Three and a half years ago, Apple released the iPhone 4 which introduced the world to the then-new Retina display.

In Apple’s parlance, Retina is basically a cleverly-coined marketing moniker which stands for a screen with pixels so densely packed that the average eyesight (20/20 vision) is unable to discern the individual ones at normal distance.

Apple has since Retina-fied its iOS device lineup, including some Mac notebooks. With the exception of the MacBook Air which stayed at 1,366-by-768 and 1,440-by-900 pixels for 11 and 13-inch models, respectively, we’ve been kinda keeping our fingers crossed for a Retina iMac this Fall.

Apple instead gave us a radically different Mac Pro as its first desktop so powerful it’s capable of driving three 4K displays simultaneously.

One would also expect Apple would by now have released a Retina Thunderbolt Display because the product’s been unchanged for almost two years. Instead, the firm opted for the waiting tactics until Retina-grade desktop screens become available at consumer prices.

That day is now looming as Dell on Monday released two 4K desktop monitors starting at just 50 percent more than the $899 Apple Thunderbolt Display. Just a year ago, you couldn’t find a decent 4K monitor under $5,000. But Dell’s only warming up: by early-2014, the computer maker plans to release a 28-inch 4K monitor priced at under $1000…

On Monday, the computer maker Dell announced two desktop monitors featuring 16:9 aspect ratio and ultra-sharp 4K resolution.

Also known as Ultra HD or UHD, 4K resolution works out to 3,840-by-2,160 pixels, or four times the pixels of full HD 1,920-by-1,080 content such as Blu-ray movies.

From the blurb:

See more of everything — down to the smallest detail.

Whether it’s video editing, CGI animation or application and game development, the Dell UltraSharp 24 Monitor – UP2414Q gives you an up-close-and-personal view.

Dell’s new UltraSharp Ultra HD Monitor is available in 24 and 32-inch varieties, costing $1,399 and $3,499, respectively. What makes this news item interesting is the fact that both Dell and Apple source their desktop panels from same suppliers.


The 24-incher is available in the U.S. starting today and from December 16 globally.

The bigger one is available globally now. Dell will also release a 28-inch variant in early-2014, offering the same resolution and specs but priced at under $1,000.

Check out the 24-incher’s monster specs:

• 3,840-by-2,160 in 24 inches at 183.58 pixels per inch (137.6 for a 32-inch model)
• 178-degree viewing angle
• 99 percent AdobeRGB and 100 percent sRGB
• Factory Calibrated to Delta-E < 2
• 10-bit, 1.07 billion colors
• HDMI, DisplayPort, mini-DP, four USB 3.0 and 6-in-1 card reader

Apple’s Thunderbolt Display measures 27-inches diagonally and has a screen resolution of 2,560-by-1,440 pixels. It’s quickly becoming obsolete – some tablets now have more pixels than the Thunderbolt Display!

Now, I use glasses for any kind of computer work because my eyesight is suffering from years of starring at sub-par monitors. When you sit in front of a Thunderbolt Display, the canvas is so large it just consumes you. The high-end design and image quality are top-notch, but what this baby really cries for is a greater pixel count.

It’s not that the individual pixels are immediately visible to the naked eye.

However, there’s just no escaping the pixels – you can just tell this isn’t a Retina-grade screen as it lacks the clarity and detail of my iPad’s 2,048-by-1,536 Retina screen.

In past few months, technology has rapidly caught up with 4K resolution.

A good example is the new Mac Pro: the system can drive up to three external displays simultaneously, each maxing out at the whopping 3,840-by-2,160 pixels – that’s 24 million pixels in total! MacBook Pros of course have had 2,560-by-1,600/2,880-by-1,800 pixel Retina screens for some time now.

That being said, I suspect 2014 will be the year of Retina Macs.

Both a Retina Thunderbolt display and a Retina iMac are probably being worked on and readied for introduction as we speak. If anything, 4K makes most sense on a big, beautiful desktop monitor or on a jumbo-sized living room television set.

iMac 8G (two up, left angled, right angled)

It’s especially great for movies as downscaling is not required at all.

OS X has been resolution-independent and we’ve had fat binaries supporting both Retina and standard-resolution content for years now. As a bonus, 64-bit processors and advanced graphics are the norm these days, at least on iPads.

So, why the company won’t release a Retina iMac already? When you think of it, Apple typically prepays billions for steady supply of LCDs, desktop panels and other components. If anyone can mainstream 4K displays at consumer-friendly prices, it’s Apple.

