The new Retina Macbook looks quite beautiful, but from a productivity standpoint I am a bit disappointed. While they have quadrupled the pixel count (to 2880 x 1800), they have not increased real estate, per se.

In other words, the number of windows or characters or columns displayable on the screen has not changed — it is essentially a 1440 x 900 pixel display with increased sharpness. It’s like a new printer with a higher dpi, but the same paper size. Follow?

In an ideal word, where apps and web pages are defined in physical units like ems or inches, one could arbitrarily size applications up and down to one’s taste — true “resolution independence”. But we ain’t there, quite.

So I got to thinking if these new pixels could be exploited in a way that goes beyond aesthetics, a quasi-resolution-independence if you will.

During today’s keynote Apple demonstrated such an exploitation. Final Cut Pro will offer a pixel-for-pixel rendering of a 1080p video in a portion of the full window. This is a quite brilliant and subtle use of those pixels.

You might do this yourself in your favorite text editor: with that extra resolution, knock a point size or two off your standard font. Legibility remains, but now you have room for more character columns.

Ditto for web pages. Let’s say you want to pin a browser window to take up exactly the right-hand half of the screen. It’s effectively a 720px viewport (which “consumes” 1440 pixels). However, if you set the browser zoom to 90%, those 1440 pixels represent 800px of viewport. Zoom further to get more.

I dunno if I am gonna drop the coin for the pretty machine, but if did, the above is how I might justify it in productivity terms.