Pushing Pixels: Will The iPad 2’s Screen Be Insanely High-Res?

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Retina Display on the iPad?

Apple pitches the iPhone 4’s screen as the “Retina Display.” It’s little more than a marketing term, but the basis behind it is that a 3.5-inch screen with a 960×640 resolution has such an enormous pixel density—also known as pixels per inch (PPI)—that the human eye can’t even process all of the detail.

Anything above 300 pixels per inch is just icing on the cake, as far as the human retina is concerned. The iPhone 4’s pixel density is 326, so we’ve got some bonus pixels for good measure.

Now if the iPad 2 keeps the same 9.7-inch screen size as the first version but manages to cram 2048×1536 pixels into it, it’d have a pixel density of 260. It wouldn’t quite meet the 300 pixels per inch required to max out the human retina but the idea would be that you typically hold the iPad farther away from your face than you hold the iPhone, so the difference in detail as far as your retina is concerned would be negligible.

Believable yet?

Adding fuel to the fire is evidence that the latest version of Apple’s own iBooks app contains graphical elements suited to fit a 2048×1536 screen resolution. The current iPad version contains a screen background with a resolution of 768×400, though AppleInsider reports that background images with resolutions of 1536×800 have now been unearthed.

Such a jump in screen resolution would be the same multiplier as the jump between the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 screens, too. App developers would be able to either upscale or easily tweak the resolutions of their iPad apps to fit a 2048×1536 screen.

A screen with that high of a resolution would require a fair amount of additional processing power, too. AppleInsider notes in a separate report that rumors are beginning to indicate a newer processor and video chipset will be used in the iPad 2. It’ll apparently be a dual-core setup “said to offer around twice the processor power at the same clock speed.”

And finally, there’s the lucrative digital magazine and newspaper market that’s just beginning to take shape. If Apple wants to compete with other tablets and e-book readers when it comes to newspapers and magazines, a screen with a pixel density of almost 300 pixels per inch would be pretty astonishing. It could basically look as detailed as actual paper to the human eye if the technology gets implemented correctly.

Amazon could continue to tout the low price and simple user interface of the Kindle and Android tablets could tout their open development systems and varying form factors, while Apple would be able to say, “Yeah, but books, magazines and newspapers on our tablet look just like the real thing.”

More on TIME.com:

Is Apple Killing Off The iPhone And iPad ‘Home’ Button?

Next iPad to Connect to More Networks?

Will We See the iPad 2 in April?

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