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?