I don’t think Tim Cook & C0. are going to use the higher-end IGZO technology for a Retina iMac. Yield issues aside, IGZO tech does provide for a sharper image overall, but is still prohibitively expensive – for instance, Sharp’s 32-inch IGZO 4K monitor costs five grands.

As for a Retina Thunderbolt Display, given that the new Thunderbolt 2 I/O supports the wider 4,096-by-2,160 Cinema resolution, it’s fairly possible that a Retina Thunderbolt display could adopt this particular standard for true 1:1 WYSIWYG film production.

For reference, the current-gen 21.5-inch iMac has a full HD screen and the 27-inch model maxes out at 2,560-by-1,440 pixels.

Who’s ready for a Retina iMac?

  • why would people go out and buy 32″ 4K TV’s when they can get 28 and 32″ 4k monitors for a fraction of the price?

    • Steven Cannan

      Because monitors are different then TVs

      • really? when you plug a HD DVR and sound system into it, is it really going to be that different to a TV?

      • bn326160

        Yes, it’s too small to watch from your sofa and people like multiple appliances built-in one, especially in the living room.

      • thetomthebomb

        Use ur tv as a monitor. That’s what I do

      • Colonel Sanders

        Good luck finding a 4K capable DVR system with 4K monitor that’s cheaper than just buying the TV.

      • the DVR system doesn’t need to be 4K, it just needs to display 1080P content as there are no 4K channels out there anyway..

      • Colonel Sanders

        Then what’s the point of even wanting a 4K TV? Might as well just get a 1080p TV.

      • this is the most narrow-minded comment I’ve ever read. Do you own a HDTV? if so, why? most content is still SD

      • Colonel Sanders

        > most content is still SD
        Where do you live? Everything I’ve been watching for years now has been HD.

      • Oh so what you’ve been watching is HD so that means the majority of content is HD? no. In the UK and the US SD channels still monopolise HD on a 3:1 ratio

  • I’m ready for a Retina iMac, and have been for some time now. All of my equipment is due for an upgrade and I’ve been holding out to maximize my purchasing. I’d hate to get the current iMac, a 70D, and other items when the Retina iMac and 7D Mark II (or whatever it will be called) must be around the corner…

    • Bob

      With that logic you will never buy an iMac, as a newer version is always around the corner.

      • Starfires

        True enough, but these are generational changes, as opposed to incremental ones (more the 7D Mk2 here, with the iMac I suppose it depends on just how important that resolution is to you).

      • Resolution is very important. My current iMac’s pixels are very obvious, especially since I have a Retina iPad and iPhone on either side of it that I work on concurrently.

      • Not true at all. A new version will always arrive, however not as I’m expecting. Please reread my comment. I’m ready and my gear is due for an upgrade. Support for those items won’t be around much longer so a purchase will happen.

      • Couldn’t wait any longer, so I purchased a 3.4GHz iMac 27″ last week (and a Canon 60D). I’ll consider the Retina iMac when it arrives. As for now, there’s work to be done. This iMac should give me many years of productivity.

      • Leewan

        I’ve heard great things about the iMac screen. Is the retina that big of a difference when you look at the iMac. I’m stuck between the portability of an 15 Retina Pro with the more powerful 27 iMac.

      • Honestly, Retina IS a big deal. It brings a level of clarity that makes the user experience better. In my case, though, sometimes Retina is too much. I wear corrective lenses (usually contacts, although I’m wearing glasses here) and Retina hurts my eyes sometimes. I have to hold my 5s pretty far away sometimes because it’s so sharp.

        Retina on the MacBook Pro had me a bit confused. I remember the pixels being so small, and therefore the screen was small. Seemed like an unusual tradeoff.

        Portability is good if you need it. I prefer an iPad these days because it’s simply easier (financially) to replace if stolen. Also, the iMac is going to be more powerful. You won’t be moving this machine around.

        As far as the iMac screen, it’s incredible. My former iMac had a gorgeous matte display. The 27″ has a glossy display, which is terrible for doing creative work (as conventional wisdom teaches). There’s a large window to my left and directly behind me. Strangely, the glossy screen on the 27″ does NOT reflect light everywhere when in use and looking at it straight on. I’m impressed.

        The color, contrast, and sharpness, out of the box, are incredible.

        I’ve attached a shot of the 27″ next to my old 20″. You can see the difference between the matte and glossy. Remember, the glossy display doesn’t reflect distracting light back at you, though.

      • christopherjacques

        I really don’t get the concept of “too sharp”. Retina is simply getting to the point of “reality” rather than rasterized pixels. It’s like saying reality is too sharp.

