iPad Mini Display Scores Lower Than Other Tablets
November 7, 2012

iPad Mini Display Scores Lower Than Google Nexus 7, Still A Great Tablet

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

In the days and weeks leading up to the unveiling of the iPad mini, many were split on what features and specs this new, smaller tablet would deliver. The consensus seemed pretty fairly split between a $249 and a $299 price tag, the addition or omission of LTE and, most notably, Retina or no Retina display. Some, this writer included, assumed Apple would be making a mistake to release a new product without their top of the market, high-resolution display. Others felt that Apple would stick with tradition and wait a few iterations before bestowing Retina on the mini like a sort of badge of honor.

These questions and more were answered when Schiller took the stage and showed off the new mini, part iPhone, part iPad 2, part iPod Touch, all Apple.

And while we´ve known since that day that Apple´s new 7.9-inch screen probably wouldn´t outperform other tablets on the market, (Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7) it hadn´t been until the reviews are in and these devices have been in the public´s hands that we´ve been able to measure just how much better these other displays are.

And measure them they have. The folks at Display Mate have put the screens of the Fire HD, Nexus 7 and iPad mini through some scrutinizing procedures and have found that, in general, the mini lags behind these other tablets when it comes to its display.

The iPad mini is like the iPad 2 in a few ways: Particularly, the screen resolution. At 1024-by-768, the iPad 2 has a pixel density of 132 ppi, or pixels per inch. One noticeable difference between the 2 devices, of course, is the 7.9-inch screen. So, with the same resolution, the pixel density is increased in a smaller screen. Simple math, no? Therefore, the iPad mini clocks in with only a marginally higher ppi of 163. By comparison, Apple´s iPad Retinas register more than 100 pixels per inch at 264. The Kindle Fire, Fire HD and Nexus 7 all score higher on this scale, at 169 ppi for the original Fire and 216 for both the Fire HD and the Nexus 7.

“While screen Resolution gets lots of attention from both consumers and marketers — it´s really only critical for providing visually sharp text — but that applies for most applications running on a Tablet,” reads the Display Mate report.

“The $199 Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 both have considerably sharper displays with 216 Pixels Per Inch, and they both delivered considerably sharper text.”

More than just raw numbers, a screen must simply “feel good” in order for a consumer to choose it over a rival. Part of what makes a screen feel good is the amount of colors it can display in the color gamut. The iPad 2 and iPhone 4, for instance, display 61 and 64 percent of the color gamut, according to Display Mate. On the other end, the new iPad Proper and iPhone 5 have amazing displays which show 100% of the color gamut. The iPad mini, however, displays somewhere in between the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 at only 62% of the color gamut. Both the Fire HD and Nexus 7 are able to show many more colors on their display, at 86% of the color gamut.

While the mini may not be able to display as many colors as its rivals, it does display them in a more accurate way with a screen calibration that nears its larger cousin.

In conclusion, the Display Mate report scores the iPad mini low in the way of reflectivity and color gamut and assumes, like many others, that Apple chose this screen in order to reach a lower price point. This price point, of course, is still much higher than many thought the new mini should start. When compared to the Fire, Fire HD and Nexus 7, it appears as if the mini largely remains their equal, albeit with a lesser display.

The same result is found in other reviews. For instance, in the AppleInsider review, Daniel Eran Dilger writes: ““¦while the iPad mini doesn't have the razor sharp, "electronic glossy magazine" appearance of the Retina display iPad, it's also noticeably less pixelated looking than the original iPad.”

Jacqui Cheng with Ars Technica admits that the lack of Retina wasn´t so noticeable when surfing the web or using the mini for any other general use. The issue came when reading text: “The lack of text smoothness, and occasional jagged edges, are just annoying enough to constantly pop out at you even after long periods of use. It may actually be the single limiting factor for many potential buyers.”

Finally, after reading several reviews, Tim Stevens at Engadget may have put it best when he said: “Mini owners may have to make do with some resolution envy, but they at least won't be lacking in any other regard.”

While it may be easy to posit that the lesser screen resolution and higher price tag may work to keep buyers away from these devices this holiday season, opening weekend sales of only the Wi-Fi models of these devices proved strong, selling 3 million in just 3 days.

It does seem curious, however, that Apple would choose to put in a lesser display in the name of saving money only to charge more than many thought they would, per Amazon´s charges against the device.

According to the AppleInsider review, the decision to not invite the mini to the Retina party came down to more than just cost: It would have bulked up the device as well. As one of the main selling points of this device is hold-ability and portability, (rightfully so) it´s likely Apple saw this as a worthy trade-off. Rather than make a device with a better screen and a thicker measurement, Apple chose a lesser display and extreme ease of handling and use. While screen resolution and price are huge strikes against Apple, they do have one, slightly larger mark in their favor: The iPad.

It´s the iPad heritage and spirit which makes Apple believe the mini will be a best seller this holiday season and beyond, and it´s likely they´re correct.