High DPI displays are becoming the norm, and this is resulting in font hinting being used far less frequently than before.
Consider the mainstay of legal documentation, 10 point (~3.5mm) Times (New Roman).
You can use this page to calculate the DPI of your device: http://dpi.lv/
On an 80ppi screen, the glyph will be ~11pixels tall. Hinting is obviously needed.
On a 150ppi screen, the glyph will be ~20pixels tall. Hinting is obviously needed.
A MacBook Pro has a 227ppi screen. The glyph will be ~31pixels tall. Hinting may be needed depending on font.
I'm typing this on a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with a 267dpi screen. The glyph will be ~37pixels tall. Hinting may be somewhat noticeable for some people or people trained to notice it.Some believe ( http://prometheus.med.utah.edu/~bwjones/2010/06/apple-retina-display/ ) that 300ppi is the maximum perceivable ppi.
On a 401 ppi screen (such as the one in the iPhone 6), the glyph will be ~55pixels tall. Hinting won't be noticeable.
On a 576ppi screen (such as the one on the Samsung S7), the glyph will be ~80pixels tall. Hinting won't be noticeable. I actually have this phone, and can only see the individual pixels with a magnifying glass.
So my question for the type design community is: is hinting still relevant in 2016? Should new type designers learn it? I'm not exactly a new type designer, I know some things about hinting, but I'm wondering how much more time I should commit to studying it if it won't be used in 5 years.
If you are still using a low DPI display, you can get an idea of how hinting affects fonts on high DPI displays by rendering them at the pixel sizes above. Here's the string "Hinting" rendered in Times at those sizes, first hinted then unhinted. GIMP was used to make the image.
(Note: Your OS might upscale this image if you're using a high DPI display. Display it in Paint or Photoshop at 1px = 1px to see.)
(If this or similar has been posted here before, I apologize for not finding the thread :-( )