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
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  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Top of the summary gives it away:
    "In my first week with the iPad mini, it quickly became the iPad I actually wanted to carry around. The mini's form factor is really where all of the innovation is. It's thin, light and an almost perfect balance of functional screen size and portability. I really love this form factor."

    By specs, the mini is unimpressive. It's using a SOC introduced in early 2011. We've been accustomed to high resolution mini-tablets from B&N, Amazon, Google, etc. It has less memory and costs significantly more (particularly for higher SKUs).

    But, at least for the reviewer, the form factor trumps all these things, at least for purposes of a "carry computer". Thinner and lighter than the 7" tablet comparison, with significantly more usable display space (Android 4.x soft buttons do not help here) in nearly the same frontal area.

    Would it be a better product if it sported an A6X SOC and a retina display? Certainly, on paper. It also likely would need a ~25 Wh battery and substantial increases in both weight and thickness .. same sort of changes from the iPad 2 to iPad 3.

    iPad mini should have been introduced last year when the 32nm SOC was available IMO .. it would have provided a useful bifurcation vs the 3rd gen iPad's bulk gains, and perhaps we'd have an A6 SOC in the iPad mini today.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    not sure how that quote answers Jorange's questions. but that's the internet nowadays. Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Is it? It looks like it's a reply to Greg512. Certainly that's how I intended it.

    But, as you say, that's the internet nowadays.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I doubt Apple could have shipped a 32nm SoC last year in volume. The A5r2 was already the first shipping SoC produced on Samsung's 32nm process, ahead of Samsung's own designs, when it launched on the iPad2,4 in March 2012. And that was only used for low volume test production with the 45nm A5 iPad 2 continuing to be available. Apple prioritizing the iPhone 5 to receive a 32nm SoC first and waiting until now for high volume 32nm production to introduce 32nm iPad Mini, 5th gen iPod Touch, and iPad 4 makes sense. Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Good point.. I thought it had shipped late last year. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    "By specs, the mini is unimpressive."

    GPU performance is still surprisingly good, better than even the newest Android-running hardware. What is it with other companies not keeping up with Apple's older hardware?
    Reply
  • Greg512 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Yea, the GPU is good. But, for the price, the screen, CPU, and RAM are kinda poor. The Mini performs well now, but I question its long-term viability. Reply
  • marvdmartian - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Typical Apple product, that will sell like hotcakes: getting less, paying more, nothing new. Reply
  • drx11 - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    ---------------------------------------------------------
    RE: Not a bad product by marvdmartian on Wednesday, November 21, 2012
    Typical Apple product, that will sell like hotcakes: getting less, paying more, nothing new.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    Typical Fandroid, never sees the forest for the trees.
    Apple is the best and has been so since 2007 - at building SoC.
    Apple is the best at supporting its devices long term.

    Now with iOS 6 - which is mostly supported (not all the features) for an old 3GS phone - you could argue you are getting less - maybe on the older devices (no Siri, Apple Maps is not as good as as Google Maps ... right now... etc..)

    Still iOS 5 is very nice for older things and Android/Google/Moto/Samsung/HTC has rarely updated their "better" hardware at all ... you can blame that on the carriers all you want, but that is also what you are buying.

    Buying more often, spending more time doing something that maybe should just work?

    I know Google is trying (or starting to), but they really have almost no support for the majority (75%+ ) of the devices in their 'ecosystem'. What's the point of better hardware when it runs slower/worse from the start and never gets updated?
    Reply
  • Alucard291 - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    Did you have a joint before you wrote this drivel? Or does your mind work this bad drug free? ^^

    Good SoCs? Are you serious? Just because people work'd the shaft so hard when A6 came out doesn't mean that Cortex A9 based soc is viable coming into 2013.

    Apple is currently behind the curve on both tech processes (28 nm vs 32 nm) and performance (cpu and ram speed but not gpu)

    In case of ipad mini. You get less. (2 year old tech) you pay more (than any competition out there). But somehow we miss the forest for the trees?

    Oh but it supports the amazing dated and feature free ios6! That's great. Except well.. (opinion incoming) I don't like ios. I find it restrictive and boring.

    So your point is?
    Reply

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