would think makes sense.

Why not get an Iphone 4, make the whole screen white except for one pixel, which you make black.

Then you stand 6 feet away from someone and slowly approach them until they can see it. When they can, you measure the distance.

Perhaps do this with several people using a pixel in several random locations, and see what the average is?

It's just that... you know... I'm reminded of how the world's academics squandered 4000 years arguing over whether or not if you threw an apple up in the air whilst travelling along the ground, would the apple fall back down into your hand or disappear over your shoulder. The argument started with 'if a man were on a horse', progressed through 'If a man were on a chariot' before finally ending on 'If a man were on a train' before finally some c**t actually got on a f***ing train with a f***ing apple and f***ing tried the f***ing thing to see what actually f***ing happened.

Urgh.

And yet the same kind of academics, probably sat around a pub table, ponder whether the universe would implode and all reality and time itself cease to exist in an antimatter blackhole thingy if you collide the right kind of particles at high speed, and before anyone can say "But isn't this much more potentially dangerous than throwing apples off a horse, Doctor Strangelove?", they've dug up half of Switzerland and are firing hadrons at each other with all the gay abandonment of a teenage paintball weekend.

And then the c**ts have the cheek to come on here and pipe up with their mumbo jumbo over a bloody Iphone? Like the weather, don't sit around for five hours waiting for Helen Willets to come on and do her Mystic Meg act, go and look for yourself.

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Wrong way around actually

Black screen with one white pixel is a better test, due to the way human vision works.

'Bright' areas appear larger than an equivalent 'dark' area.

The human eye is actually rather crap. It's just that your brain is really good at cleaning up the image - it has after all had quite a lot of practice.

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They'd rather revert to Plato's "science"

They'd rather revert to Plato's "science" and play with words -- rather than conduct experiments, gather meaningful data, and analyse that data.

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Boffin

@Ken Green

At over 40 you're more likely to have the available readies to be able to buy it!

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Reading glasses in pocket while walking along

Young people just don't understand how reading glasses work. They blur your vision at distances, so you don't wear them all the time. You only wear them when planning to read.

Ask just about any person over age 50, cell phones are next to useless to us for anything but taking voice calls.

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Pint

@Ken Green

The Science of Aging is very complex. What we can say for certain is that after age 40, the wife looks at your iPhone and sees a new pair of shoes. Hope this helps.

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@Gannon (J.) Dick

Actually, as my wife (40ish) tossed her iPhone into the box of "tried it, but failed in RealLife[tm]" so-called smartphones that she has collected over the years, she said "that could have been a couple new pairs of Ariat paddock boots".

And then she got her ten year old Nokia 5148 reactivated.

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Did you try telling her

"yes, but instead it's something useful?"

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Happy

Tounge-In-Cheek Icon

Something El Reg desperately needs, eh jake ?

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are you somehow ...

... married to *my* wife?

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In typical register form. . .

The article positively must bash apple.

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Semantics is news?

If I understand correctly, someone with 'normal' eyesight will not be able to resolve the pixels on a Retina display (not the capitalisation) when the display is held 12" or further from the eye.

Then some twonk comes along and points out that if it is called a Retina display then the resolution should exceed the theoretical resolving power of the average retina (again notice the capitalisation). Let's just ignore the inconvenience that the retina cannot actally resolve anything without an optical system to focus the image upon it...

Then an Apple-basher jumps on this as proof that Apple Corp is a bunch of lying scumbags and all the rest happily accept this as more proof that Apple Corp are a load of lying scumbags.

So to be clear, the display does exceed the resolvable resolution of the average eye @ 12" and it is called a Retina display, presumably cos that sounds cooler than an Eye display. And no-one decided to point out that Retina is just a name and is not a retina, which is a defined object.

Incidentally, I find it interesting that the eye kinda follows Nyquist's theorem, with twice the resolution (on a single axis) in the receptor (retina) than the focusing system can produce.

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Megaphone

What about systems with their own optics?

