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Thursday, March 01, 2012, 10:20 am PT (01:20 pm ET)

Developer shows how Retina Display on next iPad would improve games

Expectations of a high-resolution Retina Display on Apple's third-generation iPad have inspired one developer to show what their game would look like on a 2,048-by-1,536-pixel screen.

Developer Kevin Ng decided to figure out what his upcoming iOS game, "Food Run," would look like if it were upscaled for an iPad Retina Display. He found that a screen with four times as many pixels would make a "huge difference" in image quality, not only for the game itself, but also for the icon that will display on the home screen.

Ng's game has been built with the possibility of a Retina Display in mind. All of the game's graphics have been created using vectors, rather than bitmaps, so they can scale to any resolution without becoming pixelated.

Zooming in on the game's graphics shows a major difference in the quality and sharpness of the image, though Ng noted that real-life advantages would be somewhat less because of the distance at which the iPad is viewed.

Current iPad application icons are displayed at a resolution of 72 by 72 pixels, so a Retina Display iPad would likely feature home screen icons displayed at 144 by 144 pixels. Here again the image is much more crisp with the advantages clearly visible in a side-by-side comparison.

Developers are already required to submit icons for their App Store software at a resolution of 512 by 512 pixels, so the icons for most applications should be updated to take advantage of a higher-resolution display relatively quickly.

While the advantages of an iPad with a Retina Display are apparent from the screenshots, Ng also noted that there are some issues that Apple will encounter with its anticipated device. Most notably, four times as many pixels will use just as much additional data for video, and will result in larger downloads for App Store software.

Retina 1

On the left, "Food Run" zoomed in on a current iPad display. On the right, the game is enhanced for an anticipated Retina Display.


"Bearing in mind that the 20MB mobile network download size for apps is already claustrophobia inducing, supporting Retina on iPad 3 whilst respecting the limit would be very hard," the developer wrote. "So if we do see a Retina iPad 3, expect to see that 20MB limit raised, even if only for iPad / universal apps."

In addition, the graphics processor needed to power games for a Retina Display will need to be more powerful. With four times the pixels on the screen, Ng noted that the next iPad's GPU will need to draw four times as many pixels per second.

"However, jumps of this magnitude between generations are not uncommon these days," he said. "With the graphics card, it is the expensive fast graphics RAM required which may prove the limiting factor."

Retina 2

Current iPad icon on the left, Retina Display icon on the right.


Leading up to next Wednesday's media event, there has been overwhelming evidence that Apple plans to introduce a new third-generation iPad with a high-resolution display. The new screens are believed to be QXGA 264-pixel-per-inch displays built by Sharp, LG Display and Samsung Electronics.

Even Apple's invitation to its event has been interpreted by many as referencing a new Retina Display, with an image declaring the company has "something you really have to see." It features a finger touching the icon of the Calendar application on an iPad with what appears to be a very crisp screen that could, in fact, be of a higher resolution than the current iPad 2.

Next week's event will kick off from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif., at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. AppleInsider will have full, live coverage.