When Apple introduced the iPhone 4 they also introduced the concept of the “Retina” display. A display with a pixel/dot per inch (DPI) rating that is high enough that when held at a normal distance from the eye each individual pixel is effectively invisible. Giving the appearance of perfectly formed text, much like the quality we expect in glossy printed magazines.
Over the weekend leaks from snippets of the most recently released iOS SDK Beta build hinted at a new GPU in future iOS devices. The GPU is still from Imagination Technologies, the maker of all iOS device GPUs to date. But this one is capable of pushing a lot more pixels, as well as compatible with multi-core processing, and GPGPU processing with Open CL – which means it can do tasks other than high speed graphics tasks. Pushing more pixels is something that is already something we would like to see when the full resolution of the iPhone 4 or current iPad is used for high quality, high speed graphics. So this GPU is very likely to be paired with an uprated, or perhaps dual core CPU and herald the introduction of Apple’s A5 processor – the successor to the Apple A4 (SoC – System on a Chip) which powers the current iPhone 4, iPod Touch and iPad.
There are also rumours swirling that the iPad 2 will feature a much higher resolution display, as well as an HDMI output and perhaps an SD card slot. The higher resolution screen is something that would certainly require a faster, more powerful GPU.
Other snippets found inside iOS Beta SDKs, and in Apple’s own developer resources on its own web site talk about “X2” icons for the iPad. “X2” icons, which are double the resolution of the standard icons on iOS devices, have been employed by developers for some time in iPhone and iPad applications for use on their “Retina” displays; which are exactly double the resolution of earlier iPhones and iPods. These gives the silky smooth, almost high quality sticker like quality to iOS icons that we expect these days on “Retina” display devices.
Adding this all together, and factoring in that part of Apple’s success with migrating the iPhone and iPod Touch to new screen sizes is based on exactly doubling the screen resolution in the operating system so that existing applications and OS GUI elements can be auto-magically scaled up by two times their current size, it now seems likely that the iPad 2 will sport a newer, faster GPU, which can handle the amount of data throughput that will be needed to drive a display with four times the amount of pixels available to it than that of current iPad models.
9TO5Mac have some information today which hints at new LCD panels for the iPad 2; which do indeed seem to be double the resolution of the existing iPad display panel. Unfortunately their list price is also considerably higher than the existing iPad display panel. Almost double that of the cost of the original iPad’s LCD panel at launch, and four times the price it is currently.
This would mean that Apple’s margins on a high resolution iPad may be constrained, or the retail price may rise… Perhaps we’ll see a two tier launch of the new iPad, with both CPU/GPU (SoC) specifications as well as display resolutions split across a middle price point? Or perhaps Apple will pull yet more magic out of its bag of tricks and launch the new iPad at the same price as existing models, and all the bells and whistles we are hoping for!
Time will tell…
Do you think the new iPad will get a “Retina” display? Will we see a split product range? Have your say in the comments…