Microsoft explains why they chose 1366×768 resolution for the Surface RT

When the first specs of the Surface RT became known, one item, the screen resolution, left consumers puzzled as to why Microsoft chose such a low resolution. Thanks to today's AMA, we now know the answer to this question whole lot more about how screens are reviewed at Microsoft.

In a post during the Reddit AMA, Microsoft answered why the Surface RT has a lower resolution screen than say the new iPad. The following question was asked by Reddit user Chistorra, "I noticed that the Surface has a resolution of 1366×768 vs the iPad3 2048×1536. Do you think this will affect users considering the Surface vs the iPad ?" The answer to that question is posted below (we added spacing to make it easier to follow the post):

Hey this is Stevie. Screen resolution is one component of perceived detail. The true measure of resolvability of a screen called Modulation Transfer Function (MTF), not Pixels. MTF is a combination of both contrast and resolution. There are over a dozen subsystems that effect this MTF number..

Most folks just focus on one number out of dozens that effect perceived detail. Without good contrast resolution decreases. Check out contrast sensitivity of the human eye graph (http://www.telescope-optics.net/images/eye_contrast.PNG) and if you want more see the links below.

Basically, as resolution/DPI increases the eye has becomes less sensitive. So as a result, the amount of light in a room and the reflections off the screen have a huge effect on the contrast of the display. In fact, a small amount of reflection can greatly reduce contrast and thus the perceived resolution of the display. With the ClearType Display technology we took a 3 pronged approach to maximize that perceived resolution and optimize for battery life, weight, and thickness. 

First prong, Microsoft has the best pixel rendering technology in the industry (cleartype 1.0 and 2.0) .. these are exclusive and unique to Windows, it smooths text regardless of pixel count.

Second, we designed a custom 10.6” high-contrast wide-angle screen LCD screen.

Lastly we optically bonded the screen with the thinnest optical stack anywhere on the market.. something which is more commonly done on phones we are doing on Surface. While this is not official, our current Cleartype measurements on the amount of light reflected off the screen is around 5.5%-6.2%, the new IPad has a measurement of 9.9% mirror reflections (see the displaymate link: http://www.displaymate.com/iPad_ShootOut_1.htm). Doing a side by side with the new iPad in a consistently lit room, we have had many people see more detail on Surface RT than on the Ipad with more resolution.

Some more links to share if you want to know more… (http://www.normankoren.com/Tutorials/MTF.html)... Also This is a great book to read if you really want to get into it: http://www.amazon.com/Contrast-Sensitivity-Effects-Quality-Monograph/dp/0819434965 or more here http://alexandria.tue.nl/extra2/9901043.pdf

The reasoning is simple, the screen was designed to work in well lit conditions and has a lower reflective rate than the new iPad. In short, Microsoft says that screen clarity is measured in many more ways than screen resolution and they focused on using a thin optical stack, reducing light reflection and of course, using their ClearType technology to create the best display possible

Microsoft also states that when you compare the iPad screen to the Surface screen, user tests say that folks can see more detail on the Surface screen than that of the iPad. This test was conducted in a consistently lit room, likely meaning, in well lit office space that is representative of the typical environment that tablet will be used.

So there you have it, this is Microsoft's reasoning for choosing to use a lower resolution screen but the bigger question is, do you agree with their reasoning?

Source: Reddit

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LOL I bet the person that asked the question did not read that long-winged response.

One of the reasons, which is the main reason, why I don't chose Windows RT is because of the resolution. The other reason being that I still use desktop apps.

So it's Windows 8 for me, on the tablet.

The real answer is that it's cheaper on Microsoft on to have a lower resolution and gets people to get the Pro version with the higher resolution screen.

In the end of the 90's we went from 640x480 to 800 by 600 pixels and then to 1024 by 768 and then even far higher. Not to forget, this where the anlog screens with just 15 or 17 inches. Then somehow, when everyone got wide-screen-tvs, we went back to the extremly low 1366 by 786 resolution by any manufacturer.

I really didn't understand this. Then came apple with their retina screens with far higher resolutions. So, there was a manufacturer that finally got higher resolutions. I was shocked to find out that what in fact happend, Apple made every element twice as big instead in giving the user twice as much working space????? So effectivly, the ipad for example just has still a 1024 but 768 resoltion with some fancy nice looking quad pixels so old people can read the screen better (my mom doens't see the difference btw).

Maybe it's me, maybe i'm weird or do i have some kind of alien eyes. But all I really wanted is to have as many as possible items and lines of code and windows on my screen! not some fancy aliased fonts or blown up websites.

That is also the reason I will wait for the surface with windows 8 pro that has some descent resolution. But for the average user I think the Surface RT is even better then the ipad

Ramon Ennik said,
In the end of the 90's we went from 640x480 to 800 by 600 pixels and then to 1024 by 768 and then even far higher. Not to forget, this where the anlog screens with just 15 or 17 inches. Then somehow, when everyone got wide-screen-tvs, we went back to the extremly low 1366 by 786 resolution by any manufacturer.

I really didn't understand this. Then came apple with their retina screens with far higher resolutions. So, there was a manufacturer that finally got higher resolutions. I was shocked to find out that what in fact happend, Apple made every element twice as big instead in giving the user twice as much working space????? So effectivly, the ipad for example just has still a 1024 but 768 resoltion with some fancy nice looking quad pixels so old people can read the screen better (my mom doens't see the difference btw).

Maybe it's me, maybe i'm weird or do i have some kind of alien eyes. But all I really wanted is to have as many as possible items and lines of code and windows on my screen! not some fancy aliased fonts or blown up websites.

