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Related: Help me make a reference answer for DPI/PPI/LPI/Pixel/resolution

Why do we have a tag?

It's a marketing gimmick not a unit of measurement

It's a made up trademark by Apple.

Apple does not use it as a unit of measurement, so we shouldn't either.

We assume "Retina" to be synonymous with "High Resolution."

It is not high resolution and here are retina display examples:

272×340, 312×390, 960×640 (That's the iPhone 4, is this what we call high resolution?), 1136×640, are all considered retina displays. Source

They're just called Retina displays for no reason marketing purposes.


It encourages users to creates poor questions like this one:

"Retina scaling of icons" <- link dead, but title relevant


"Apple's Retina Displays are not an absolute standard but vary depending on the size of the display on the device, and how close the user would typically be viewing the screen"

Somebody needs to get rid of or merge this tag ASAP. All we need is one for .


Visual example of the problem with this tag.

Note: It's called Retina and 5K. Because Retina has no meaning at all. It's context is only the current opinions of what High Res is.

enter image description here


I apologize in advance for wikipedia citations but I think it's fine for something this obvious.. Check wikipedia's citations if you have any gripes. Retina Display and Display Resolution

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  • Those pixel numbers are meaningless without stating what physical size they are. That 272x320 is actually for a watch and is 326ppi so I would definitely call that "High resolution". What makes them high resolution is the pixel density.
    – Cai
    Feb 9 '18 at 17:04
  • @Cai Just no. What was considered high res before is not high res now. Do you consider the iPhone 4 to be high res with it's 960×640 resolution even for it's screen size? Obviously not anymore. But it's still "Retina" Feb 9 '18 at 17:08
  • sure I do. it’s still +300 PPI. That’s still higher red than most screens, and a lot of print work...
    – Cai
    Feb 9 '18 at 17:15
  • Besides I don’t see how any of this has any bearing on the tag
    – Cai
    Feb 9 '18 at 17:16
  • @Cai I really think calling the iPhone 4 high res is a huge stretch Feb 9 '18 at 17:16
  • @Cai because it's not a real word. It's not a unit of measurement. It's meaningless. It's the same as "high-dpi" it's all relative and opinion based. It's confusing to people confusing it with resolution. It should be burninated for those reasons. Feb 9 '18 at 17:18
  • It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks is “high res” not, that has nothing to do with the existence of a tag
    – Cai
    Feb 9 '18 at 17:20
  • 1
    “iPhone” isn’t a real word either
    – Cai
    Feb 9 '18 at 17:20
  • @Cai Okay I'll challenge you then. What's a good reason to keep the tag then? What purpose does it serve compared to "Resolution"? Feb 9 '18 at 17:23
  • 1
    To specifically ask questions about "Retina" screens. You may not like the term but it exists. If the tag is being used incorrectly then you edit the questions that are using it incorrectly and maybe suggest some usage guidelines. If you think the tag should be renamed or merged in to another tag then posting that here is fine, but you need to show examples of how the tag is being used and why that's wrong, not just a rant about how the term itself (not the tag) is no good
    – Cai
    Feb 9 '18 at 17:31
  • @Cai I think I've explained pretty good reasons for it to be merged with resolution. Resolution is an arbitrary term just like Retina. Both mean nothing without context of manufacture date and opinion of what "high res" is. Feb 9 '18 at 17:49
  • Besides it's redundant and confusing. EX: the new iMac is called "iMac with Retina 5K Display" So what is it? a 5K display. What does retina mean in that context? Nothing at all. Feb 9 '18 at 17:51
  • It means Apple consider it to be high res. The point here is how it’s being used on questions; if it’s being used for questions specifically about Apple displays labelled “Retina”, then that’s fine, but if it is being used to generally mean “high pixel density” then maybe there is a better tag (resolution absolutely isn’t it though, resolution is a way way broader term)
    – Cai
    Feb 9 '18 at 18:02
  • @Cai It's arbitrary within Apples own usage though. What apple considers high res today is not high res tomorrow. Meaning the answer and questions themselves quickly become obsolete and irrelevant. Even within it's own eco-system it's broken. Feb 9 '18 at 18:06
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First off, please be nice. Second, remember that anyone and their sibling can make a new tag by just including it into the tags with their question.

