Doing the math: Apple can affordably build a 4K or 8K iTV

I recently read that Apple buys entire sheets of LCD of a set pixel density, and then cuts it to a device-specific size. The iPhone 3GS sheets were just cut differently to make the iPad mini (exact same pixel density). Meanwhile it's clear that part of Tim Cook's supply-chain mojo is moving components from one device to another as the first experiences production ramp-down or product phase-out, like this:

  • iPod touch 4th Gen camera to iPad 2
  • iPhone 4 camera to iPad 3 and iPod touch 5th Gen. and iPad mini

This allows Apple to secure long-term contracts for crazy low prices. And it lets them cycle out old materials into products instead of into landfills.

Connecting the dots, it follows that something else will use the same pixel-density sheets as the iPhone 3GS and the iPad mini. Such as a 4K iTV, or so I first thought.

The UHD standard of 4K resolution is 3840 × 2160. Building a 4K iTV with 163pps sheets would yield, then, a 28-inch screen. That seems more like a Retina Cinema Display to me. It's nowhere near the Retina standard for the MBP, but it's a big leap forward.

Alternatively, Apple could just scale these sheets all the way up to 8K, which would be absurd. One standard is 7680 x 4320. That makes a 56" display. Much more in the range of an iTV's size than 28". Pumping enough light through that kind of display seems nearly impossible to do with any level of energy efficiency. To say nothing of the processor required to pump out that many pixels.

If Tim Cook's supply-chain wit is any clue, this could be what happens to those 163ppi sheets when Apple inevitably upgrades its last user, the iPad mini, to Retina class.

Oh and the cost? iSuppli esteems the iPad mini's display-plus-touchscreen at $80 each, or about $10/inch. Or about $560 for a big touch-screen 8K screen. Slash off maybe 30% for not giving it touch, and we're at $392. Factor in processor, frame, manufacturing and shipping to $700 for Apple, add the customary Apple margin of 40%, and we're looking at $980.

Or rounded up... $999 for an 8K iTV using Apple's existing 163ppi sheets. Not bad.