        Also, if your screen was too small on your rMBP, then you must’ve had the wrong display settings. You CAN set everything to the native pixel resolution, where it’s like having a giant monitor on a tiny laptop, but you’re supposed to have it set to the HiDPI mode where things looks the same as a normal laptop, except clearer.

        The large iMac is nice, but you just stare at anti-aliased pixels. It’s terrible to look at after looking at a retina macbook.

      • Hi christopherjacques. This may be an issue of individuality, as my eyesight is the determining factor for me regarding the perception of sharpness. I don’t have a rMBP, I was referencing the display model at my local Apple store. I’ve acclimated to my 27″ now and find it a very workable solution. I don’t plan on upgrading it any time soon, so I’ll have to become very comfortable with it, even though a Retina version is still expected somewhere over the horizon… Thanks for chiming in. Discussion is always welcomed.

  • Bob

    Can’t wait for the Thunderbolt 4k display 😀 😀 😀

    I’d go for the dell but I’d prefer the one from Apple as it’s going to look amazing and be aluminium.

  • chumawumba

    I can’t survive on 24 inches. I need it to be way longer in order to get the job done.

    • iBanks


    • Dan

      that’s what she said?

    • jack

      you’re deep aren’t ya

  • Eric Castro

    But this article is confusing Retina with 4K. Retina was meant to double the resolution in order to get a sharper output at the same original screen resolution, whereas 4K is only a bigger screen resolution.

    Meaning that a Retina 27′ iMac or Thunderbolt displays will require (2560×2) x (1440×2) resulting in a 5120×2880 which is FAR a bigger resolution than 4K

    Then a 4K resolution in a 32 inch screen is not really Retina, it’s just a slightly larger screen with a slightly larger amount of pixels.

    • Amit

      You’re partially wrong, when Apple marks a display as Retina, they actually DO increase the screen resolution, it’s the just the PHYSICAL size of the visual elements that stays the same, see DPI.

      Let’s say you go ahead and plug a 4K display into your current desktop, by default (at least on Windows) everything will look so much smaller, because you haven’t configured your DPI accordingly. On Windows you can set your DPI by using a wizard that shows a ruler, you can then adjust the size of the ruler to match a real ruler that you can then put next to it, this way you set the correct DPI and then the UI “feels” the same but is much much sharper because every element is comprised of more pixels.

      I’m guessing they won’t use 5120×2880 (although they might) for their screen but since desktops are usually further ahead from your eyes, they might still consider calling a 4K display – Retina.

      • Eric Castro

        My point was exactly that Retina (so far) has only meant a higher DPI as you said whereas 4K doesn’t (… otherwise see why first 4K TVs are 85 inches big). So a 4K Thunderbolt display will just be a larger version of the current model, not actually increasing the DPI. If they call it Retina it will be terribly misleading.

      • Amit

        They will only call it Retina if they increase the DPI, like they did on their MacBooks. It’s a Mac, everything’s pre-set. If they take a 4K display and label it “Retina” they’re going to make sure the DPI is set accordingly.

    • bn326160

      The ‘definition’ of a ‘retina’ display is “So sharp and perfectly color balanced, you’ll forget you’re looking at a display”.
      For the iPhone, iPad and retina MacBook Pro’s they quadrupled the amount of pixels. Only the iPhone (and retina iPad Mini) have more than 300ppi, but that’s not necessary for televisions an you’re farther away from them.

      • Daniel Eliasson

        Thats not the definition. A retina display is a display which is has a DPI so high, that the human eye cannot see the individual pixels at normal distance.

      • Starfires

        Exactly- at normal distance, which is a lot higher with a desktop monitor than with an iPad. I hardly notice the pixels on my 1080p TV, but I do when I sit up close to it. I found with 4K TVs I need to go really close, more than I ever would naturally.

      • Dan Ghys

        you’re wrong m8.
        The defenition is as the others said…. so sharp that from normal viewing distances a person with 20/20 vision cannot see the pixels.
        What you’re saying is bloody tripe, the closest thing to a screen like that isn’t one apple uses, it’s the screens using dolby vision.
        Stop sounding like Phill Schiller, he’s an obnoxious jerk

  • klouud

    4k and retina iMacs; 4k Macbook Pro; retina Macbook Air — 2014

    • Dan Ghys

      4k MbP is not going to happen for years I’d say, just look at how long they took to release higher res ones last time… also there’s no point in having such a high resolution when the screen needs to be oversampled to make anything readable anyway

  • das

    ill wait for samsungs 4k monitors 🙂