We mods can merge tags, so that anyone who wants to use will instead be corrected to use . As I am not knowledgeable in this field, it's not something that I'm going to do right away. I'd like some input form other users, comparable to other tag deletion proposals like:

Even despite my lack of knowledge on the subject, I am not in favor of burnination of this tag. Even though it's an Apple thing, 'retina' has come to be somewhat synonymous with 'high-resolution screen'. is way more broad and covers questions that are not dealing with optimising assets for such a screen at all.

5
  • Ah gotcha. I thought tags were developed by the community as a team. I didn't know anyone could make them. Feb 9 '18 at 15:55
  • I made my question more nice Feb 9 '18 at 16:14
  • Vincent, you are mistaken for your reasoning to keep the tag. Apple considers 272×340 to be a retina display. I'm sure you and I both agree that it's not "High Resolution" Check out this link of "Retina" resolutions for more examples of very low resolution that are considered "Retina" Feb 9 '18 at 16:18
  • 1
    @Vincent everyone with 300 rep can make tags
    – Cai
    Feb 9 '18 at 17:07
  • @Cai Ah so it was a more experienced team effort to make this mistake. Feb 9 '18 at 17:13
0

Seeing how this thread is quickly turning into a dumpster fire I might regret adding my 2 cents, but it is filled with opinions mixed with misinformation so I thought I'd try to clear up a few things.

Let's start with the basics:

Resolution refers to pixel density, meaning the number of pixels within a given unit of distance. Since the beginning of computer-assisted graphic design in the early 1980s, the industry standard that is used all over the world is:

  • 72 pixels per inch for screen design (screen or low-res)
  • 150 pixels per inch for standard printing (standard res)
  • 300 pixels per inch for high quality printing such as art prints and high end magazines (high resolution)

Depending on the metric or imperial system it might be pixels per centimeters, but the resolution remains the same.

Size refers to the width and height. If a printed image is 4 inches by 6 inches, you know exactly how big it is. However, the amount of pixels within the image on a screen can change drastically, which would obviously alter the quality of the image.

272×340, 312×390, 960×640 (That's the iPhone 4, is this what we call high resolution?), 1136×640, are all considered retina displays.

Those are screen sizes, not resolutions. Again, I base this statement on the accepted language of graphic design all over the world. If you ask a printing company to print something at a resolution of 960×640, they will not be able to do it; they need pixels per inch.

This is why when we create a new document we need 3 numbers: width, height and resolution.

Where does the confusion come from?

I believe it starts with the fact that what manufacturers call screen size is the diagonal measurement between 2 opposite corners, and that is an even bigger marketing gimmick than using a brand name to refer to a screen because it really tells us nothing. However, it's a measurement that everyone understands and that is easier to sell. Therefore, we say this screen is 27 inches instead of saying this screen is 5120 pixels wide by 2880 pixels high at a resolution of 190 pixels per inch. However, as graphic designers, size and resolution is our science; it's the precise data that we use to be efficient.

Let's look at the table you have linked:

enter image description here

If we take the iPhone 4 like the example in the question, the screen size is 3.5 inches, or 89mm. Again, this tells us nothing as it could be 0.5 inches wide by 3 inches tall, or it could be a square screen about 2.5 inches wide.

What Wikipedia calls resolution here should be the screen size: at 960x640 with a resolution of 326 ppi, you know that the screen is exactly 2.95in by 1.96in. Therefore, if you create an image at that size with a resolution of 326 ppi it will fill the screen and it will look exactly the same as you have designed it. If all you have is 3.5 in, as a graphic designer there is nothing you can do with that information.

Therefore, based on the standards of graphic design that have been used for decades, Cai is right in saying that the iPhone 4 is high resolution as it has a resolution of 326 pixels per inch.

Besides it's redundant and confusing. EX: the new iMac is called "iMac with Retina 5K Display" So what is it? a 5K display. What does retina mean in that context? Nothing at all.

In this context, retina 5K refers to the fact that the 27 inch screen is 5120 by 2880, as opposed to the retina display on the previous 27 inch iMac which was 2,560 by 1,440.

So what does this all mean for a graphic designer?

