OS X Lion Comes With Support For Future Retina Display Macs

OS X Lion Comes With Support For Future Retina Display Macs

We haven’t even seen the first retina display iPad yet, but just as Apple’s been baking double-sized assets for an iPad HD into iOS since iOS 4, OS X Lion lays down some groundwork for the first Retina Display iMacs and MacBooks.

The support comes by way of code to push pixels in “HiDPI” mode, or “High Dots Per Inch” mode. It’s not on default, but if you’ve downloaded Xcode for Lion, you can enable it in the Quartz Debug Application found in the Developer Directory.

There’s not a lot to see so far: in fact, all it will do is allow you to access resolutions that are half the maximum resolution your monitor is capable of. But that’s exactly what’s interesting about HiDPI mode, because according to MacRumors, it proves that Apple will take an identical approach to making Macs ready for Retina Displays as they have with the iPhone: namely, Apple will multiply the resolution of existing iMac and MacBook displays by two (quadrupling the number of pixels) so as to make sure that OS X’s UI elements scale up nicely.

While this is interesting (and pretty much proves that the iPad HD will have a 2048 x 1656 Retina Display, and not any more esoteric resolution), Retina Display Macs are likely at least a few years off. New display technology starts off as only being affordable in smaller screen sizes, creeping out to larger displays over time. That’s why the iPhone and iPod Touch lines were the first to get Retina Displays. If Apple hasn’t even managed to deliver a 9.7-inch Retina Display suitable for the iPad yet, we’ve got a few years to wait before we get a 27-inch Retina Display attached to our iMacs.

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  • Chris Brunner

    Imagine the awesomeness of using the iPad HD as an additional monitor with a retina display! Plus, you’re not giving up a Thunderbolt port on your Mac. The smaller monitor is the perfect display for the Twitter app etc…

    -Chris
    http://friendsofmac.net

  • dagamer34

    Probably a subtle way of telling developers, make your image assets with HiDPI now so it’s not a lot of work later.

  • James Bott

    I think the fact that the name ‘Mac’ is omitted from some of the Lion marketing materials, plus this news of these retina-ready assets, must point toward a future iPad (iPad 3 of iPad Pro) running full Lion and iOS modes.

    Obviously, this hybrid approach is what Window 8 appears to be attempting to do, too.

    If they allow for Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Mouse (for compatibility / viability), it has to be a distinct possibility.

  • James Bott

    And now I wonder if the 2011 Macbook Air I intend to buy could well be the last Mac I ever purchase…

  • Ryszard

    This “analysis” makes no sense to me:
    1. The current, non-Retina Display of the 21.5″ iMac is 1920 by 1080 pixels;
    2. The current, non-Retina Display of the 27″ iMac is 2560 by 1440 pixels;
    So the 1280 x 800 resolution you point to would be a downgrade, not an upgrade, in pixel density.

    (BTW, before you go there, the iPad’s resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels, which is also marked as HiDPI and the only upgrade that makes sense for it would be to double the resolution to 2048 x 1536)

    These “HiDPI” markers are probably just carry-overs from older, simpler days when they indeed represented improved screen densities.

  • Matthias Wolf

    The argument about smaller screens being the first to get the retina displays actually gives us a good timeline for the introduction in Macs. If it goes upward with screen size, the first one will be the MacBook Air. But since this just got upgraded, it is at least another year, maybe 1.5 years, until we see those displays.

  • meixiaoguo
  • zenmene
  • Kevin’s Squirrel

    John, really?  If you knew anything about Apple’s UI path you’d know that their moving towards resolution independent systems, that is to say good-bye bitmaps, and hello vector assets.

  • mai duc chung

    The usual idea is that you would use NFC to set up the link between the two devices and then do an automatic hand over to a different protocol for doing the actual transfer of data – eg Bluetooth,iphone 5

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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