So they can focus directly on the retina? That wouldn't be too hard to demonstrate with models. Anyway, I'm a bit of a stickler for "absolute truth" in advertising. Exaggerated claims and atypical testimonials really boil me. I personally wouldn't mind a law that forces all advertisements to be restricted to the same truth scrutiny as a court witness (which in the USA means "the truth, the WHOLE truth, and NOTHING BUT the truth"). That means all claims would have to have independent backing and all testimonials would be of TYPICAL results (otherwise you're half-truthing, which fails the test).

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Natural selection is news?

"I find it interesting that the eye kinda follows Nyquist's theorem, with twice the resolution (on a single axis) in the receptor (retina) than the focusing system can produce."

Why? Surely it would be far *more* interesting if one part of the eye were over-engineered relative to the rest of the system rather than perfectly matched.

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Marketing

But ALL marketing pr**ks are lying scumbags!!!!

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Seeing individual pixels?

I'm looking at my eeePC right now. 1024x600/8.9", about 12 inches. I cannot make out individual pixels. Likewise I hold up my Creative Zen (320x240, about 3") and I can *just* make out the pixels. Not in obvious places like frame borders and text, or the caret, but in harder to see places like patches of solid colour (or white) and "photos".

I think it has been a fair while since the 32K (or less!) colour displays with gaps between pixels so huge that you can make out each individual pixel. So what is Apple's selling point again?

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Boffin

Have you had your vision tested?

When I was younger I could see the pixels at such resolutions.

Age corrected that problem for me.

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pixels

Hmm looked really hard at my Desire and can't see them till 2-3 cm away. Same with HD2. But let's face it, thank god apple upgraded that travesty of a display I was starting to feel quite sorry for iPhone users at least now they are up to date with the hardware even if the OS is still sorely lacking.

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sorely lacking

I'm sure iPhone users will suffer on bravely with inferior technology and only concerns themselves with Waffles666 opinion of their choices half a dozen or so times a day.

You should feel good and about yourself and proud of your achievements, you really should.

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Jobs Horns

"...objective values instead of values exaggerated by marketing departments..."?

From article: "Since Apple makes great products that have excellent specs it will be a lot better for them if everyone sticks with the true objective values instead of values exaggerated by marketing departments."

NEVER going to happen, as it would effectively mean flushing Apple's entire marketing strategy down the pan. Apple's obvious recipe for success so-far has been:

1) Take some entirely average existing technology and toss it together.

2) Marinade it in Kool-Ade for 6 months.

3) Stuff it into a nice shiny box, and sprinkle it with a Fisher Price UI.

4) Bake it in the Reality-Distortion-Field oven for a couple of months at level 11.

5) Near the end of cooking, add liberal quantities of marketing bullshit and a few made-up bollock-buzzword names for said existing tech. (Because, as we know, even when serving tripe presentation is everything!)

Serve in a black polo-neck and jeans to a specially selected group of sycophants.

Bon-appletits!

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Headmaster

It is not uncommon for people to have better than 20/20 vision.

From personal experience I know it is not It is not uncommon for people to have better than 20/20 vision.

I'm not sure what the statistics are, all I can find are statistics on below 20/20 vision.

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just a thought

if yuo subtract from all the bellow 20/20 does that not give you the above 20/20

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My Touch Diamond is pretty much 280ppi

And it's two years old. Retina display? Welcome to 2008!

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nitpickin

It's the 1024 that's wrong. Real Engineers and mathematicians and everyone else

Tera, Giga, Mega, Kilo, ___, milli , micro, nano, pico = Steps of 1000

The 1024 is 2^10, ie, derived solely from binary addressing of RAM and ROM, add an address wire and memory doubles. 1024 is 10 bits address range.

The disk manufacturers are correct. Disk storage unlike RAM/ROM is not based on powers of two either.

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Boffin

Visual acuity

Resolution is measured by displaying alternating black and white lines. The point at which you can no longer resolve the individual lines and see only grey is the resolution.

All these people saying "I can't see the pixels on my X" are either not doing the correct testing or have poor eyesight.

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Coat

Titular Synonym

"Jones' conclusion contradicts an earlier assertion by DisplayMate Technologies CEO Raymond Soneira, who dismissed Steve Jobs' claims as "marketing puffery"."

Homophobe!

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