What Is a Liquid Retina XDR Display? Everything You Need to Know


Apple’s displays have changed drastically over the years, especially since 2017 with the introduction of the iPhone X. And with the release of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in 2021, Apple introduced the first iPad with what it calls a Liquid Retina XDR display.

But what exactly is the Liquid Retina XDR display? Is it better than OLED displays on modern iPhones? And what is the difference between the Liquid Retina XDR and Super Retina XDR brandings? We’ll cover it here.

What Does a Liquid Retina XDR Display Mean?

magic keyboard upfront view
Image Credit: Apple

It’s no secret that Apple’s marketing is top-notch in most cases. Its marketing even extends to what it calls the technology in its devices, and Liquid Retina XDR is a perfect example.

Retina display is Apple’s original marketing term for its displays that originated from the iPhone 4 in 2010. The reasoning behind the name is that these displays have a pixel density so high that the retina in the human eye can’t see the individual pixels at a normal distance, hence the name Retina display.

However, Apple started using the term Liquid Retina with the iPhone XR. Liquid Retina is Apple’s terminology for a Retina LCD with thin bezels. Other Apple devices that use LCD technology with large bezels, such as the iPhone SE, are called Retina HD displays. The difference between the two is that Liquid Retina displays use pixel masking and anti-aliasing that can allow those thin bezels.

However, Liquid Retina XDR displays are everything we just mentioned, with the addition of enhanced HDR technology for improved contrast ratios and brightness, but Apple calls it Extreme Dynamic Range (XDR). Also, these displays feature mini-LED backlighting and ProMotion adaptive refresh rate technology.

Is Liquid Retina XDR Better Than OLED Displays?

Always-on display on iPhone 14 Pro
Image Credit: Apple

So, which display technology is better, Liquid Retina XDR or OLED? When we compare a Liquid Retina XDR display to an OLED display, despite the former featuring mini LED backlighting, OLED displays can provide deeper blacks since the pixels in an OLED display don’t require a backlight to switch them on or off. OLED displays also usually deliver better contrast ratios compared to Mini LED displays.

However, Liquid Retina XDR displays are better than traditional LCD screens thanks to the mini-LED backlighting zones and XDR technology. They also don’t have the same burn-in issues that OLED panels have. But XDR also exists on most Apple products that feature OLED screens now, so the same benefits apply to them in addition to the advantages OLED panels have over mini LED.

There is a reason why most smartphones moved on from LCD panels. However, Liquid Retina XDR displays are nothing to disregard and mini LED is a great display technology for larger screens. For instance, the high-end MacBook Pro’s displays, which are Liquid Retina XDR displays, were praised by the vast majority of reviewers.

Which Apple Devices Have Liquid Retina XDR Displays?

Press shot of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro
Image Credit: Apple

Apple uses different displays across its product line, so it can be confusing whether a specific product has a Liquid Retina XDR display or not. The devices that offer a Liquid Retina XDR display include the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021 and 2022 models) and the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros. Therefore, if you want the mini LED technology, you will want to pick one of these devices.

Currently, there is no iPhone that has a Liquid Retina XDR display. All recent iPhones use a Super Retina XDR display, other than the iPhone SE.

Liquid Retina XDR vs. Super Retina XDR: Which Is Better?

Super Retina Display on iPhone 13

You may wonder what a Super Retina XDR Display is in the Apple world. In simplest terms, a Super Retina XDR display is a custom OLED panel with XDR technology. There isn’t a difference in display type between a standard OLED panel and Apple’s Super Retina XDR displays.

When comparing Liquid Retina XDR displays and Super Retina XDR displays, the main difference is that the former uses mini-LED backlighting technology, while Super Retina XDR displays use OLED.

Like with typical OLED panels, devices with Super Retina XDR displays have a higher contrast ratio and more saturated colors, but that’s not to say that Liquid Retina XDR Displays can’t compete. On the high-end MacBook Pros and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the displays in those products have a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and excellent brightness levels thanks to the XDR technology.

In the end, both display technologies are incredible. However, with superior colors, brightness, and unmatched black levels, Super Retina XDR displays still have the edge over Liquid Retina XDR, even though mini LED and XDR have made LCDs more compelling.

Apple’s Fancy Words Never End

Apple continues to put its spin on its displays to make them sound unique to potential customers. But ultimately, the Liquid Retina XDR display is a high-quality LCD with mini-LED backlighting and XDR technology. However, when you compare LCDs to OLED displays side by side, the differences are still present no matter what marketing Apple uses.


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