Windows 8 Is Ready For Retina Displays

Recently the new iPad has attracted lots of attention because it has the highest pixel density of any screen out there on the market at the moment. The new retina display has been one of the major selling points of Apple’s products over the last few years. However having such high resolution displays does cause problems since most applications have not been designed with screens of this sort in mind.

Users have already noticed that there’s been a dramatic loss in quality of some apps which have not been optimised for these high resolution displays, it’s quite common to get pixelation which just ruins the experience.

However Microsoft have been planning for this with Windows 8 and say that it is “Retina Ready”. In a very long winded technical post over at Building Windows 8, Microsoft have gone to great lengths discussing the research and preparation that they’ve carried out with regards to screen resolution in Windows 8.

They’ve analysed the various different resolutions that they expect Windows 8 to be running on, and have found this “Goldilocks Zone” for three general classes of resolutions.

  1. Standard
  2. HD
  3. Quad-XGA (2560×1440).

Inside this zone, text and UI elements won’t be blown up or shrunk down to crazy sizes caused by the resolution changes.


Microsoft have come up with the following

  • In the first case (Standard), buttons and text will be shown with no scaling.
  • In the second case (HD), they’ll be 140% normal size (i.e. elements 100 pixels wide will become 140),
  • For the third case (Quad-XGA) they’ll be blown up by 180%.

There is an alternative solution which is known as “independent continual resize” and that would render every button and character the same size regardless of the size or resolution of the display. However the way that we currently store and render text means that this advanced solution just isn’t possible at this point in time. Perhaps in the future it will be possible but for now it isn’t practical.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the different resolutions can change the way the user will view an app dramatically, which is why it’s so tricky scaling and re-sizing programs for different displays.

Because of the increasing size of resolutions, it’s starting to make traditional UI features like drop down menus cumbersome and unpractical. They end up being far too small to use accurately with touch. That’s why Microsoft have brought in an array of touch gestures with Windows 8 to try alleviate this problem.

Microsoft talk in great detail about this issue and how they’ve worked hard developing good solutions for Windows 8 over on their blog, so if you’re interested in going into more technical details feel free to check it out.

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