updated 12:50 am EDT, Wed October 17, 2012
Three-prong approach to quality display taken
According to Stevie Bathich, Microsoft's applied sciences department manager, the lower resolution display on the Surface Windows RT tablet is better to read on than the iPads Retina display. Bathich claims that a statistic known as "modulation transfer function" (MTF) is the primary metric that should be used when judging devices for readability, and that the Surface tablet scores higher than the current-generation iPad.
Bathich describes MTF as a derived specification, and a combination of contrast and resolution. The engineer goes on to say that "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."
Microsoft claims to have taken a three-prong approach to display quality. The first prong, Microsoft's Windows-exclusive ClearType anti-aliasing technology is described by Bathich as "the best pixel rendering technology in the industry." The intent of the Retina display technology is to make the individual pixels in a curve such as found in type indistinguishable to the eye, and as such, not requiring anti-aliasing algorithms to blur adjacent pixels to mimic a higher resolution. Microsoft's claims that ClearType being part of what defines a more readable display seems to be a different approach to the problem of a lower resolution display and readability than the direction Apple has taken with a high-DPI display.
A custom 10.6-inch high-contrast display, optically bonded with the "thinnest optical stack anywhere on the market" is the second and third prong of the effort to increase the readability of the device. Microsoft claims that in side-by-side comparisons with the iPad in a consistently lit room, it has "had many people see more detail on Surface RT than on the Ipad with more resolution."
The Windows RT tablet has a 1366x768 resolution. The upcoming Windows 8 Pro Surface tablet has a 1920x1080 display, closer to that of the current generation iPad at 2048x1536 than the RT-based device. Microsoft has as of yet not compared the higher resolution display on the Windows 8 Pro Surface tablet to the current-generation iPad.