As the years passed, Apple continued to up the ante with ever-larger, sharper, and higher-contrast displays all the way up to 30-inches. Today, even iMacs ship with their own "Cinema Displays" (not in name, but in spirit) signifying the importance of the 1999 Cinema Display as a first step into a wider world of expansive monitors.
MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012)
Released: June 2012
Type: Color IPS LED-backlit LCD
Native Resolution: 2880 by 1800
Size: 15.4-inch diagonal
In a move that harkened back to Apple's choice of an ultra-high end display for its first portable Mac, Apple introduced the world's highest resolution notebook display (at the time of its release) as part of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display in 2012.
Apple first debuted the "Retina" display brand on the iPhone 4 in 2010, then it made its way to the iPad 3 in 2012. It only made sense that Apple would continue to push ultra high-density LCDs into the notebook space.
The key behind the 2012 MacBook Pro's Retina screen is that its 2880 by 1800 pixels were crammed into a 15-inch diagonal space, resulting in a 220 pixels per inch density. It's that last number that makes it impossible for the human eye to distinguish an individual pixel at the average viewing distance. That meant ultra-sharp text and images in a league beyond those found on any other notebook at the time of its release.
As the first non-tablet personal computer to ship with a high pixel density display, the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro marked the dawn of a new generation of ultra-sharp desktop and notebook monitors. As more competitors follow Apple's lead, historians may one day look back at the MacBook Pro with Retina as the decisive turning point in a high-density display revolution.
Macintosh 9-inch display (1984)
Released: January 1984
Type: Monochrome CRT
Native Resolution: 512 by 342
Size: 9-inch diagonal
Few would doubt that Apple's most important display shipped with its first mainstream graphics-oriented computer, the Macintosh, in 1984.
The 9-inch black and white CRT embedded in every Mac set a new standard for high quality personal computer displays with its sharp, flicker-free, almost paper-white display. Apple included it out of necessity, since the Mac needed to accurately render what was then considered a very high resolution bitmapped image.
That high resolution ensured that the Mac could only display two colors: black or white. Providing even rudimentary color for a 512 by 342 display would have been prohibitively expensive in 1984, both in terms of the memory required to handle it and the monitor required to display it.
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