An increasing body of evidence indicates that submicroscopic gene dose alterations may cause mental impairment and malformations. During the last decade, comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) has become a useful tool in the detection and mapping of chromosome aberrations. Modifications of CGH with increased resolution down to 3-5 Mb have been reported and CGH is now offered as a diagnostic procedure in the evaluation of patients with idiopathic mental retardation (MR). In order to increase the resolution, we modified the CGH protocol using freshly prepared high-quality metaphase slides and chemical labeling, and tested the method on a set of patients with well-defined submicroscopic chromosome abnormalities with confirmed size 1.3-20.5 Mb. Subsequently, a completely blinded test was performed to compare the performance of the chemical labeling CGH to the commercially available HR-CGH. Using the two different CGH methods, we were able to detect chromosome imbalances down to 2-3 Mb approximately. The HR-CGH method detected all aberrations >6 Mb and a few smaller, while the modified CGH method was able to detect all but three aberrations >1.8 Mb. The modified CGH method was superior in the detection of terminal imbalances, while the HR-CGH software was more successful in the detection of imbalances located very close to the centromeric regions. In conclusion, the resolution of metaphase CGH may be as high as 2-3 Mb but is most likely depending on the chromosomal region involved, a clear limitation when used as a screening method for chromosome aberrations in patients with idiopathic MR.