Think iPad Mini’s Screen Is Just Like iPad 2? Think Again

Think iPad Mini’s Screen Is Just Like iPad 2? Think Again

That’s the iPad mini on the LEFT. The iPad 2 on the RIGHT. Wait a minute…

A lot of discussion is raging around the iPad mini display, with pundits and tech-savvy consumers alike taking to Twitter, Facebook, and gadget review sites to villify the iPad mini display screen.

With a pixel density of *only* 163 pixels per inch, the iPad mini looks to be, on numbers alone, far lower in resolution than, say, an iPad 4. Which is the truth. But how does that stand up under the microscope? And, since tons of folks are saying the iPad mini is a shrunken-down iPad 2, how do the two screens compare when looked at as closely as possible?

The fine researchers at the Repair Labs blog decided to find out, placing all the currently released iPads, from the first generation to the mini, under the scrutiny of a microscope. What they found may surprise you.

While the first few images are fairly intuitive, showing that the iPad 2 has much bigger pixels than the iPad 3 and the iPad 4, it’s the final image that truly shocks.

While the iPad mini is not a “true Retina display” (a marketing term and not a scientific one), it does in fact have much smaller pixels due to the size of the device itself. This translates to a much crisper image to the human eye.

Even when compared to the iPad 4th generation, the iPad mini holds its own. Says the Repair Blog’s Curtis Taylor, “In fact, the pixels of the Retina Display are only 2/3 the size of the iPad mini. In the older iterations, the pixels of the 4th Gen are ½ the size of the older versions, or .50. Here, they’re a full 16% (.16, since the 4th Gen’s pixels are 1/3 or .66 of the size of the mini) larger in comparison. This means the difference between the two, is less noticeable.” Why? Because the screen is much smaller, and the pixels are packed much more densely as a result.

The final image on the page, then, which is posted at the top of this article, shows the amazing truth: when viewed under the microscope, the iPad mini display has smaller pixels than the “same” resolution on the iPad 2, resulting in a higher pixel density. The iPad 2 screen has 132 pixels per inch. The iPad mini, smooshed into a smaller physical size, has a density of 163 pixels per inch.

So, if you’re on the fence about purchasing an iPad mini simply due to feeling spoiled by the Retina display on your iPhone, iPad 3 or 4, or MacBook pro, you might not be as upset when you’re actually using the mini. Some food for thought, anyway.

Thanks, Chris!

  • CharilaosMulder

    What? How is this surprising? Of course the density is higher if they pack the same amount of pixels in a smaller display. Of course it’s closer to “retina” than the iPad 1 & 2. And then what about this statement:

    “While the first few images are fairly intuitive, showing that the iPad 1 has much bigger pixels than the iPad 2, the iPad 3, and the iPad 4, it’s the final image that truly shocks.”

    Since when does the iPad 1 have much bigger pixels than the iPad 2? I’m impressed any images show this kind of results.

  • m13

    If you are happy with iPhone 2G, 3G, 3GS screen resolution (all are 163 dpi), you will love iPad mini. Me? I will spring for the upgraded version with the same dpi as iPhone 4, 4S and 5. I am betting this time next year.

  • jahsoul

    LOL…honestly, I was waiting for a report like this. I’m not one of the ones on resolution but who didn’t know that the 2 screens were different. One is smaller than the other. Because they both share the same resolution, the ppi on the smaller screen is increased. It will be better than the iPad 2 but pales in comparison to a retina display.

  • buckustoothnail

    Wow, the spin is getting ridiculous. You don’t need a “microscope” to gauge how “big” the pixels are, it’s all in the “pixels per inch”! The iPad Mini is 163 PPI while the iPad 3/4 is 264.

    So the claim of “the pixels of the Retina Display are only 2/3 the size of the iPad mini” is not exactly true, it’s actually closer to 62% of the size, but you could have figured this out from the PPI WITHOUT looking through a microscope.

    This statement is also ignoring the fact that display of the iPad 3/4 is MUCH larger than the iPad Mini, at 9.7″ diagonal vs. 7.9″, and the fact that its pixels are still 62% the size of the iPad Mini is pretty condemning for the Mini.

    And compared to the iPhone 4/5, which is 326 PPI, the pixels of the Retina Display are HALF the size of the iPad Mini’s.

    But the true comparison is the iPad Mini’s display to it’s competition in its class. Compared to the Nook HD, which has 243 PPI, the Mini’s pixels are 49% LARGER. Compared to the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD 7″, which are 216 PPI, the iPad Mini’s pixels are 32% LARGER.

