DisplaySearch: 'Retina' laptop panels carry a $65-92 premium

A lot of us are looking forward to high-DPI notebook displays from Apple and other vendors. Some say they might appear as soon as next month, which is definitely an exciting prospect. According to numbers by NPD DisplaySearch, though, the new, denser panels will carry a substantial premium for hardware makers—and of course, one wonders if that premium will be passed on to the consumer.

DisplaySearch's Richard Shim told CNet News that high-DPI 13.3" and 15.4" panels (with resolutions of 2560x1600 and 2880x1800, respectively) are "already available from suppliers." Here's how they stack up, price-wise:

Shim says. According to his estimates, adding a Retina-quality panel in Apple's 15-inch MacBook pro would cost Apple about $160 versus the $68 the company spends on its current models. It's $134 for such a panel on the 13.3-inch model, compared to the $69 Apple pays right now.

We're looking at an added cost of $65 for a higher pixel density at 13.3", and $92 at 15.4".

As CNet News points out, the new iPad's Retina display costs $30 more than the iPad 2's display. Apple ended up absorbing that premium entirely, since it launched the new iPad at the same $499 as last year's model. High-DPI notebook panels will have premiums two to three times higher. At the same time, 13" and 15" MacBook Pro systems themselves cost 2.4-3.6 times more than the new iPad ($1,199 and $1,799, respectively). So, it sounds like Apple will have more room to absorb the Retina premium in its laptop line.

Will it do so? It's hard to say. Unlike iPads, MacBook Pros aren't really geared toward mainstream users. They're clearly high-end systems, with price tags well above those of comparable Windows laptops. And we already have a precedent: Apple demands $100 to step up from 1440x900 to 1680x1050 on the 15" MacBook Pro. It's definitely possible that the next-gen models will feature high-DPI panels out of the box without a price hike... but I'm not holding my breath.

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