Why the MacBook Air didn’t get a Retina display

“Love that battery life in the new MacBook Air? Well, that’s one reason Apple didn’t go Retina this time around, according to an analyst,” Brooke Crothers reports for CNET.

“Power consumption is probably the most important factor, according to Sweta Dash, senior director of display research & strategy at IHS,” Crothers reports. “‘Apple almost doubled the battery life [with the new MacBook Air]. You can’t do that with a Retina display” in an ultrathin laptop like the Air, she said.'”

Crothers reports, “Not at the moment at least. Dash said Sharp was recently showing an 11.6-inch Retina-class screen at a display conference but that volume production won’t happen for a while yet. One Retina-class panel Sharp has disclosed sports a resolution of 2,560×1,440, according to Dash. That’s roughly twice the pixel density of the 1,366×768 display in the current 11.6-inch MBA. To achieve that kind of resolution without running down the battery too quickly, the Japanese company is using a technology called IGZO.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. They probably powered up the battery, thinking they would put in the retina display, and then realized that they had two options, and picked double battery life over double pixels. I agree, the pro machine should be the powerhouse and the air should be a lightweight long-lasting laptop.

    1. For now. With Macericks and the new has well improvements bet we see 15 hours of battery on be MacBook Pros. Apple wanted to make a “splash” at WWDC. With Mountain Lion Haswell they got 12 hours, Mavericks Haswell should a few hours to the MacBook Pros 7 hours…

    2. To be correct, it would be quadruple of pixels, not double. And the article correctly mentions that Sharp does not promise volume 11″ screens manufacturing until couple of months later, so Apple had no choice, really.

  2. It’s quite possible Apple might be waiting for OLED technology to ripen first before going Retina on the Air’s. OLED technology when perfected offers much less power consumption then traditional LCD / LED technology. Mac Book-Airs have always been about long battery life and portability before anything else.

  3. When I’m away from my desk, I’d ENORMOUSLY prefer double the battery life to a retina display. My Air is for work. Improving the display from excellent to excellent double plus doesn’t improve my work.

  4. But see? This is where they probably could have had a much bigger impact than they did with their font upgrades at WWDC. I think the better screen would fit along with all the other Retina displays (MacBook, iPhone, iPad) nicely. The charger for the Air is very small, it doesn’t even cross my mind to just throw it in my knapsack. This was nothing but a tiny spec bump to the Air, undeserving of a big announcement at WWDC.

    They should really just start quietly updating the specs for these updates in the Apple store and carry on with regular business. Same goes for the non-updates to the iPads and iPhones we’ve been getting year in and year out for so long now. Only have an event announcement when there’s something truly new to talk about. All these events with run-of-the-mill updates dilute our enthusiasm.

    This is what Tim Cook was talking about when he said they have a ton of great new products in the pipeline and we just need to be patient? Don’t say anything, Tim. Just let us know when Apple’s got it’s mojo back. Thanks.

    1. I agree. Apple has stuck to making things thinner, lighter and faster keeping consistent battery life. I think they blew it.

      Retina would be what Steve would have done. They could have went Retina and kept the “same great battery life.” Perfect situation and perfect marketing. Apple’s stock would roar and they’d sell a ton.

      Not this new Apple. There’s a loss of focus.

      1. I Disagree . . . The air was ALWAYS a consumer machine, now with a full days battery life, it’s made a great machine an AMAZING machine!

        Almost DOUBLE battery life, FASTER and CHEAPER!

        If you want to moan about that, go buy a cheap PC and be happy with you’re slow speed and 2-3 Hour battery life!

      2. Retina display means almost nothing to the vast majority of laptop users. The Air is the laptop of those who require a lightweight laptop form-factor and/or are not able to commit fully to the iPad experience. For most people, that longer battery life is more important than resolution. Keep in mind, that a great percentage of users (particularly those over 45, like myself), don’t have the visual acuity to distinguish the difference. If you aren’t there yet, you will be eventually. I’m usually a first-adopter, but as I’ve gotten older, I don’t need that resolution.

      3. I disagree. Retina display will come in time, but longer battery life is not only more valuable, it is a key selling point against other laptop manufacturers.

        Mobile should not mean “a few hours and then find a plug for the next few hours”.

    2. Increasing battery life this much is not a big deal!! What
      planet are you on? These are tools. The one thing portable tools need more than any other is more time unplugged. They made the right choice.

      1. Wrong.

        They did NOT make the right choice by not adding a Retina screen. First, it fragments their product lines. Retina 15″ MacBook Pro, Retina 13″, but no Retina Air.

        Anyway, imagine if Apple held back on features and screen advancements in the iPhone and just kept innovating the battery. From the first iPhone, the battery in the latest has come a long way in terms of its capacity to carry energy in the same space. Imagine if Apple just kept saying, “Let’s get as much battery as we can and that’s what it’s all about!”

        So they then they wouldn’t add multi-tasking. They wouldn’t add 4G. They wouldn’t add a Retina screen. And so forth. But you’d have double, even triple the battery life at this point in time today over the first one simply due to advancements in battery technology and software tweaks. But no multi-tasking. No Retina screen, etc.

        Sorry, but that’s not what people want. People want improved computers. Better screens. Faster processors. Better software.

        Thinking just in terms of better battery life is like Blackberry: Mike Lazaridis, the cofounder, was said to have stubbornly stuck to the mantra that people want “all day battery life, and then some” and he scaled back on features. The result? Plain, uninspired devices that didn’t seem to advance or change for years. But they had great battery life!

        I other words, you’re all oversimplifying this. It’s not just about battery life. It’s about the PRODUCT AS A WHOLE.

        None of you complain about the iPhone 5 having a Retina screen, yet the battery life of an iPhone today is close to what it was on the original iPhone. Imagine if the iPhone 5 had the same screen resolution, or more precisely DPI, compared to the iPhone 1? It’d suck. The Retina is so much better. In other words, you don’t just want great battery life. You want a lot more.

        Thus, having reduced your position to literal absurdity, you now understand that this isn’t just about battery life. If they came out with a Retina MacBook Air with the SAME great battery life we all get from current MacBook Airs, you’d all be praising Apple and lining up with your credit cards to spend money you don’t have.

        You’re all full of shit. You’ll support Apple no matter what. Pathetic “yes men”.

  5. There is no technical limitation causing Apple to not roll out superior display options across the entire Mac range. It’s Cook holding back the “awesome” pipeline. What else is new?

    A Retina display does not preclude Apple from offering a power-saving mode that would reduce resolution &/or GPU performance to save power when the user demands it.

    Apple is simply hitting price points, folks. Cook thinks, probably correctly, that people who are too cheap to ante up for the MacBook Pro shouldn’t have the superior Retina display.

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