Liquid Retina vs. Liquid Retina XDR: Which display is better?

Credit: Apple

We first saw a Liquid Retina display in 2018 with the arrival of the iPhone XR and iPad Pro. Recently however, Apple released a 12.9-inch iPad Pro featuring an updated Liquid Retina XDR display. Here's everything you need to know about Liquid Retina and Liquid Retina XDR.

What is a Liquid Retina Display?

A Liquid Retina display is a type of LCD display. This display can be found in the iPhone 11, iPhone XR and the 2018 iPad Pro, so it's getting a bit dated now. The latest Apple devices such as the iPhone 13 are leagues ahead in regards to display technology, sporting a new kind of display called Super Retina XDR - which is just a fancy name for an OLED display. 

Unlike a Super Retina XDR display, a Liquid Retina display relies on a miniaturised LCD display panel rather than an OLED one. As a result of this, the level of contrast and brightness here doesn't hit the same highs found in a Super Retina XDR display. 

What is a Liquid Retina XDR Display? 

A Liquid Retina XDR display is a variation on the Liquid Retina display. Instead of using a single LED backlight panel or multiple LEDs to illuminate the display (like in a Liquid Retina display), a Liquid Retina XDR display is illuminated by thousands of smaller, mini-LEDs. The latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro's Liquid Retina display uses over 10,000 of these mini-LEDs across the entire back of the display.

Is there a difference in display resolution?

Yes there is: Liquid XDR displays generally feature a higher resolution than Liquid Retina displays. For example, the Liquid Retina display found in the iPhone XR and iPhone 11 boasts a resolution of 1792 x 828p and a pixel density of 328 ppi. Whereas the Liquid Retina XDR display in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) has a maximum resolution of 2,732 x 2,048p and a pixel density of 264 ppi. 

Is the Liquid Retina XDR Display better than the regular Liquid Retina Display?

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) featuring a Liquid Retina XDR DisplayCredit: Apple
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) featuring a Liquid Retina XDR Display

Yes it is. 

A good way to see the difference is to compare the specifications from the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) with the 11-inch iPad Pro which sports a regular Liquid Retina display. 

Not only does the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) have a higher display resolution (2,732 x 2,048p, versus 2,388 x 1,668p), it also delivers a higher max full-screen brightness (up to 1000 nits, versus 600 nits).

More brightness allows the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) to deliver a 1 million-to-1 contrast ratio, which is more typical of an OLED display than an LCD display. This should enhance the viewing experience for users of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021), since the XDR display can capture a higher level of detail, as well as brighter highlights and darker darks. 

That said, you'll get an even higher resolution from a device that features Apple's Super Retina XDR display, so that should be your first choice when buying an Apple device. 

In Australia the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) can be purchased from these retailers:

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Tags iPhonelcdiPhone XRLiquid Retina DisplayLRD

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