Although the iPad mini is well-reviewed and seems to be something of a hint with early adopters, there is at least one complaint: the display isn’t Retina. In fact, not only is it not Retina, it’s actually decidedly lower resolution than even competing 7-inch tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD 7.
How does the display of the iPad mini stack up against the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD in objective terms, though? Not well, although there’s something Apple could do to make things better.
Dr. Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies, pretty much the go-to expert on display technology in this space, has written his conclusions in the iPad mini display shoot-out.
The results aren’t pretty. Pointing out that Apple has become synonymous with providing the best, highest-resolution displays in its mobile devices, Soneira says the iPad mini display bucks that trend, and is, in fact, the worst display of the major 7-inch tablets on the market right now, not just when it comes to resolution, but also when it comes to other issues like screen reflectance and color gamut.
As DisplayMate points out, the reason Apple didn’t opt for a higher-resolution display for the iPad mini was that Apple wanted to keep apps backwards-compatible. Since only two resolutions are supported by iPad aps — 1024 x 768 and 2048 x 1536 — and because 2048 x 1536 displays with a 326 pixels-per-inch resolutions are prohibitively expensive at 7.85-inches, Apple had no choice but to use a lower resolution display panel.
Here’s the thing, though: Retina is all well and good, but its most dramatic effect is on making text super-sharp. Apple has other options for making text sharp besides giving a display more pixels: they can use sub-pixel rendering to improve sharpness. Unfortunately, Apple’s not doing that right now, but if they did — say, in a software update — the iPad mini would immediately become competitive in perceived visual shapness even without a Retina display.
The way text appears on the iPad mini is our biggest complaint about Apple’s latest tablet, especially considering it costs more than a $100 more than competing tablets with much better displays. It’s nice to know that a software update could potentially fix our one major gripe about the iPad mini. It’s otherwise perfect.