What Is Retina Display?

iPad Pro

Retina Display is the name given by Apple to the high-resolution screen technology used on various models of the iPhone, iPod touch, and other Apple products. It was introduced with the iPhone 4 in June 2010. 

What Is Retina Display?

Retina Display gets its name from Apple's claim that screens made using the technology are so sharp and high quality that it's impossible for the human eye to distinguish individual pixels.

Retina Display smoothes the jagged edges of the pixels that make up images on screens and makes images seem much more natural. 

The benefits of the technology are visible in many uses, but especially for displaying text, where the curved edges of fonts are substantially smoother than on previous display technologies.

Retina Display's high-quality images are based on a number of factors:

  • A high density of the pixels that make up the device's screen.
  • High contrast ratio to create brighter whites and deeper blacks.
  • In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology to improve the angles from which the screen can be viewed.
  • Chemically treated glass over the screen and LED backlighting to improve the quality of the image.

The Two Factors That Make a Retina Display Screen 

Here's where things get a little tricky: There is no single screen resolution that makes a screen Retina Display.

For instance, you can't say that every device with a resolution of 960 x 640 pixels has a Retina Display, even though that's the resolution of the iPhone 4, which has a Retina Display screen.

Instead, there are two factors that create a Retina Display screen: pixel density and the distance from which the screen is normally viewed.

Pixel Density refers to how tightly packed the screen's pixels are. The greater the density, the smoother the images. Pixel density is measured in pixels per inch, or PPI, which indicates how many pixels are present in one square inch of screen.

This is based on a combination of the device's resolution and its physical size.

The iPhone 4 had 326 PPI thanks to a 3.5-inch screen with a 960 x 640 resolution. This was the original PPI for Retina Display screens, though that changed as later models were released. For instance, the iPad Air 2 has a 2048 x 1536 pixel screen, resulting in 264 PPI. That, too, is a Retina Display screen. This is where the second factor comes in.

Viewing Distance refers to how far away users generally hold the device from their faces. For example, the iPhone is generally held fairly close to the user's face, while a Macbook Pro is generally seen from farther away. This matters because the defining characteristic of a Retina Display is that the pixels can't be distinguished by the human eye. Something that's seen from much closer up needs a greater pixel density for the eye not to see the pixels. Pixel density can be lower for things seen at a greater distance.

Other Retina Display Names

As Apple has introduced new devices, screen sizes, and pixel densities, it has begun to use other names for different Retina Displays. These include:

  • Retina Display—used on the iPhone 4, among others.
  • Retina HD Display—used on the iPhone 6 Plus, and others.
  • Retina 4K Display—used on the 21-inch iMac.
  • Retina 5K Display—used on the 27-inch iMac.
  • Super Retina HD Display—used on the iPhone X.

Apple Products with Retina Display

Retina Displays are available on the following Apple products, at the following resolutions and pixel densities:


 Screen Size*ResolutionPPI
iPhone X5.82436 x 1125458
iPhone 7 Plus & 8 Plus5.51920 x 1080401
iPhone 7 & 84.71334 x 750326
iPhone SE41136 × 640326
iPhone 6 Plus & 6S Plus5.51920 × 1080401
iPhone 6S & 64.71334 × 750326
iPhone 5S, 5C, & 541136 × 640326
iPhone 4S & 43.5960 × 640326

* in inches for all charts

iPod touch

 Screen SizeResolutionPPI
6th Gen. iPod touch41136 × 640326
5th Gen. iPod touch41136 × 640326
4th Gen. iPod touch3.5960 × 640326


 Screen SizeResolutionPPI
iPad Pro10.52224 x 1668264
iPad Pro12.92732 × 2048264
iPad Air & Air 29.72048 × 1536264
iPad 4 & 39.72048 × 1536264
iPad mini 2, 3, and 47.92048 × 1536326

Apple Watch

 Screen SizeResolutionPPI
All generations - 42mm body1.5312 × 390333
All generations - 38mm body1.32272 × 340330


 Screen SizeResolutionPPI
Pro275120 × 2880218
with Retina Display275120 × 2880218
with Retina Display21.54096 × 2304219

Macbook Pro

 Screen SizeResolutionPPI
3rd Gen.15.42880 × 1800220
3rd Gen.13.32560 × 1600227


 Screen SizeResolutionPPI
2017 model122304 × 1440226
2015 model122304 × 1440226