How to hold your iPad

CSS Pixel sizes reveal the distance manufacturers think you should hold a device

I’ve been thinking about writing a post about this for a while, but I didn’t have the right visualisation. Unfortunately my design skills weren’t up to the task, but I just came across a great article from iA that demonstrates what I was thinking:

iMac, iPad, iPhone being held in front of you.

The article talks about typography being dependant on viewing distance, and at closer (typical) viewing distance the smaller text on the iPhone actually matches a desktop.

This is the same point I was making about CSS pixels: The unit manufacturers use to define how their browser renders website sizes.
For example, the iPad mini has a CSS pixel width of 768px (in portait), the same as the larger iPad with retina display, even though they are different sizes and different pixel densities.

What I would like to add is some Maths. (Or ‘Math’ if you’re from the US):

As the size of a CSS pixel is based on an angle, we can work out how far away the device should be held.

Working out the intended viewing distance was relatively straightforward, once I revised a little school level trig:

Device CSS PPI Intended viewing distance (m)
iPhone 163 0.41
iPad mini 163 0.41
Nexus 7 162 0.41
Galaxy Nexus 147.7 0.45
iPad 132 0.51
Macbook Pro 15″ 110 0.61
iMac 27″ 109 0.62
Trad Desktop (96 DPI) 96 0.71
32″ TV with Xbox IE 32.4 3.5

Putting that into a graph shows a smooth line, as you would expect from maths based on an angle:

Graph of the pixel distances

So to answer the question in the title, you should hold the iPad mini 41cm away from your eye, and the large iPad 51cm.

Does that seem right to you?

One contribution to “How to hold your iPad

  1. Oh, if you want to replicate the figures:

    The ratio between Px size (inches) and Px size (mm) is 24.96
    E.g. for 110 ppi, do (1/110 * 24.96)/1000 to get the pixel size in meters.

    The angle from the CSS specificatin is 0.0213, so if that is the angle by your eye (in the triangle from your eye to the pixel), the angles at each edge of the pixel are 89.98935.

    You can the use an online tool, and put 89.98935 into the top box, 0.0213 into the bottom-left box, and the pixel size (in meters) in the middle-right box.

    Therefore we have angle, size, and what we determine is distance, side 2 & 3 should tell you that.

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