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The pixel is all but dead--no thanks to the PC

Brad Chacos | May 8, 2013
Be sad, fellow geeks, for we are witnessing the slow death of a staunch companion.

In other words: Wow.

We're likely still a few years away from widespread adoption of 1080p-plus PC displays, but that day is a-coming. One encouraging stat: Over 30 percent of gamers connecting to Steam already own 1920 by 1080 displays, though the pixel density is obviously lower on a 21-inch desktop display than on a smaller mobile screen. The black line representing 1080p displays on that StatCounter chart above is rising slowly--but steadily. Intel expects that ultrahigh-resolutions will be the norm sooner rather than later.

And the same day that Sharp showed off its 498-ppi mobile panel, the company also presented a 13.5-inch IGZO OLED panel designed for laptops. Its resolution: a stunning 3840 by 2160, with a 326-ppi density--a full 99 ppi higher than even the vaunted MacBook Pro's Retina display.

Sharp started mass-producing IGZO displays in March.

Laying the groundwork

In a way, the PC's delayed adoption of dynamite displays is a good thing. Everyday technology simply isn't ready for the en masse embrace of pixel-packed screens.

Most computer programs and the Web as we know it were designed with pedestrian displays in mind, not ultrahigh-res stunners. As such, Retina iPad users have complained of blurred text and imagery, while the Surface Pro ships with the desktop display automatically scaled to 150 percent to keep text from appearing itty-bitty on its pixelicious screen. Images created for Retina-level displays are far larger, file-size-wise, than standard-resolution graphics, placing a burden on bandwidth and storage alike.

But fear not: Big brains are already hard at work to fix these irksome issues. Witness the rise of vector-based images, the enhanced desktop display scaling feature reportedly built into Windows Blue, and the very existence of the impressively astronomical Chromebook Pixel.

The death of the pixel isn't here, but it is very close. One day, in the not-too-distant future, your child will gaze up innocently at you and ask, "What's a pixel?"

And on that day, the displays of today will seem just as ancient as mainframes, Minecraft (in all its glory) be damned.


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