With the introduction of high density pixel displays (Retina being the brand name Apple uses) what do we now call non-retina (low pixel density) displays?

  • Legacy Displays
  • Low Pixel Density Displays
  • Classic Displays
  • Non-Retina

Whether the audience is a designer or an end user, they know "Retina" means better quality display. Is there an antonym that is equally understood?

Example: Here is a Smashing Mag article that illustrates my question (emphasis added):

With the recent announcement and release of the Retina Macbook Pro, Apple has brought double-density screens to all of the product categories in its current lineup, significantly paving the way for the next wave of display standards. While the fourth-generation iPhone gave us a taste of the “non-Retina” Web in 2010, we had to wait for the third-generation iPad to fully realize how fuzzy and outdated our Web graphics and content images are.

  • Are you just asking out of curiosity or is there a context to this?
    – kontur
    Feb 11, 2013 at 21:17
  • My specific context is an ongoing discussion within a team of developers that distinguishes between the two where there isn't a commonly defined "not-retina" word/phrase. However the same issue would apply to nearly any context where distinguishing between the two is required (i.e. not just between developers) Feb 11, 2013 at 21:22
  • Imo the destinction between a "low pixel density display" and a "retina display" is like the distinction between a "small" and a "big" display - pixel density has been around forever, just only with the rise of mobile display technology have people understood how much it affects the display's viewing qualities. With every producer coming out with their own high density displays (in whatever density they produce), is it really a binary issue?
    – kontur
    Feb 11, 2013 at 21:34
  • It is binary in the sense that the current crop of apps are not optimized for high pixel density, and at least in the case of iOS requires two sets of images (one at 163ppi and another at 326ppi). This transition will be discussed within that context Feb 11, 2013 at 21:48
  • 2
    "Retina" display is marketing mumbo-jumbo and Apple are not consistent about what it means, technically speaking. Just avoid the term completely, it's meaningless and made-up anyway.
    – wim
    Feb 12, 2013 at 1:03

4 Answers 4


I've always found "standard resolution" to be clear when speaking to people, but that is likely to change with time.

It is important to know that "retina" is an Apple trademark and not a technical term for a resolution, so I try to avoid the term. Android is more specific by using the terms hdpi (1.5x) and xhdpi (2x or retina equivalent), so when speaking to more technical people I tend to use those terms.

  • 1
    Retina is the new Kleenex it seems Feb 11, 2013 at 20:13
  • 10
    @Charles it seems it is, but I'm not fond of supporting Apple in making it a term like that as they are likely to then sue me for having a retina in my eye :)
    – JohnGB
    Feb 11, 2013 at 20:14
  • Resolution only tells you how many pixels there are. It doesn't tell you how big they are. Density is more accurate. Feb 12, 2013 at 3:57
  • 1
    @hippietrail Pixel density is more accurate, but most people will not understand what that means.
    – JohnGB
    Feb 12, 2013 at 14:47
  • Well with resolution most people will misunderstand what it means. For instance I believe a Retina iPad mini has the same resolution as a non-Retina big iPad. I guess it depends whether you want to dumb stuff down or expect people ever also need or come across the real meanings. This will just encourage confusion. Feb 12, 2013 at 15:39

The terms that I have been consistently seeing for an industry whole (not using an Apple trademark or the hdpi developer term) is HiDpi and non-HiDpi (non all lower case). When referencing HiDpi 2 specifically then the term is Ultra HiDpi (which is Retina).

Remember that Apple is not the only HiDpi device manufacturer. Microsoft and others have their own implementations. But currently (that I know of) Apple is the only one shipping Ultra HiDpi.


Natural pixel displays.

That is where css pixels are directly equivalent to the natural pixels, i.e. the actual display density of the device. In a HiDpi display the natural pixel density exceeds that of the css pixel value, typically by a ratio of 1.33:1, 1.5:1 or 2:1.

It should also be noted, neither relate directly to the css reference pixel.

What usually matters to us web devs is:

"How many real picture elements (natural pixels) will this display use to render a single css pixel?"


I would simply state the DPI or PPI values for both Retina and Non-Retina displays and avoid the brand name "Retina" and the even vaguer "Non-brandX" monikers.

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