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

  • Rogess - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    Last time I checked China had a population bigger than 1.3 billion. That would account for roughly 18% of the world's population.

    I agree with your metaphor about luxury cars, however. It's a known fact that you pay premium for an Apple product because it is an luxury item. Often you get the same functionality at a minor price point (just like in the car market). But everyone can decide for themselves if the added bonus like brandname or reliability is worth the price difference.
  • MarcSP - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    I think he ment the rich chinese, not all of them, but yes, it is not so clear, and I would like to konw the source of that info, hehe. Reply
  • sebas4096 - Thursday, December 12, 2013 - link

    you only need to check who are the strong buyers: mostly teens but anybody who think apple is like BMW is not ready to discuss like a grown up .BMW builds/design cars in a entire difrent way as mainstream car manufacturers ,

    justifying the high prices of apple comparing to BMW is insulting cos is a 12year old argument,BMW uses a diffrent technology and materials as well highly trained workers if apple would be doing the same thing the devices would not be manufactured like chicken wings in a chinese factory, i just cant believe somebody older than 20 is using BMW-apple analogy maybe because they dont know what is like to own a bmw, people just buy apple cos is trendy ...products in the same park as BMW dont have the problems as apple period ,neither use deceiving marketing strategies to sell..the antenna problem, scuffgate ,just a joke, apple is the starbucks of gadgets name a problem with defective materials in BMW,audi.. apple will never have the same quality as BMW they will never ship a product being aware is faulty like iphone 5 ,macbooks that crack by itself .rich people just buy it cos they now not many people will get it mostly fans will keep dreaming with delusional europeans cars methaphors while they will never have a bmw but they will buy apple BIG LOL
  • bplewis24 - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    I care about quality, which is one of the reasons I buy Android. Reply
  • darkcrayon - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    There's a specific "Android" brand that denotes quality? Reply
  • Cptn_Slo - Sunday, November 17, 2013 - link

    He must mean samsung,

    oh wait...
  • zeagus - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    HTC stands alone there I think. Reply
  • sebas4096 - Thursday, December 12, 2013 - link

    like this" , never have seen a bmw with this problem, neither audi or ferrari

    sorry but scuffgate technology cant be copied only steve knows
  • zeagus - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    Hahahhaahaa... Reply
  • RadarTheKat - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    Plus the mini has a larger display than the Nexus 7. That makes a big difference if you've held them side by side. Reply

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