The Display

The big story behind the new iPad mini is of course its 7.85-inch Retina Display. We’re talking about the same 2048 x 1536 resolution as the iPad Air, but in a much smaller form factor. The result is the highest pixel density of any Apple display ships today, tying with the iPhone 5S. The impact on the overall experience is pretty significant. Text is obviously a lot sharper, but even graphics are a lot nicer to look at on the new Retina Display. The gains aren't quite as obvious as they were on the larger iPad, but after living with the Retina mini for a while I can't easily go back to the previous version.

iPad mini (left) vs. iPad mini with Retina Display (right)

I ran Marco Arment's image retention test on the Retina mini and didn't see even the slightest degree of image retention. My old, non-Retina iPad mini on the other hand exhibited image retention. I suspect Apple is multi-sourcing its displays here, which could obviously contribute to varied behavior. At least on the two minis I have, image retention isn't an issue.

In the conclusion of my iPad Air review I wrote about the new mini as finally being a no-compromises smaller iPad. Much like my assertions last year of a Retina mini not being in the cards, it turns out that I was wrong on this point as well. Although display resolution is no longer a concern on the mini, color gamut hasn’t changed between the old and new minis. A quick look at our gamut test gives us an idea of what’s going on:

The iPad mini with Retina Display has the same color gamut as the standard iPad mini, which is narrower than the iPad Air and less than the sRGB coverage we normally look for. The biggest issue here is that there are other smaller tablets in this price range that do offer sRGB coverage (e.g. Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HDX 8.9).

CalMAN Display Performance - Gamut Average dE 2000

I suspect the justification here is Apple likely views the bigger iPad as being a better fit for photographers/those who care about color reproduction, but it’s a shame that this is a tradeoff that exists between the two iPads especially given how good Apple is about sRGB coverage in nearly all of its other displays.

CalMAN Display Performance - Saturations Average dE 2000

One of the simplest visual tests is to use one of iOS 7’s more colorful wallpapers and compare the Retina mini and iPad Air side by side:

Pay attention to the color of the red triangles in the lower left

From left to right: iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina Display, iPad mini

The difference is small but apparent, particularly if you’re used to panels with full sRGB coverage like the iPad Air or any of the rMBPs/iMacs. The biggest deviations are in reds/blues and magenta in between as you can tell from the CIE chart above.

Within its gamut coverage, the mini’s panel is fairly accurate. A look at our GMB checker test shows performance competitive with the Nexus 7 and not far off the 4th generation iPad. Grayscale reproduction is also quite good. The display looks really good otherwise, but you don’t get the same visual punch you do on the iPad Air.

CalMAN Display Performance - Gretag Macbeth Average dE 2000

CalMAN Display Performance - Grayscale Average dE 2000

CalMAN Display Performance - White Point Average

Compared to the previous generation mini we’re obviously talking about a much better panel. But for those of you on the fence between the mini and Air, the Air does still hold a display advantage.

Black levels are competitive and contrast ratio stays fixed at around 800:1 regardless of whether we’re talking about max brightness or the 200 nits we run all of our battery life tests at. Max brightness is down a bit compared to the iPad Air.

Display Brightness - Black Level

Display Brightness - White Level

Display Contrast Ratio

The SoC & Performance Camera, WiFi & Cellular


View All Comments

  • akdj - Sunday, November 17, 2013 - link

    Sirfergy....YOU were the 'one' that actually bought the Dell. I was wondering...because they sure ain't selling! Lol...that isn't an 'amazing' tablet by any stretch. It's cheaply made, feels like it's cheaply made, lacks any sort of Eco system or app development community, and 16:10 couldn't be a worse format for using in portrait, reading a book, surfing, etc. Anand's comments to wrap it up, mentioning both the Nex7 and the HDx in the article are excellent recommendations if iOS isn't your thing. That Dell is a bad joke. If Windows is hour thing, last year's Surface at a $150 discount (299-349) is a significantly better buy...or, if you can swing the $500, the Surface 2 is a significantly better option that that silly Dell that definitely does NOT boast a 'Full PC plus excellent experience'.
    One other cool thing about the iOS devices, they maintain their value. Like their lap and desktop counterparts, if you decide to upgrade each year, you'll typically recoup 70-80% of the original value. Keep it for two years, you'll grab 50-60/70% of that original purchase price. Try 'giving' away a two year old Dell Windows tablet. You're certainly not going to 'sell' it or recoup any of that original outlay
  • ws3 - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    or because they don't want a Windows 8.1 tablet. Reply
  • Puberticus - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    Who cares about the hardware. I'm only concerned about the ecosystem. Win has none. They have to bribe developers to come up with anything. Reply
  • Cptn_Slo - Sunday, November 17, 2013 - link

    Why you don't want Win8 tablets

    OS more suited for desktop
    Few useful metro apps
    Slower than android/ios on same hardware
    Screen is shit for same price
    OS takes up more space
    Thicker with less battery life @ same price
  • teng029 - Sunday, November 17, 2013 - link

    One should choose anything they purchase based on need. A cheaper tablet doesn't make a better tablet. There are other differences to consider such as the ecosystem. When you buy a car, do you buy the cheapest or do you buy the one that fits your needs? Reply
  • zeagus - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    Or, you know, preference for the iOS experience on a tablet. Reply
  • RadarTheKat - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    Or prior experience with Windows, and Microsoft in general. LOL! Reply
  • socio-statistical - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    Or, maybe they want to run actual tablet software on a tablet, and not have to use it like a laptop. Reply
  • doobydoo - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    Firstly - because the Nexus 7 is pretty much the ONLY alternative that anyone who had done any research would consider, he arguably IS addressing every option.

    But secondly, and most importantly, did you miss the very first line in the comment to which you replied, in which he argues that asking Anand to address every single possibility is stupid?
  • jameskatt - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    If you can't afford an Apple product, you simply aren't a target Apple customer.

    If you care about quality - like the Chinese who make 3% of the world's population but buy 30% of the world's luxury goods - then you buy the iPad mini or iPad air.

    When you love luxury cars, you simply don't buy a Hyundai or Chevy. You buy Mercedes Benz or BMW. If you want to economize, you at least buy a Lexus.

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