That is also the reason I will wait for the surface with windows 8 pro that has some descent resolution. But for the average user I think the Surface RT is even better then the ipad

It would be nice if Windows 8/RT had a quad-resolution setting where it would merge 4 pixels into 1...

Ramon Ennik said,
In the end of the 90's we went from 640x480 to 800 by 600 pixels and then to 1024 by 768 and then even far higher. Not to forget, this where the anlog screens with just 15 or 17 inches. Then somehow, when everyone got wide-screen-tvs, we went back to the extremly low 1366 by 786 resolution by any manufacturer.

I really didn't understand this. Then came apple with their retina screens with far higher resolutions. So, there was a manufacturer that finally got higher resolutions. I was shocked to find out that what in fact happend, Apple made every element twice as big instead in giving the user twice as much working space????? So effectivly, the ipad for example just has still a 1024 but 768 resoltion with some fancy nice looking quad pixels so old people can read the screen better (my mom doens't see the difference btw).

Maybe it's me, maybe i'm weird or do i have some kind of alien eyes. But all I really wanted is to have as many as possible items and lines of code and windows on my screen! not some fancy aliased fonts or blown up websites.

That is also the reason I will wait for the surface with windows 8 pro that has some descent resolution. But for the average user I think the Surface RT is even better then the ipad

If im not mistaken, as resolution increases... they have to increase the size of the things on the screen... otherwise they would get so small that you wouldnt be able to read it.

Like if you ran an application that was DESIGNED for a 800x600 screen on a 2560x1440 screen it would look tiny.

I said this when apple announced retina display for iPad.
Microsoft have invested billions in maximizing small displays over the decades. It is because of this investment that they can make something as pleasing to the eye with a paltry pixel count.

With the new iPad I tried at Staples, I had a hard time seeing the content due to glare in the room.
I suspect the device will be perfectly useable and the average joe consumer will be non the wiser. I also suspect with the price of this thing, Android will still be tablet OS #2.

deadonthefloor said,
I said this when apple announced retina display for iPad.
Microsoft have invested billions in maximizing small displays over the decades. It is because of this investment that they can make something as pleasing to the eye with a paltry pixel count.

With the new iPad I tried at Staples, I had a hard time seeing the content due to glare in the room.
I suspect the device will be perfectly useable and the average joe consumer will be non the wiser. I also suspect with the price of this thing, Android will still be tablet OS #2.

Glare and fingerprints. The screen tech required for a good tablet certainly extends far beyond resolution.

I don't see a problem. the original ipad never had any complains about resolution. I can't even tell the difference between both devices unless I look really really close...and at that point, I'm TRYING to see a difference. If you have to TRY hard, then it tells me the retina game apple is playing is nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

Isn't apples entire product line marketing gimmicks? I'm trying to think of a single thing that apple did to make me wish I had an apple product instead of anything else, but I really can't come up with one. Apple has always been about making it look pretty first and work well last. I will never forget how the world swooned over the original iPhone, that couldn't send MMS texts (picture messages). Apple sold it as the greatest phone ever. People bought it, and still do. At least now they do more than paltry feature phones.

neonspark said,
I don't see a problem. the original ipad never had any complains about resolution. I can't even tell the difference between both devices unless I look really really close...and at that point, I'm TRYING to see a difference. If you have to TRY hard, then it tells me the retina game apple is playing is nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

It's extremely easy to trick the eye/brain. If we perceive the display rocks and looks great, then that's all that matters. I think what he is saying is "go pick one up and judge for yourself."

laserfloyd said,
It's extremely easy to trick the eye/brain. If we perceive the display rocks and looks great, then that's all that matters. I think what he is saying is "go pick one up and judge for yourself."

good point.
i seen a lot of interesting optical tricks / illusions on youtube a while back.
its amazing how much we fabricate and yet *think we are seeing things as they are.
reality and our perception are not the same thing which is what the story touches on i think.

It is sad to say most people are swept away by Apple's numbers game.

I have mentioned MTF and contrast ratio many times before. Stevie knows what he is talking about. Check out ZDNet (Ed Bott), Engadget, etc, all of them agree that the Surface RT display wins on a blind test versus iPad. As laserfloyd says above, wait till you check it out. If you peep at closer than 1 feet iPad will hold the advantage, but for all practical purposes there's no technical reason why the Surface display could not be vastly superior if it boasts a higher contrast ratio and more accurate colour gamut. The iPad has a modest contrast ratio of 800:1, well down on the likes of Transformer Pad Infinity (1200:1).

Sadly, just like the camera race, people are going to buy into the bigger numbers = better.

moloko said,
But why choose this resolution instead of the same as the PRO?

Ultimately, cost.
A higher resolution panel would have added $50 to the retail price.

If you can create a perfectly viewable screen while keeping a lower build cost, why wouldn't you take that route.
Also, it's the minimum resolution for the new snap feature.

But he still did not answer the question.

deadonthefloor said,

Ultimately, cost.
A higher resolution panel would have added $50 to the retail price.

If you can create a perfectly viewable screen while keeping a lower build cost, why wouldn't you take that route.
Also, it's the minimum resolution for the new snap feature.

People seem to be forgetting the screen is only 10.6" big! I don't see the big deal, it's the budget model anyway and well it's budget for a reason....

Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) is the new Reality Distortion Field (RDF) of the world. It sounds better than, "we screwed up and don't have a good answer, lets BS our way through it, yea".

USB I do not care about. Less ports fine. I do want a SD card slot though and when connected to the computer add files via explorer. I think the RT is a OK value same as IPAD.

I do like the shape of the ipad though. everything else is just widescreen.

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