Display expert calls Microsoft's bluff on Surface claims
Much is unknown about Microsoft Surface. Though the tablet has been announced, hyped, and put on sale (for pre-orders), few outside of Microsoft have spent any time with it. So, though we can look at pretty pictures and read its list of specs, the device is still a mystery.
Take, for example, Surface's display. On paper, the 1,366 x 768 resolution is subpar for a 2012 high-end tablet. According to CNET, though, Microsoft says that it will look sharper than Apple's Retina Display iPad.
How can there be such a discrepancy? Is Microsoft blowing a bunch of hot air, or is there really some secret sauce that makes resolution irrelevant?
Ask the Expert
Screen expert Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies says the answer may lie somewhere in the middle. He hasn't yet seen a Surface tablet in person, but he does know the ClearType technology (Microsoft's marketing term) that supposedly makes it sharper than the iPad's market-leading display. Known in the field as sub-pixel rendering, Soneira acknowledges that the technology can indeed boost a display's perceived resolution.
Making a mediocre display look better is one thing, but can it make it look better than a display with three times the pixels? Soneira doesn't buy it. He examined the display in an Asus netbook, which is nearly identical to the one in Surface. When compared to the 1,024 x 768 iPad 2 and 2,048 x 1,536 third-gen iPad, the expert found the Asus display to lie somewhere in between:
"The Windows ClearType 768p display on the Asus Netbook was significantly sharper than the iPad 2 768p display but also significantly less sharp than the new iPad 3 1536p display. It is certainly possible that the Microsoft Surface RT Tablet will perform better than the Asus Netbook, but it is very unlikely that it will turn out to be visually sharper than the new iPad 3."
The netbook's screen isn't necessarily the same as Surface's, but – with identical resolution and sub-pixel rendering – it's probably in the same ballpark. So expect Surface's display to look much sharper than that of the iPad 2, but it probably won't hold a candle to the new iPad's Retina Display.
Surface Pro could deliver
Soneira says the real treat may lie with the Windows Pro version of Surface (due in 2013). When the same sub-pixel rendering is applied to its 1,920 x 1,080 display, the expert believes that it could outdo the iPad's display. By the time Surface Pro launches, though, Apple could have released a fourth-gen iPad with an even better display.
It's natural for execs to hype their products – especially one as critical to its maker as Surface is to Microsoft – but overblown claims can also backfire. We'll give Microsoft some leeway here, as we haven't yet seen Surface, but we'd also take its claims with grains of salt.
Source: DisplayMate, via iDownloadBlog
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When the iPhone 4 came to Verizon, I added it - hated my Blackberry.
Finally, just before the end of 2010, with a capital equipment credit for tax season burning a hole in my pocket, I bought a fully tricked out 15-inch MacBook Pro with what Apple calls its highest-res screen. Disappointed - precisely in the pixel rendition discussed in this article. The display of the T61p - both native and running into the Dell monitor - is very superior to that of the MacBook Pro 2010 era.
I gave away my 2010 iPad 1 and bought an iPad 3 the day it was announced. I also added a ZaggFolio bluetooth keyboard, with which I am typing this comment. The resulting combination has been my most frequently used computer in the past year. With Dropbox as my hard drive in the cloud, the word processor in DocsToGo, the DTP function in Pages, and CloudOn as my PowerPoint reader (can't figure out how to save in it), the iPad is a dream.
The iPad 3's retina display is much more than a resolution story, as Microsoft would have you believe. It is a color depth, contrast range and palette story. Those of you old enough to know what an 8x10 Kodachrome transparency shot on a view camera and seen on a proper lightbox can visualize what a color photo looks like on the iPad 3. There is simply nothing I have seen to compete with it.
Microsoft can make all the excuses and explanations for its Surface, but believe me - if it was truly competitive with the iPad, they would have had units scattered into the anti-Apple blogosphere. They haven't - instead, they have concentrated in trying to get as many pre-orders as possible before anyone outside Microsoft gets a good look at it.
That speaks volumes about what's coming. They're likely gambling that, after praising a machine virtually no one has seen and/or even touched, writing angry anti-Apple comments on every tech and investor site, those who buy them sight and spec unseen will hang onto them while Microsoft works out the inevitable bugs and driver issues that plague every Windows generation launch.
Screen resolution is but a small issue Microsoft is likely to face in iPad comparison once the Surface launches. My guess is, the sweat pouring through the shirt of the screaming Steve Ballmer at the Surface launch had to do more with the "you bet your company and job" basis of the Surface than its screen. If demand for Windows laptops don't spike in the last quarter, the Surface and its resolution will be the least of MSFT's concerns.
That was high resolution.
Resolution is a matter of grains or pixels, other "methods" increase apparent resolution, but are not true resolution.