Color Gamut of Retina Display MacBook Pro

When Apple announced the Retina display MacBook Pro, they made a number of claims about its improvements. Beyond the obvious improvement in resolution, these were a bit vague. I will be publishing an article on the reduced reflectivity of the screen later today. But first, I wanted to show the color gamut of the new Retina display, and compare it to that of my earlier 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro.

Retina Display Gamut in Red, sRGB in Green.
Earlier Unibody MacBook Pro Gamut in Blue, sRGB in Green.

As you can see from the gamut graphs above, Apple has done much the same thing in moving to the Retina display on the MacBook Pro that they did when moving to the Retina display on the iPad. The gamut is no longer small and skewed; it is very close to sRGB. This means that non-color managed sRGB content, such as materials on the web, will be much more accurately displayed, and that the display will be more capable of displaying photos than earlier MacBooks, since even when earlier versions were calibrated, they could still only display about 70% of sRGB, rather than the whole sRGB gamut.

This gamut normalization and enlargement will do wonders for using MacBooks for photography work, and will even make advanced image editing possible. Other factors that are improved on the new Retina display will also be important, including its much improved viewing angle, and its reduced reflectivity. The Retina display is, simply put, the biggest advance ever, in laptop screens for photography and video work; and would be even without the resolution increase.

While the gamut of the Retina display is a good match to sRGB already, calibration made improvements to the white point and gamma which were crucial to getting good matching to a high end desktop display. Visual match to my calibrated desktop displays is excellent with the Retina display MacBook Pro.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

Published by cdtobie

This blog covers a range of issues of interest to photographers and those involved in the digital photographic workflow, digital tools and platforms, and fine art output.

16 thoughts on “Color Gamut of Retina Display MacBook Pro

  1. The shame of the new Retina equipped Mac Book Pros is the smallness of the SSD offerings, the inability of the user to add a second SSD internally and that RAM is soldered to the motherboard.

    Although both Retina version MBPs allow for 16GB RAM, only the 2.6Ghz Retina MBP allows for a 768GB SSD option and that bumps the price up to $3,499.00 . Adding more storage requires an external drive – preferably a Thunderbolt drive , either a portable like the 1TB Seagate or a larger office based RAID array or the forthcoming DROBO system.

    Starting with a 2.6 non Retina screened MBP ($2,199) I can have Apple add a 1TB 5400rpm HDD for $100, an anti-glare screen for another $100 and then going through OWC up the RAM from 8GB to 16GB ($169.00) and add an internal 240GB SSD drive for the OS and applications (also via OWC) for $300.00. The total for that configuration is $2,868.00.

    I really want a new Mac Book Pro and as a working photographer I want a Retina screen with it, but the thinner form factor of the current Retina equipped MBPs causes some structural compromises I am not yet willing to make. Those compromises and the price difference (which if amortized over three years is inconsequential) keeps me from pulling the trigger just yet.

    1. Hi Ellis,

      This is what I call “The Grease Monkey Argument”… basically the lack of user/third party upgradability of components, and the cost of Apple’s components, plus the limits based on the new design and SSDrives. Yup; all true. But I don’t think that will keep this machine from being a rave hit, and its descendants over the next year or two from taking over the market, in terms of Apple laptops, photographers laptops, and videographers laptops. Remember the plaintive “But why doesn’t it have a floppy drive?” when the iMac came out? Well, the optical drive, and the internal hard drive are the next to go, as I predicted in a previous article. This amazing machine is just one more nail in that coffin.

  2. well nice to have a closer srgb screen but my problem with apple is the printing of images not looking at them on the web or ipad. what ever happened to the nice little company who created desktop publishing ?

    1. Well, I’m building custom printer profiles with SpyderPrint, and getting great output from my Macs, though there are certainly more speed bumps in the process than there used to be. The iPad does change the number of items destined for print, and printing from iOS is certainly not up to fine art printing standards yet, but overall, the mix of iPad (and occasional iPhone) portfolio uses, plus MacBook Pro editing and printing, as well as Studio editing and printing with a MacPro, is working for me… for more typical users, I’m seeing the newer printers working reasonably well with canned profiles for general output. CMYK and Prepress are separate issues, I’m dealing mostly with photography.

  3. I calibrated my retina using Spyder4, got 99% sRGB. Also said gamma was 2.4.
    Any of the many gamma estimation web pages say I’m about 1.2! Is this a mis-rendering of the web pages or ?? Thanks for any clarification.

    1. That all sounds about right. The trick such pages use to estimate gamma is to compare a medium gray to black and white bars, assuming that at the gamma that matches the eye (somewhere between 2.2 and 2.4) they two will match. But the retina screen has double that resolution, so their trick fails. It fails by a nice round factor of two, which is reassuring.

    1. You would set the Spyder configuration, as with any Apple display, to White LED backlight, Standard Gamut. It should be able to tell with both, and nag you if you set either incorrectly.

  4. My mid 2014 MacBook Pro has an awful muddy yellow tint. Whites are yellow and greys are not grey. I’ve calibrated it with Spyder Pro and all that did was change the gamut slightly and increased saturation of certain colours. I’m a photographer and this isn’t acceptable. The machine is still under warranty and I recently had the screen replaced. Same problem. Is this normal?? Black and white images look light sepia. I have had a full diagnostics test on it and everything passed. I have read numerous blogs and discussions where many people have the same issue. The Apple reseller came up with only one conclusion and that was that these models were perhaps not made for photographers. You have to be joking. Does anyone know if this is something Apple can rectify i.e. replace the screen with something that even remotely looks right? I travel a lot therefore an external monitor is not an option. My 2011 anti glare screen is still perfect and I would still continue to use it but we all know what the inevitable result will be with these models. Already had the logic board replaced twice and I am just waiting for it to go again and then it’s for the trash can which is outrageous considering it still runs like a trojan and can run on latest OS.

    1. Calibrating your display should take care of this issue. There are a couple of variables. First, is what white point you calibrate to. 5000K will look muddy and yellow under most any condition. 6500K should look reasonable under reasonable conditions. Next, is the “reasonable conditions” part. If you are looking at your display in a bright room, with lots of blue sky lighting it, even 6500K will look dim and yellow by comparison. If you are in a dim, controlled room, with one 6500K desk light or light box as the only illumination, then the screen should look white, and the grays neutral. Your eye adapts to the brightest thing in your field of view, and if that is not your display, then all bets are off. A gray surface behind the screen helps as well.

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