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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  • menevets - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I own an iPad and debated between the Mini and the Nexus 7. I went with the Nexus 7.

    Without rooting, I can copy files from camera to external hard drive without resorting to wifi or buying anything extra. GPS, turn by turn voice navigation, offline maps, easy integration with Google tools like Mail, Picasa Web, YouTube, etc... I can see why someone would want a wider screen, but the narrower N7 can fit in more pockets and make for easier holding on the train. And in general, there is much more detail in settings.

    The N7 is sorely missing a rear facing camera. I like to photograph articles, documents, basically text. The 1.2 megapixel front facing camera is not enough to capture text clearly. The build quality is a little suspect, for example, the screen lifting problem.

    Jelly Bean, in general, may be more buttery smooth than its predecessors, but it is much easier navigating iOS, selecting text, scrolling, etc... iOS is much more responsive.

    Obviously iOS app selection is better, but I notice that Android equivalent apps are not as good. For example, the Kindle app on iOS, when you highlight a word on the bottom of the screen, the definition appears on the top, which allows you to alter the highlighting selection. The Android version, the definition covers the bottom so you can't change the highlighting selection. I noticed other instances of how the iOS app works better than its Android equivalent. Dropbox, Evernote for example.

    Google Play has a limited selection of movies and tv shows compared to iTunes/Amazon.

    So my use case for the big iPad is reading music scores from the piano, reading books with complex formatting, reading novels at home - fewer page turns, videos and apps I can't get on Android. The N7 for everything else.

    So the above N7 drawbacks for me are well worth the $130 savings.. Hope this helps others in their decision.
    Reply
  • Rodney McKay - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I went to an Apple store today (Black Friday) planning to buy a 4th-gen iPad on sale. Though I hadn't yet seen a mini, I dismissed it out of hand because I "wanted a retina display". It happened that there was a mini next to a iPad 4 on display, so I compared them. The resolution difference wasn't really obvious to me (after all, the mini has a higher pixel density than the iPad 2), and in reading text (web pages, for example) I felt no clear preference. The mini's display was somewhat yellower/warmer than the 4's, which I didn't much care for. However, I opened Apple Maps on both, and was shocked to see that that the mini had a MUCH clearer display than the 4. On the mini, the smallest streets were clear at the zoom level where they appeared, but on the 4 they were so washed out as to be almost invisible. And in pretty much every other respect, the mini's Maps display looked better. I spent half an hour mucking with brightness and zoom levels trying to equalize the displays for a fair test, but no matter what I did the mini display was dramatically better.

    So, I tried an iPad 2 next to a 4, and got exactly the same results. The 2's display looked very much like the mini's (albeit larger), with map details much clearer than on the 4 (a *different* 4 from the one I compared to the mini, so this wasn't just a sample glitch with that particular iPad). I called over a store rep and showed him my results. He said "Hmm... but the Retina Display is better on things like photos and videos. Watch..." and he brought up the same sample image on both. We were both surprised to see that the image on the 2 was again dramatically nicer (less washed out, in particular) than on the 4, and at that point I realized that the real difference is that the 4's display has rather poor contrast (for which there is no adjustment), which would account for all the differences I observed.

    I very much prefer the Retina Display on my iPhone 4s (and my wife's 5) over the previous ones, but on the iPads it seems to be significantly flawed (at least with the two samples I tried). I left the store with an iPad mini, even though it was the only iPad not on sale today.

    I have a feeling that iPad reviewers haven't really been doing side-by-side comparisons between models. I dread the day when the iPad mini gets "upgraded" with a Retina Display--maybe I'll stock up on them now.
    Reply
  • SanX - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    ROTFL go to the eye doctor
    usually only technical illiterates or salespeople having merchant interest write such bs
    Reply
  • miatadan - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    I had the iPad 2 for a while and sold it as too large to take it with me daily. I purchased the wifi 32GB black model.
    It is the apps available for iOS that make the iPads attractive. I use n-Stream for Naim network player, use it as remote with Logitech app. Skype works well, Textplus for free texting nice.

    I tried Rim blackberry playbook, liked actual hardware but no apps I could use....

    Even with Targus case Mini iPad fits inside pocket of winter jacket when walking, hopefully once summer comes around I find summer jacket with large enough inside pocket.

    Regular iPads at work feel heavy now compared to Mini, so I agree with Anand.
    Reply
  • SanX - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    You wrote "It pains me to say it, but compared to most similarly priced notebooks, the iPad mini's display is amazing."

    Should be "It pains me to say it, but compared to most similarly priced notebooks, the iPad mini's display is amazing trash. I really do not know what's went wrong with Apple and in which city dump near Cupertino they found such display"
    Reply
  • jameskatt - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    The problem of going the Full Retina Display Route is that that is an even ultra higher resolution than the iPad 3-4. And the battery and GPU needed would make it heavier, larger, and more expensive. This is thus not the route.

    Apple can more easily make the iPad Mini like the iPhone 5: increasing the vertical resolution and not forcing existing apps to rerender. They just keep working as before but with letter-boxing. This solution would increase the resolution so it is Retina-like and would work with existing apps.
    Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    Another idiotic glossy screen. Reply
  • iSee - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    These are also all reasons the iPad and iPhone can't have retina displays.
    Hm.
    Reply
  • Alex Veit - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    If you give someone $5 they will ask "why didn't you give me" $10.
    Just the fact that most applications that a few years ago could only be performed on a desktop or laptop are now being implemented in handheld devices is freaking awesome!!
    who cares about the minor dimension differences in between the devices.

    By the way, if you own an iPad and you want to get the most out of it http://d7a79zq53j51xd1830fjvzkexx.hop.clickbank.ne...">Click
    here to get some awesome stuff.
    Reply
  • EarthCore - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    AnandTech "unbiased" tests always seem to be skewed toward Apple. The Nexus 7 can easily get 13+ hours runtime looping a 720p movie:

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2...
    Reply

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