What is Super Retina XDR display? How does it work?


Apple introduced the Super Retina XDR display to the world. This term might seem complex, but it’s simply Apple’s way of describing their advanced display technology.

Key Takeaways

  1. Superior Visuals: Apple’s Super Retina XDR display offers enhanced contrast, deeper blacks, and brighter whites, delivering a top-tier viewing experience.
  2. High Brightness: Introducing peak brightness up to 1,200 nits and a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, it ensures vivid, clear images in any lighting condition.
  3. Energy Efficient: Independent pixel lighting in OLED reduces power usage and minimizes burn-in, extending screen lifespan.

Super Retina: The Dawn of OLED

iPhone X display super retina

When Apple introduced the iPhone X, they started using a new kind of screen called “Super Retina.” This was a big change for them because they stopped using the older LCD screens and switched to OLED screens.

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diodes. But what does that really mean? Think of it this way: OLED screens have tiny organic materials that light up all by themselves. They don’t need an extra light behind them like older screens (LCDs) do.

Imagine each pixel (those tiny dots that make up the picture on your screen) is like a little firefly. In an OLED screen, each firefly can glow on its own. If a part of the screen needs to be dark, those fireflies just turn off. This is why OLED screens can show really deep blacks – no light means true black, not just a dark gray.

Now, because these little fireflies (pixels) can turn off completely, OLED screens save power. No need for a big, always-on flashlight behind the screen, which is what older LCD screens use.

More about the working of LCD screens here

XDR: Extended Dynamic Range

iPhone X XDR display

When you see “XDR” in Super Retina XDR, it stands for Extended Dynamic Range. But what does that mean for you and your phone’s screen?

Imagine you’re watching a video with lots of dark scenes and bright scenes. On a regular screen, some details might be hard to see because the screen can’t handle both the super dark and super bright parts at the same time very well. It’s like trying to see everything clearly when it’s really sunny and really dark at the same time.

Apple’s Super Retina XDR display is their second shot at making OLED screens even better. With XDR, the screen can show really dark blacks and super bright whites at the same time, making everything look more realistic and detailed.

First, it doubled the contrast ratio. Think of contrast ratio as the difference between the darkest black and the brightest white the screen can show. The original Super Retina had a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. The Super Retina XDR? A whopping 2,000,000:1!

Second, it introduced up to 1,200 nits of peak brightness for HDR content. Nits are a way to measure how bright a screen can get. With 1,200 nits, the Super Retina XDR screen can get really bright, making HDR content (which has lots of contrast and vivid colors) look fantastic.

What is peak brightness? Is it different than HBM?

For everyday use, some models like the iPhone 12 Pro have a typical brightness of 800 nits, which is a nice bump up from the older screens that had 625 nits.

Phones like iPhone 15 series launched in 2023 have a brighness of upto 2000 nits which is almost double than the initial 1200 nits.

Liquid Retina: The LCD Counterpart

Most of the newer iPhones now come with Super Retina displays, which are fancy OLED screens. But some older models, like the second-generation iPhone SE and iPhone 11, still use LCD screens, which Apple calls “Liquid Retina” displays.

Here’s the difference:

  1. Larger Bezels: Think of bezels as the borders around your screen. The older Liquid Retina displays have chunkier borders, kind of like a picture frame with a thick edge, while the newer Super Retina displays have thinner, sleeker borders.
  2. Contrast Ratio: The contrast ratio is about how well the screen can show the darkest blacks and the brightest whites. Liquid Retina displays have a lower contrast ratio, which means they’re not as good at showing really deep blacks and super bright whites.
  3. Power Usage: Liquid Retina screens need a bit more power because they use a backlight to illuminate the screen. It’s like having a lamp behind a picture to light it up. OLED screens (Super Retina) light up each pixel individually, so they save more power.

Even though the Liquid Retina displays are a bit older and not as advanced as the Super Retina ones, they still show high-quality visuals.

Super Retina XDR vs. Traditional OLED

OLED screen in the dark
OLED screen in the dark

Apple says their Super Retina and Super Retina XDR screens are a step above the usual OLED screens. Here’s why:

  1. Better Color Accuracy: With regular OLED screens, the colors might look good, but Apple’s Super Retina screens make those colors look amazing. They’re really good at showing colors just the way they’re meant to be seen.
  2. Higher Brightness Levels: These screens can get super bright. Picture it like having a flashlight that can shine really brightly when you need it, making everything on the screen easy to see even in bright sunlight.
  3. Wide Color Range: Regular OLED screens cannot show as many colors. Super Retina screens can show many more colors, making pictures and videos look richer and more detailed.
  4. Reduced OLED Burn-in: Burn-in is when parts of the screen get “stuck” and leave a faint image behind, even when you change what’s on the screen. It’s like when you leave a sticker on a window for too long and it leaves a mark. Apple’s Super Retina screens are designed to minimize this problem, so you don’t have to worry as much about those leftover ghost images.


The Super Retina XDR display is Apple’s advanced display technology that offers a superior viewing experience with high contrast ratios, deeper blacks, higher brightness levels, and lower power consumption.

It’s a testament to Apple’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of technology and providing users with the best possible experience.

Note: Any verdict given by us on any of the companies, or specs of a device is subjective. Our preferences can be different from yours, so be sure to conduct your own research to make a decision that is good for you.

Check out Apple’s ProMotion display.

Apple ProMotion display: Pros and Cons!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does the Super Retina XDR display benefit photographers and designers?
The Super Retina XDR display offers superior color accuracy and a wide color range, making it ideal for photographers and designers. It ensures true-to-life colors and detailed images, enhancing photo editing and graphic design work.
What makes the Super Retina XDR display more energy-efficient?
The Super Retina XDR display uses OLED technology, where each pixel emits its own light, reducing the need for a constant backlight. This saves power and extends the display’s lifespan by minimizing the risk of screen burn-in.
How does the Super Retina XDR display enhance video streaming?
The Super Retina XDR display enhances video streaming with its high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities, providing more depth and realism. High brightness and improved contrast ensure stunning visuals in both dark and bright environments.

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