Retina displays for PC: your time has come.


It’s frustrating, but I’ve long felt that manufacturers of monitors have been too complacent for too long. Panel sizes, resolutions and technologies have remained relatively stable – topping out at a disappointing 1920×1200, for panels of 24”. The pixel density of such panels is mediocre at best – annoying, particularly when increasing the resolution of the display is the single most important factor in improving image quality. You can’t fake, smooth, or alias pixels.

Now panel manufacturers find themselves in the unfortunate position of playing catchup. Apple have revealed a 15.3” laptop with a display resolution of 2880×1800 – a pixel density of 221.98 pixels per inch. Compare that with the resolution of our bog-standard 24” panel: at 1920×1200 you’ll end up with a pixel density of 94.34.

There are problems with simply upping the resolution on the display; you need to considerably beef up the graphical processing power of the PC itself. But I think you’ll struggle to find any PC gamer with a recent build who hasn’t wondered exactly what performance advantage he’s paid out for. Frankly, the graphics card upgrade cycle is stalling because we’ve simply tapped out what benefits we can get from the current generation of games. It’s won’t be until the next E3, and with it, the next generation of consoles, that developers finally start building true PC stretching games.

So, we’re left with a question mark: what exactly can we do with high-end graphics cards?

Here’s the answer: shift more pixels in the current generation of games.

More pixels is better. More pixels means more information in the image, more chance to pick out detail, more colour, more texture, more dynamic range. More pixels will make games better looking.

Here’s the problem: no-one’s making high-pixel density panels right now. It seems that most consumer monitor manufacturers have been concentrating on lowering prices while increasing their margins. Increasing the pixel density just hasn’t been on the list of their priorities. So display technology has gradually stalled.

But it feels like now is the right time. We’ve got the graphical horsepower, and we’ve got the proof of concept in Apple’s new MacBook Pro.

That feels like a gauntlet.

It’s now down to the hardware manufacturers to show what’s possible in the next generation PC gaming.