Should I get an Apple with or without a Retina Display is a question many newcomers to the world of Apple devices ask?

Like many Apple-branded technologies, the Retina Display is now a fairly common brand. Since it was first introduced on the iPhone 4 it’s been rolled out to many other devices, including the MacBook Pro and iPad with Retina Display.

In a nutshell the Retina Display is a type of liquid crystal display that has a pixel density so high that it reaches the limit of human vision. Packing any more pixels into the display wouldn’t make any more difference, it’s as sharp as it can possibly be.

See also: What is a Retina display, and are they worth the money?

Best Mac display

What Apple devices have a Retina Display?

The following Apple devices all come packed with a Retina Display

iPad

What Apple devices don’t have the Retina Display, and why?

There are some fairly notable devices missing from the list of Retina Display compatible machines. These Apple devices (all currently on sale) don’t have the Retina Display:

The Mac mini doesn’t have a display at all, but it’s worth noting that Apple does not sell a Retina Display monitor to attach to it.

Why some of these devices don’t have a Retina Display is easy to understand. It simply costs a lot of money to build a Retina Display and the cost of including it on an iMac or Thunderbolt/Cinema Display would make the devices prohibitive to buy.

The iPad 2 pre-dates the Retina Display but is still on sale as a low-cost iPad entry device, and the MacBook Pro is being similarly sold as a low cost equivilant to the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The iPad nano and classic don’t really require Retina Display technology (they are both low-cost entry level music players).

Perhaps more confusing are the MacBook Air and iPad mini. The reason why these devices lack Retina Display technology when it is available on larger, but similar devices, mean that the cost factor isn’t such a problem. In both instances we feel that battery life may be more of a factor. Powering a display twice as strong requires more juice, and both the MacBook Air and iPad mini may have struggled to run a Retina Display with their current form factors. Some people could cynically suggest that Apple withheld the Retina Display from the iPad mini to ensure that people had a reason to buy the iPad mini 2. Not that we’d suggest Apple would do such a thing.

See: New MacBook Air release date rumours and leaked images

When will the MacBook Air and iPad mini get the Retina Display?

Pretty soon is the best answer we can give. We’re fairly sure that the iPad mini 2 will be released at some point this year (it may be announced on the 10 September Apple event, or some time in October). And we’re also pretty sure that the iPad mini 2 will sport a Retina Display as its marquee feature.

We’re not so sure about the MacBook Air. We did think that Apple would introduce a Retina Display to the MacBook Air in the June 2013 update, but instead Apple stuck with the non-Retina Display and increased the battery life to a whopping 12 hours. It may be that Apple decides to introduce the Retina Display in the next update (which will probably take place in 2014) or it may decide that continuously pushing the envelope with battery longevity is of more use to Apple customers looking for the ultimate in ultra-portable laptop power.

See: iPad mini 2 release date, rumours and images

Should I buy a non-Retina Display device, or should I wait?

It depends on the device. But our general upgrade advice for the following devices would be:

  • iPad mini: No! Don’t buy one. Wait for the iPad mini 2 to be announced

  • MacBook Air: Maybe. Next year’s model is likely to include a Retina Display but it’s a long wait.

  • iMac and Cinema Displays. Yes. Buy them. We think it’ll be awhile before Apple can make a 27-inch Retina Display that you can afford.