When It Comes To Subpixels, Smaller Is Better
Understanding the nature of a display's potential requires an inspection of the size, shape, and arrangement of individual subpixels. This lets you identify the type of LCD panel and calculate the smallest detail it's capable of rendering. If you're already familiar with our tablet and smartphone coverage, then you know we apply this level of analysis to every mobile device that passes through our lab.
Focusing closer with our lab microscope, we learn two important pieces of information.
First, Apple retains the familiar S-IPS technology on its new Retina display. We know this because the subpixel shape reveals a Samsung IPS design, which makes sense considering the previous iPad displays were also manufactured by Samsung. In short, you'll enjoy the same wide viewing angles on the iPad 3 as its predecessor.
Second, the relatively small size of each subpixel implies a significantly improved color palette. Since every pixel contains three subpixels (red, green, and blue), more pixels allows you to create a wider variety of colors. For example, a bluish-green can be created by turning on the blue and green subpixels, while turning off the red subpixels. The relative bluish tint is achieved by having a brighter blue LED and slightly dimming green. You can only so far, though, because pixels have a fixed range of brightness.
On the iPad 3, specifically, each subpixel measures approximately 30x65 microns. So, you can fit approximately four iPad 3 pixels into the space of a single iPad 2 pixel. Thus, a truer bluish-green hue is possible by turning on four blue subpixels and two green subpixels.
The problem with small pixels is that electrical leakage requires spacing to prevent color blending. Apple overcomes this challenge by cleverly elevating the subpixels off the base LCD circuitry. Though, even with our laboratory-grade microscope tilted at a 30o angle, combined with strong lighting, the gap is still difficult to see. The video above summarizes the technology's details.