A Retina mini?

I prefer reading text and browsing the web on the bigger iPad, but in terms of actually holding the device the mini wins hands down. One iPad is better to look at and one is better to hold. It's a real problem. The obvious solution would be to give the iPad mini a Retina Display. Once again, in our Podcast on this topic, Brian offered poignant insight: a Retina Display likely won't come to the iPad mini.

There are three routes Apple has to enable a Retina Display on the iPad mini:

1. Double horizontal and vertical resolution (4x the number of pixels, similar to what was done for the iPad 3/4)
2. Pick a new, in-between resolution that isn't an outright doubling in each dimension but maintain the 4:3 aspect ratio
3. Pick a new resolution that isn't an outright doubling, also pick a new aspect ratio in the process

With the exception of the iPhone 5, Apple has preferred outright quadrupling of pixel count (2x in each dimension, option #1) to create a Retina Display. With the mini's display using a 1024 x 768 resolution, this option would give it a 7.85-inch 2048 x 1536 panel. That would be the same resolution as the iPad 3/4, but in a much smaller display giving it a pixel density of 326 PPI (vs ~263 for the iPad 3/4). Apple could do this, but it would then need to make all of the same changes it made in going to the iPad with Retina Display, primarily the introduction of a larger battery and much larger SoC. The bigger battery is needed to drive the more powerful backlight, and the X-series of SoCs is needed to actually render the UI and games at such a high resolution. Both of these things would increase the size and cost of the mini, which would make it distinctly un-mini.

The second option would be to pick a new resolution that wasn't an integer multiple of the current one, say 1600 x 1200. You could maintain the same aspect ratio, but you'd just get greater pixel density. The problem with this approach is iOS for the iPad projects points in screen space to one of two resolutions: 1024 x 768 or 2048 x 1536. Picking a non-integer multiple of those resolutions would force Apple to do some scaling and filtering to hit the new resolution, which could reduce quality. Apple does this on the MacBook Pro with Retina Display to enable higher resolution modes. To maximize image quality however, Apple renders the desktop offscreen at 4x the resolution and then scales down to fit the panel. There are obvious performance concerns here as well.

The final option would be for Apple to take the iPhone 5 route and just pick a new resolution and enable support for it. The only downside to this option is that developers would have to target yet another type of display. As we've seen with the iPhone 5, that can be done but it also means a number of applications may take a while to get updated, if they are at all.

None of these options is particularly enticing for Apple, especially given the low (for Apple), starting price for the iPad mini. If you're expecting next year's mini to have a Retina Display, I wouldn't hold your breath.

Display Analysis CPU Performance
POST A COMMENT

140 Comments

View All Comments

  • Magwitch - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Am I the only person who thinks Anand is just another Apple shill who just falls over himself supporting any and every Apple product out there? Please. What ever happened to the objectivity that once was the hallmark of Anandtech? I've watched the same thing happen to Tom's Hardware over the years. I guess it must be the koolaid they drink. Reply
  • uhuznaa - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Well, maybe this *is* objective and what you want to read is something subjective that starts and ends with "everything Apple is crap"?

    This review points out all the weak points of the device, comes with a lot of objective numbers and benchmarks -- what do you miss exactly?
    Reply
  • andrewaggb - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    I really don't think it's necessary to make personal insults against the staff. Yes anand clearly likes apple. But look around. So does half the continent. Reply
  • edsib1 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    You state that the mini display is great but, in your own tests...

    Pixel density - 5th of 7
    brightness -13th of 17
    contrast - 17th of 17
    calibration - 6th of 7
    grayscrale - 3rd of 7
    saturation - 4th of 7
    GMB - 6th of 7

    I dont understand your conclusion. Doesnt add up to a great display to me.
    Reply
  • admiralpumpkin - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    The answer is two-fold.

    FIrst, the tests were against other rather good screens. So coming in "average" is actually quite good. Here's the key statement, near the end of the review, "It pains me to say it, but compared to most similarly priced notebooks, the iPad mini's display is amazing."

    Second, often times the margin of difference must not have seemed significant to Anand. For example, if two screens are 1% apart on a particular metric (pulling a number from nowhere) then which came in 1st vs 2nd is a relatively meaningless.
    Reply
  • jonjonjonj - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    i personally dont get it. i have an ipod touch, iphone and ipad and pretty much never use the ipod or ipad. the ipad is only good for checking an email quickly or looking at a youtube video. anything beyond that and its frustrating to use. personally i would rather have a laptop/ultrabook. not sure i understand making the mini other than just to have a cheaper "i" product to complete with kindles and androids. i didnt think apple was about going cheap. Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    I can't see how any tech enthusiast site could look at the Mini and be impressed at the overall product. A 1 1/2 year old SoC. A screen resolution that goes back even farther and skimping out at 512MB or RAM. Any other manufacturer tried to pull that off would get slammed on all points but because the Mini has a nice case well all is good I guess... Reply
  • drx11 - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    How does this thing get positive reviews?....Oh wait its Apple. by Jumangi on Wednesday, November 21, 2012
    I can't see how any tech enthusiast site could look at the Mini and be impressed at the overall product. A 1 1/2 year old SoC.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You can not see it, because it is in the software... the SoC the apps, etc... you miss the forest for the trees. You miss the computer (system or tablet) for the specifications of the various parts...
    Reply
  • jb14 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Hi Anand thanks for the article.

    I was wondering if you had any plans to review the new B&N Nook HD 7" tablet? It would be interesting to read your findings on it's higher resolution screen. Also any plans for a tablet round up pre-xmas, as they are a nice size/price for potential presents? It seems the choice comes down to Nexus 7 vs N&B Nook/Kindle fire HD or the mini Ipad for iOS.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    "I don’t consider the iPad mini a competitor to the Nexus 7"

    What the heck? I jsut do not understand the continuous worshipping of this company's garbage products. It is almost like people dont even actually use these things. In reality, ther eis no difference between this and something like a nexus 7. They're both going to be extremely limited, extremely frustrating devices. iPoopa are anything but buttery smooth flawlessly running devices these biased reviewers make them out to be. I can make my iPoop crash just by opening webpages. Every time I'm scrolling thru the app store it lage like hell. The thing is really unbearably slow in jsut about everything. I only have about 100 apps installed. (58 of which want to update right now, but hell if I'm gonna bother.) I hate this thing. I only use it as a remote control nowadays. Even that crashes. It's really terrible. I refuse to believe that it is something unique to my device. What's more liekly to me is that the people who never have any problems with these things are the people who never actually use them.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now