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. This year (2021) Apple has released a 12.9-inch iPad Pro featuring the new 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.

Like the regular Retina display found in other iPhones, the Liquid Retina display relies on a higher level of pixels-per-inch to create a paper-like screen effect where pixels are not visible to the naked eye.

However, unlike the Super HD Retina display found in the iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the Liquid Retina display in the iPhone XR and iPad Pro rely 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 more expensive Apple devices like the iPhone 11 Pro.

What is a Liquid Retina XDR Display? 

Instead of using LCD backlighting that features a single LED backlight panel or multiple LEDs to illuminate the 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.

What is the resolution of a Liquid Retina Display?

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. For comparison, the iPhone 11 Pro has a resolution of 2436 x 1125p and a pixel density of 458 ppi.

What is the resolution of a Liquid XDR Display?

The new 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 new 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. 

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

This article was originally published in November 2018. It was updated by Dominic Bayley on the July 9, 2021.

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Tags iPhonelcdiPhone XRLiquid Retina DisplayLRD

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