Let's take the example in the question:

It encourages users to creates poor questions like this one:

"Retina scaling of icons" <- link dead, but title relevant

Before all the fancy new displays, we could get away with creating a favicon that had only 3 sizes:

  • 16x16: browser favicon
  • 32x32: taskbar shortcut icon
  • 96x96: desktop shortcut icon (and Google TV)

Today, we have also to consider:

Apple Touch:

  • 120x120: iPhone Retina (iOS 7)
  • 180x180: iPhone 6 Plus (iOS 8+)
  • 152x152: iPad Retina (iOS 7)
  • 167x167: iPad Pro (iOS 8+)

Windows Metro:

  • 70x70
  • 270x270
  • 310x310
  • 310x150

And a few more examples for good measure:

  • 128x128: Chrome Webstore icon
  • 196x196: Android Chrome icon
  • 228x228: Opera Coast icon

And those are all at the standard screen resolution, which has always been 72 dpi. As we can see in the table above, every Retina screen is different so the question is not that poor, there is a lot to say on the subject. The question has been deleted, but asking "What size and resolution should I use to create icons for apple devices" does not seem poor at all and could be very informative.

Is the tag relevant?

It's a marketing gimmick not a unit of measurement

It's a made up trademark by Apple.

If you consider every registered brand name to be a marketing gimmick then yes, it is. As shown above, it clearly is not a unit of measurement. It is indeed a trademarked name by Apple for their screens which are different than others.

What we call Retina is basically a new generation of screens. Even within the Retina brand name there has been a few different iterations: Retina Display, Retina HD Display, Super Retina HD Display, or Retina 4K/5K Display.

It's arbitrary within Apples own usage though. What apple considers high res today is not high res tomorrow. Meaning the answer and questions themselves quickly become obsolete and irrelevant. Even within it's own eco-system it's broken.

A new industry standard for what is considered high resolution and a new standard name for the family of displays that are currently known as Retina are 2 completely different things.

In the world of graphic design, what we call high resolution has always been 300 dpi. With all the new screens coming out this might change, but so far it has been the standard graphic design language since the early 1980s and it is based on the printing industry.

Maybe Retina will become the new industry standard and there will be a new name for it, just like we don't call every smart phone an iPhone and we now say tissues instead of Kleenex. The Retina tag could be renamed to something like "New generation of screens with unusual resolution and pixel sizes", but at the moment they are in a separate class, specific to Apple, with precise technological criterias that cannot be ignored by graphic designers. You might consider Apple a special snowflake for giving a fancy name to their fancy screens, but they have such a big market share that chances are your client will see your design on a Retina screen unless you design for print only, and those screens have specific characteristics.

Just like the Webmaster stackexchange site has an Internet Explorer tag; it could be merged with Web browsers, but it has its own particularities.

The purpose of tags is to specify what the question is about. Every tag could technically be merged with another, more general tag until we end up with a single tag called Graphic design. The Retina tag is certainly not the best, but merging it with Resolution would be less precise than keeping it, especially since a question can have more than one tag. A question could be about general resolution, about Retina screens only (for example about color calibration) or both and be about the resolution on retina screens.

5
  • Almost every phone that costs more than $50 has at least 300ppi. Maybe this info would have been useful 10 years ago. But how is this at all relevant in today? There's nothing unique about retina. It's just a way of saying "High Def" Feb 12 '18 at 14:16
  • Actually resolution does not necceserily mean "pixel density" it can also mean "number of pixels". ITs one oef hose things that comes form parallel invention of computer graphics. Personally i think the numeber of pixels definition is just easier to deal with. And yes all small oled screens have a resolution close to 300ppi or even over.
    – joojaa
    Feb 13 '18 at 13:13
  • @joojaa you agree the retina tag is pointless then? Feb 14 '18 at 16:41
  • @LateralTerminal mostly yes.
    – joojaa
    Feb 14 '18 at 16:42
  • @joojaa I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings (I like apple products too) but it just seems like Apple fan boys wanting to feel like what they're doing is different or special when it's the same as everything else. Feb 14 '18 at 17:35
-1

If a non-apple $50 phone from the drug store has the same if not better pixel density and resolution as a Retina device, then Retina loses all meaning.

We shouldn't just invent a new word for a high def screen that only applies to one brand because:

  1. It limits the question to a single brand when in reality it could be applied to any similar device that is high def.
  2. It's confusing to people.
  3. You still have to define it's resolution in the question anyway.
  4. We are cementing the idea that an Apple screen is something different. Even when in reality it's made by Samsung. It's just a high def Samsung screen. *

*I know all the screens are not made by Samsung but the new iPhone 10 is and I'm just making a point this tag is stupid.

My closing statement:

High def is high def and we should just leave it at that and not invent something pointless.

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