We all know that the new iPad’s retina display, at 2048×1536, is twice as big in each dimension as the previous iPad’s, or four times the total pixels. We also know that, according to Apple, its resolution is so high that your eye can’t distinguish individual pixels at “normal viewing distance.” But how much better, really, is the retina display than the iPad 2’s display?

You’ll have to see it to believe it. That’s the only real answer. Specs and numbers won’t cut it. Best case, put an iPad 2 and an iPad 3 side by side, and compare. But what if you don’t have both? How can we show you the difference here? It’s tricky, since the display you’re looking at probably doesn’t even have as many pixels as a retina display. But we’re going to try.

We of course believe that our Art Authority app, newly tuned for the retina display, is the best basis for comparison. Let’s start in its Renaissance room, where we’ve highlighted the framed representation of Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait:

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Following are pixel-by-pixel images of the highlighted part of that room on both displays. Click on the image to see all the detail (you can also zoom to full screen to see even better, but keep in mind you won’t be viewing pixel-by-pixel in that case). To keep things the way your eye really perceives them, pixels from the iPad 2 display take up 4 pixels in its image. We think you can tell which image is which:

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Continuing, here’s the portrait hanging on the wall of the Renaissance Overview room. We’ve highlighted the thumbnails in the key work display that is beside it, along with a bit of its frame.

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And here are the side-by-side, pixel-by-pixel comparisons:

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Mona Lisa looks a little different, doesn’t she? Finally, here’s the whole picture, with the oft-analyzed mirror and other interesting items highlighted:

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And side-by-side. Check out the artist’s signature and the left portion of the chandelier in particular.

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We hope you now get the picture! Let us know what you think, and how our comparison might be improved. Thanks.