    These are HUGE differences for a 7″ display. Not only that, but all three of the competitors are HD screens, able to display 720P NATIVELY. The iPad Mini screen is NOT HD and is low resolution.

    What’s really damning for the iPad Mini is all three of its competitors are priced $130 LOWER, all have FASTER CPUs and all have MORE RAM.

    This goes to prove that Apple COULD have put a Retina Display in the iPad Mini, that it was NOT a technology reason for not doing so, nor was it a PRICE issue given the competitors are selling for that much less, but it was because Apple PURPOSELY GIMPED the Mini’s display so that it could introduce Retina Display as a “new” FEATURE in iPad Mini 2 so that everyone would feel compelled to “upgrade” again.

    The lack of a Retina Display is nothing to scoff at. Given that all new iPad apps are being developed with Retina Display in mind, the iPad Mini is already obsolete.

  • dcj001

    If you are happy with iPhone 2G, 3G, 3GS screen resolution (all are 163 dpi), you will love iPad mini. Me? I will spring for the upgraded version with the same dpi as iPhone 4, 4S and 5. I am betting this time next year.

    Or, maybe, April!

  • extra_medium

    People act like anything that isn’t retina is going to look like a monochrome apple IIe monitor.

    What people should be more concerned about, IMO is the 2 year old chip and 512k memory in a brand new device costing as much as it does. Yeah it works fine now. But I’m not going to be looking to spend another $500 next year when it won’t run iOS 7.

  • kvndugan

    … how is this not common sense?

  • baby_Twitty

    stupid article by Rob LeFebvre .

    Most us already KNOW that the iPad mini has a shaper display than the iPad 2, with more densely packed pixels. So what is Rob LeFebvre on about?

    Where’s the ‘surprise’??? Where’s the ‘shock’???
    Anyone???

    Does Rob LeFebvre use to think that the iPad mini’s display will have the same pixel size as the iPad 2?
    He must be really out-of-loop to assume so, when most iPad fans would already know that it wouldn’t be the case.

  • baby_Twitty

    … how is this not common sense?

    Because, obviously, the writer lacks some common sense… and he assumes Cult-of-mac readers don’t have it too.

  • Solfeggio

    After playing with the iPad mini and retina iPad at Best Buy, I was truly overwhelmed by the superior quality of the retina. If only Apple had placed a better screen on the mini, it would have created the gadget to rule them all. If only… and since I can’t afford to purchase every incarnation on a whim, I must wait until the next version. Anyone who buys ths now is either a fool unfamiliar with the problem, or a wealthy Apple-phile that willingly suspends his own better reasoning to temporalily allevate existential angst through impulse fashion consumersm. I want to believe too, but it sends the wrong message to Apple to give them a pass on their latest display of artogance as market leaders. it was a greedy move by Apple, and I think the Apple tax is not cute, nor good for the world. I still wonder why Apple does not manufacture in America, but gets away with being a populist brand rather than a yuppy brand. Gone is the hip, irreverent company of “rip, mix, burn” and “think different”, the company that fostered creators and rebels; in its grave dances the new mainstream savvy poseur who fosters shallow suburban consumers. When did the company ethos become fixated only on thinning aluminum bevels at the cost of all other electronic virtues? Where is the Apple of yore, that with a lever large enough, we could move the world? Perhaps they are too busy filming promotional films telegraphing how amazing they are to notice how rapidly they are depleting their prestige and goodwill. Please , Apple, get back to innovating for “the rest of us.”

  • Jay Bitcrushtheoontz Poohead

    iPad mini, eh?

  • Jay Bitcrushtheoontz Poohead

    stupid article by Rob LeFebvre .

    Most us already KNOW that the iPad mini has a shaper display than the iPad 2, with more densely packed pixels. So what is Rob LeFebvre on about?

    Where’s the ‘surprise’??? Where’s the ‘shock’???
    Anyone???

    Does Rob LeFebvre use to think that the iPad mini’s display will have the same pixel size as the iPad 2?
    He must be really out-of-loop to assume so, when most iPad fans would already know that it wouldn’t be the case.

    Wait. You didn’t make it entirely clear. Who wrote this crappy article? I’m so confused! :(

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, Creative Screenwriting, Shelf-Awareness, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef, and send him a cookie once in a while; he'll really appreciate it.

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