What Is a Liquid Retina Display?

Apple combines LCD and Retina Displays to deliver brighter, deeper colors

Apple has used Retina Display screens in the iPhone and other devices for years, but it launched the iPhone 11 with a different type of screen: a Liquid Retina Display (LRD), which is a type of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) only Apple uses.

What Is a Liquid Retina Display?

Liquid Retina Display differs from other types of screens in some subtle, background ways; to understand what an LRD is, you first have to understand what a basic Retina Display is.

Essentially, a basic Retina Display is a screen with so many pixels packed tightly next to each other that you can't see individual pixels or jagged lines on the screen, even when looking very closely. The result is a super-high-resolution screen with a high pixel density, which makes the images and videos appear much more clearly than with other types of displays.

A Liquid Retina Display builds upon that basic retina display by adding a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), a standard type of screen found in computer monitors, laptop screens, smartphones, tablets, and other devices for many years. It's a tried and true technology that's been around for years.

LRD uses 10,000 LEDs in its pixelated display and combines the haptic effects and contrast ratios from basic retina displays to produce a higher level of pixels per inch (PPI). That can give a screen a paper-like effect with improved brightness and color.

Liquid Retina Display vs. a Super Retina Display

The technologies used to manufacture the screen are the major difference between the Liquid Retina Display screen in, say, a standard iPhone and the Super Retina XDR display of an iPhone Pro.

The Super Retina XDR screens found in some Apple products use Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) screens, a more modern screen technology that delivers brighter colors and deeper blacks while using less power than LCDs.

The major ways a Liquid Retina Display screen differs from the Super Retina XDR and Super Retina HD screens are:

  • Screen Technology: Liquid Retina Display screens are made using the older LCD technology rather than the newer OLED used in Super Retina XDR and HD displays.
  • Pixel Density: Liquid Retina Displays have a pixel density of either 326 pixels per inch (ppi) or 264 ppi (on iPads). Both the Super Retina HD and XDR displays sport 458 ppi pixel density.
  • Contrast Ratio: The contrast ratio on Liquid Retina Displays is 1400:1. A Super Retina HD display has a 1,000,000:1 ratio, while a Super Retina XDR has a 2,000,000:1 ratio. Contrast ratio effects the range of colors the screen can display and the depth of its blacks.
  • Brightness: The maximum brightness of a Liquid Retina Display is 625 nits, while a Super Retina XDR maxes out at 800 nits.
  • Battery Life: This is less easy to quantify since so many things go into how long batteries last, but OLED screens in the Super Retina HD and XDR screens generally use less power than the LCD screens in the Liquid Retina Display.

Apple Devices That Use a Liquid Retina Display

The following Apple devices use a Liquid Retina Display screen:

Device Screen Size in inches Screen Resolution in pixels Pixels Per Inch
iPhone 11 6.1 1792 x 828 326
iPhone XR 6.1 1792 x 828 326
iPad Pro 12.9"  (3rd gen.) 12 2732 x 2048 264
iPad Pro 11" (1st and 2nd gen) 11 2388 x 1668 264
iPad Pro 12.9" (4th gen) 12.9 2048 x 2732 265
iPad Pro 12.9" (5th gen) 12.9 2732 x 2048 264
iPad Air (4th gen) 10.9 2360 x 1640 264
iPad Mini (6th gen) 8.3 2266 x 1488 327
MacBook Pro 14" 14 3024 x 1964 254
MacBook Pro 16.2" 16.2 3456 x 2244 254
  • What is an always on Retina display?

    An always-on Retina display is a feature of the Apple Watch that means features such as the time, watch face, and most recent active app are always visible.

  • How do I clean a Retina display?

    Apple recommends cleaning your MacBook Retina display (or cleaning any Mac display) with the cloth that came with the device. Or, use any dry, soft, lint-free cloth to wipe away dust. If more cleaning is needed, dampen the cloth with water or a designated screen cleaner and gently wipe the screen. Ensure moisture doesn't get into any openings.

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