The Display: In Numbers

Apple is very big on maintaining a consistent experience between its products. We see this a lot in our Mac reviews where it's not unusual to see similar white points across virtually all Apple products. It's no surprise that the with the move to the Retina Display Apple wanted to retain as much of the original iPad's display characteristics as possible. We'll start with an analysis of brightness and contrast, both of which remain relatively unchanged from the iPad 2:

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

Display Contrast

Apple is expected to have triple sourced panels for the new iPad, so you can expect to see variation in these results but for the most part you can expect the new iPad's display to perform similarly to the previous model.

Despite similar brightness and contrast to the previous model, the new iPad offers remarkably better color gamut and color reproduction than its predecessor. Relative to other tablets, the iPad's display is spectacular.

Display Color Gamut (sRGB)

As we mentioned in our Retina Display analysis, Apple delivered on its claims of a 44% increase in color gamut. The new iPad offers nearly full coverage of the sRGB color space and over 60% of the Adobe RGB gamut:

Display Color Gamut (Adobe RGB)

Below is the CIE diagram for the new panel with an sRGB reference plotted on the same chart so you can visualize the data another way:

Color accuracy has improved tremendously if we look at delta E values for the primary and secondary colors:

Remember from our display reviews, lower delta E values indicate greater color accuracy. Values below 4 are typically considered good and you can see that the iPad 2 as well as the Transformer Prime both fell short in this department. With the new iPad Apple has clearly focused on color accuracy, which makes sense given it was used as the vehicle to introduce iPhoto for iOS.

Apple still has a lot of work ahead of itself to really put forth a professional quality display in a tablet, but for now the Retina Display is easily the best we've seen in a tablet and a tremendous step forward.

What's most absurd about the iPad's Retina Display is that you're able to get this resolution and panel quality in a $499 device. While we must be careful not to give Apple too much credit here as Samsung, Sharp and its other display partners clearly make the Retina Display, it's obvious that Apple has really been pushing its partners to develop solutions like this.

The biggest problem in the production of any commoditized component is the primary motivation for innovation is to lower cost. For years I argued with notebook PC makers to use higher quality LCD panels but no one was willing to commit to the quantities that would lower costs enough. I was also told that as soon as you put these notebooks on shelves at Best Buy, users wouldn't really care whether they were getting a high quality IPS display or not—all that mattered was the final price.

Apple, under the leadership of Steve Jobs, had a different mentality. Steve's pursuit was quality and experience, cost was a secondary concern. Through slow and steady iteration of this approach, Apple was able to build up a large enough customer base and revenue to be a significant force in the industry when it came to driving costs down. Apple can easily fill your fabs and eat all that you can produce, but you'll have to do whatever it wants to get the order.

Apple's behavior since it got rich has been to drive down the cost of higher quality components, LCDs being a perfect example. Unfortunately other companies don't benefit as much here as Apple tends to buy up all of the production of what it has pushed to create. That's one reason why, although ASUS was first to introduce a 1080p Transformer Pad, it won't launch until well after the new iPad. From what I've heard, the panel makers are all busy servicing Apple's needs—everyone else comes second.

Eventually the entire industry will benefit and all indications point to Apple doing something special for "pro" users in the notebook space next. As I've said previously, Apple has raised the bar with the iPad's Retina Display. The time for average display quality in a $500 tablet is over, the bar has been raised. It remains to be seen whether or not Apple will be able to maintain this quality across all suppliers of its Retina Display. On the iPhone Apple has been entirely too lax about maintaining consistency between suppliers. If it wants to be taken seriously in this space Apple needs to ensure a consistent experience across all of its component vendors.

The Display & Retina Enabled Apps The Display: In Practice
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  • zanon - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    In the article:
    Alternatively, we're used to a higher resolution enabling us to see more on a screen at one time. In the case of the new iPad, the higher resolution just makes things look sharper.

