Can Microsoft Surface RT Beat the iPad in Display Clarity?

Ahead of Microsoft Surface RT's Oct. 26 release, a researcher at display technology firm DisplayMate has found that preliminary results are mixed when comparing Surface RT's resolution to its Apple competitor.

Dr. Raymond M. Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies Corporation, wanted to test a claim made by Surfaced developers last week that, while the Surface screen resolution of 1366 x 768 was not as high as the latest iPad's 2048 x 1536 screen resolution, other factors will help it to overcome the iPad in clarity and detail.

This includes Microsoft's ClearType technology, which features "modulation transfer function" -- a display feature that combines "both contrast and resolution," when rendering, according to a Surface developer team member during a recent questions and answer session on Reddit.

According to Microsoft, ClearType breaks down each pixel and displays the red, blue and yellow vertical color stripes as individual display elements. Microsoft says this helps to display an image that is sharper than its resolution dictates.

Due to the Surface unavailability until the end of the week, Soneira ran a side-by-side-by-side comparison of Apple's iPad 2, the latest third-generation iPad and an Asus Netbook as a stand-in for the Surface due to its comparable resolution, size and integration of the ClearType technology. He compared the three devices by displaying the identical New York Times Web page.

What he found was that the Asus display did beat the iPad 2 in clarity. However, it was unable to display the same level of detail as Apple's third generation iPad.

"The Windows ClearType 768p display on the Asus Netbook was significantly sharper than the iPad 2 768p display but also significantly less sharp than the new iPad 3 1536p display, wrote Soneira. "It is certainly possible that the Microsoft Surface RT Tablet will perform better than the Asus Netbook, but it is very unlikely that it will turn out to be visually sharper than the new iPad 3. On the other hand the Windows Pro version of Surface will have a 1920x1080 208 PPI screen, and it is quite possible that it will be comparable in sharpness to the new iPad 3 with 2048x1536 264 PPI. It will be really interesting to compare them all... including the displays on Windows Tablets from other manufacturers, who might provide better displays than the Microsoft Surface..."

While Soneira does acknowledge that this test does not rule out the possibility of the Surface RT display outperforming the current-generation iPad, he plans on completing an in-depth comparison test once Microsoft's tablet ships.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for and


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