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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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    That's not exactly true, the iPad mini was launched nearly a month ago, our review of it is very late. In the interim I have published articles on Intel's SSD DC S3700, Microsoft's Surface, the Titan Supercomputer at ORNL and Samsung's Cortex A15 based Chromebook.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Alucard291 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    No offence but you could have just said - "same soc as ipad 2. Same display as ipad 2 except smaller so pixels are slightly denser Its lighter than ipad 2 and has the same form factor but smaller."

    There I wrote the review for you.

    Instead you guys put out this monster - showing tests? Of the same soc? Again?

    Well one more review site feels the need to get some apple advertisement revenue.

    And I approve how you compared it to mini cooper. Yeah great comparison especially since mini cooper is a car for people who can't afford a decent one but really want to seem cool...

    So yeah. What makes this product great is the apple logo on the back. As usual.
    Reply
  • Jakers Ugly Brother - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    It would be so nice to read one single tech thread without running into a paranoid "Oh noes another site has sold out to Apple" screed like yours.

    But no, you haters have to spread your sick, sad bile across everything you see.

    Thanks for lowering the signal to noise ratio of yet another comment section.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Anandtech's Microsoft Surface review was up 3 days before the device was on sale and their Windows RT review was up the day before it shipped. The iPad Mini review comes 18 days after the tablet went on sale and they aren't or haven't yet done an iPad 4 (18+ days) or 5th gen iPod Touch (36+ days) review. From this you conclude that Apple reviews get done right away and Microsoft reviews take forever?

    Ryan already explained why they aren't doing a massive review for Windows 8 and are doing more focused articles instead, which doesn't seem unreasonable.
    Reply
  • blacksamurai30 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    I don't see the reasoning behind your dissapointment. I've been reading for years (despite my only just making an account haha); they are easily the most informative on the internet. The crew here does stellar indepth reviews for pretty much everything. Don't use your own personal misgivings against Apple in an attempt to discredit the hard work that goes into reviewing these products, or the invaluable service it does for the internet and consumer knowledge.

    Keep up the good work Anandtech!
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Wow, honest mistake, let me reshoot that real quick. I shot that before I left for SC12 and didn't catch it in my final assembly of the article today.

    If anything, the photo I posted is contrary to the point I make in the text above. Things are bigger on the iPad compared to the Nexus 7.

    Give me a few and I'll get a better photo up.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Kepe - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    The same thing happened in two pictures. On pages 4 and 11, although that's the same image file.

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/tablets/apple/...
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Fixed in both places. Thank you! Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    and now you have to update the tags..

    for example. the last page, ipad mini is actually on the right. i am sure no one would mistaken those two, but still.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Fixed. The black mini wasn't mine so I no longer had that for comparison, had to use the white model for this shot - but I hope this better shows the difference. I also exported the full size shots at 2800px wide if you want to get a better, up-close look between the N7 and iPad mini.

    I included two shots on the display page, but here's a link to all 4 I just took:

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/tablets/apple/...
    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/tablets/apple/...
    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/tablets/apple/...
    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/tablets/apple/...

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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