    The higher resolution does make smaller fonts readable. For something like an SSH session, that really will mean significantly more stuff can be on a screen at once.
    Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    A more useful change would be abandoning the ridiculous glossy screens. It's sad that Apple takes its cues from the plastic schlock being peddled at Best Buy, and participates in this fraud of shoving glossy screens down customers' throats. Reply
  • repoman27 - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    The plastic schlock at Best Buy has a glossy plastic film applied to a cheap TN panel. Apple puts a piece of glass in front of their much more expensive IPS panels to protect them. The only way to make that glass (or the glass of the LCD panel itself) matte would be to apply an antiglare plastic film coating to the glass. These films have drawbacks (they block and scatter light making small details and text blurry.) The drawbacks become more exaggerated the farther the front surface of the glass is from the plane of the actual LCD.

    But you're right, it's probably Apple copying the design language of sub $500 laptops in order to somehow defraud the general public and force their customers to buy the products they actually produce.

    And seeing as how this discussion is about the new iPad screen, I'd like to point out that you're complaining about the lack of an antiglare coating on a touchscreen device... Strong work.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    How is it fraud? Apple isn't, like, saying their screens are anti-reflective and then giving you totally reflective glossy screens.

    Many people prefer a glossy screen and simply aren't bothered by background reflections.

    ;)
    Reply
  • Henk Poley - Monday, April 2, 2012 - link

    Yes, Apple really should use Schott Conturan/Amiran/Mirogard antireflective technology.

    btw, not-glossy does not mean matte. Air is not matte either. Glass can be see-through too ;)
    Reply
  • Watwatwat - Monday, April 2, 2012 - link

    Nope, steve gibson has tested even using screen protectors on the new ipad vs not, it seems to affect the resolution at that level, matte might not be a good idea at all for high density display. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    I wasn't initially blown away, but then after a day of using it every other display seemed bad in comparison. It is one of those things you didn't realize was needed until using it, now I want very high DPI in all of my monitors. Reply
  • menting - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Is it just me, or do Shadowgun and GTA screenshots look more detailed in Transformer Prime than in the iPad? Reply
  • menting - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    nm..i just noticed that it's scaled up in new ipad, so it's definitely not as sharp.
    However, how can fps be fairly compared in this case then?
    Reply
  • TheJian - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Basically because of the way Nvidia and Apple approach games so far, you can expect games on Tegra3 to just look better as they seem to aim for more graphics and fewer games (they spend money on fewer projects that produce better results), as opposed to apple who spreads the wealth but just ends up with more cannon fodder if you ask me :) You should get more variety on Apple I'd guess, but a better experience with fewer choices on Tegra3/Android. I like QUALITY over QUANTITY personally and hope Apple leans the way of Nvidia in the future. I would rather have 10 games that I'd play for weeks or months (if I'm playing on my hdtv through one of these I want better water, buildings etc) rather than games I fire up for less than 20 minutes as their just another angry birds variant and arguably useless on your TV.

    I want these devices to KILL the consoles next year and make MS/Nintendo etc give it up in 2015 or whenever the next revs should come. I hope they just realize we won't buy them anymore. DirectX11 on my phone/tablet and probably standard 25x14 resolutions by then (won't all be retina by 2015?) make a console purchase STUPID. This could be the merging of console/pc we need since phones/tablets rev yearly like pc's instead of 10yr console's stuck in stone stagnating gaming. Your phone as a portable console with xbox/ps3/pc gamepad support would be excellent. Pump it out to a monitor and keyboard/mouse setup and you have a notebook replacement too...LOL Now if they'd just put in a few extra cores by then that will disable if on their own screen but turn on when on a larger display like TV/Monitor and we have exactly what we want in both cases :)

    Pipe dreams? Retina is here now, and gamepads sort of. Next stop cores that only turn on depending on display output :) Awesome battery on the road, and great power in the dock at home pushing your 27in monitor. :) The 28nm versions by xmas of everyone's chips should come close to console power or surpass them. Interesting times.
    Reply

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