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.

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  • Constructor - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    You keep it from even installing any of the offered updates and then you complain that it doesn't work as well as it should?

    Look into a mirror one of these days if you're searching for the source of your problems.
    Reply
  • KPOM - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    I have a 3rd gen iPad and decided to give the mini a try. I was a little reluctant because of the display (it is definitely a step down from the 3rd gen), but I agree with Anand that the form factor is great. The full size iPad is a little heavy to hold and read on a train or airplane, but the mini excels at that. Hopefully Anand is wrong and Apple can figure out a way to get a Retina Display into the mini form factor sometime in 2013. If they do, I think that the mini would actually be the preferred iPad choice overall.

    I had an original Kindle Fire last year, but never used it much and wound up selling it. I think I'll keep the iPad mini, though for now I also think I'll keep the 3rd gen iPad.
    Reply
  • ABR - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    The Mini is all well-and-good for the "carry-it-anywhere-squint-and-peer" crowd, but as someone who mainly uses my iPad on the couch and such around the house, I'd rather have one with a BIGGER display, not smaller. Make it thinner so there's no weight penalty, and with a display about the size of an 8-1/2x11 sheet, or a standard magazine. (Particularly since magazine and other media consumption is a big use.) Reply
  • uhuznaa - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    There's no way to make it thinner or just weight the same with a larger display. The display is a major power consument in tablets, make it larger, brighter or in a higher resolution and it draws *much* more power. Reply
  • PrayForDeath - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Hey Ananad,

    When can we expect to see the iPad 4 review? I'd love to read your in-depth analysis on the new hardware and how it compares to previous generations.
    Reply
  • chleuasme - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Why on your pictures for the comparison of the letter 'e' and the 'topic of the webcast' text, the RGB components of pixels appear vertically aligned on the mini, and horizontally aligned on the iPad 2. And the contrary on the Safari icon comparison on the mini vs the 4? Reply
  • chleuasme - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    And same* thing* on the Safari icon Reply
  • A.T. - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Please some "fanboy" leaves an and staff alone. I think they did a fair comparison, and comment about it. It is foolish to say that is 1 and a half year technology, why don't those fanboy army try to make it and fit the 45nm A5X or A6 with holding 10 hours battery life without make it thicker.

    It is a nice device for reading and easy to carry around but there is a downsize to become a productive tool at work. The price is relatively expensive than other, but the thing is Apple is a company that unlike google and amazon to cut their throat and sell it with no profit because Apple is software and hardware company and Google and amazon is ads and service company.
    Reply
  • pliablemoosethebanned - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    I bought a N7, and use it every day,

    I'll be selling the N7 and replacing it with a mini, will likely wait till it hits the Apple refurb store though.

    Build quality: the iPad mini wins, hands down,

    Form factor: again, a big plus, the thing feels more like an e-reader than a tablet, and the extra screen real estate does make a big difference. 7" is just too small for a great smaller tablet experience.

    Software: Yeah, iOS is due for an overhaul, but frankly, I have never used widgets that much, preferring to use folders to group the actual apps. I tire of widget overload, saw an SGN II the other day with the home screen filled with widgets and it was way too damn busy.

    And as far as the "OMFG, Anand is biased" comments, give it a flipping rest, the man benches the crap out of the latest and greatest on a nearly daily basis, can he be allowed to like something you don't?

    Anand likely cost Apple millions by proving the antenna system on the iP4 was defective, and he has some very strong empirically proven data that the iPad mini is a parts bin device with a screen that lags the industry. Yet the device meets his needs.
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    http://www.displaymate.com/iPad_mini_ShootOut_1.ht...

    It seems the reflections are the worst of its problems, as this tablet is more likely to be used outside
    Reply

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