Do you remember when we revealed at the end of February that the default wallpaper of Lion’s beta had a resolution of 3200 by 2000 pixels 25% higher than the current ones? Well now a new discovery makes us dream of launching new Macs with screens with a much higher pixel density than the current ones that would move the experience of the iPhone 4 Retina screen to the laptops and desktops of the company of the apple.
Firstly, the guys at MacMagazine have noticed that Lion’s latest build has some icons with a resolution of 1024 by 1024 pixels , twice as many (in horizontal and vertical resolution, i.e. four times more in total pixel count) as the 512 by 512 pixels in Snow Leopard’s icons (Leopard’s heirs where the big jump from Tiger’s 128 by 128 pixels occurred). The wallpaper already gave a hint but these icons clearly point to an increase in the resolution of the screens of the next Macs either at the cost of enlarging their size or increasing their pixel density.
Will Retina Macs be Apple’s next big thing? Various sources point out that the stock of iMac is abnormally low and considering that its last update took place on July 27, 2010 it would not be strange that they were the first to incorporate these screens, perhaps also accompanying the launch of Lion planned for this summer.
The resolution independence , i.e. the ability to have the elements displayed on the screen always the same size regardless of the resolution of the screen to provide a more robust interface is, like the ZFS file system support, one of the features that we have been waiting for the longest in each new version of Mac OS X fed by rumors that go back to the first preliminary versions of Leopard six years ago with a trail that can be followed even to Tiger.
MacRumors reported that Lion may contain some new features under the hood that will support (even more) high-definition screens once and for all. Based on what Apple has learned in iOS with the iPhone 4 Retina display, Lion has “HiDPI display modes” , which allow developers to use versions with twice the resolution of their application elements on screens that can benefit from it to display them at the same size now but twice as sharp. These modes are not active by default but have to be enabled using Quartz Debug but the door is there.
Taking the example of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with 1440 by 900 pixels resolution, for this 2x increase to be possible, a new model of 2880 by 1800 pixels resolution would have to be presented that maintains the same screen size, integrating into a notebook a graphics capable of running smoothly with a higher resolution than the current 27-inch iMac . Applying the same increase to this model, the next iMac would have to support 5120 by 2880 pixels of resolution although again, returning to the wallpaper of the beta, it may be improved progressively, first with an increase of 25% to 3200 pixels wide, then with 50% . Or maybe the same thing will happen again and we’ll talk about this rumour when we’ve been with Lion for a year and Apple starts dropping hints about Mac OS X version 10.8.