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June 30, 2016 — by Per Christensson

Four years ago, I bought the first MacBook Pro with a retina display and I've never looked back. In fact, my next computer was an iMac with a 5K display, which I am using to write this article.

Both of these computers have "HiDPI" screens, or as Apple calls them, "retina displays." They have a much higher resolution than previous computer monitors and laptop screens. Most HiDPI displays have exactly twice the resolution of traditional displays, which makes it easy to scale graphics. Below is an example of an Apple MacBook with and without a retina display.

MacBook retina vs non-retina display

Major operating systems like Windows and OS X support HiDPI displays. That means the OS and most programs will display all the text in high resolution. Ultra-smooth text makes reading documents, emails, and webpages easier and more enjoyable. It really feels like you are reading from a piece of paper rather than a pixelated screen. You can also read small text that was previously illegible and you can see the detail of emojis more clearly.

When I bought my first retina Mac in 2012, very few programs had support for HiDPI screens. However, most of the most popular program interfaces have now been updated to include HiDPI graphics. That means the toolbars and icons are displayed in high resolution, providing a more enjoyable experience. HiDPI is especially helpful for photo viewers, photo editors, and video editing programs, since you can view and edit graphics in ultra high definition.

Many websites also now support HiDPI by displaying 2x graphics. In fact, many websites have been using high resolution images since around 2010 because mobile devices like the iPhone and other smartphones and tablets have HiDPI screens. When you view photos on Facebook or other photo-sharing sites using a HiDPI display, they really come to life. If you have a large enough display, you can even watch 4K videos in all their ultra high definition glory.

So next time you buy a new desktop computer or laptop, look for one with a HiDPI display. It is definitely worth the upgrade.