The iPad mini is the first iOS device without a Retina display to be introduced by Apple since the introduction of iPad 2 in spring 2011. The iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 are all Retina devices, as well as the iPod touch 4 and touch 5. There are a lot of technical reasons why the company has decided not to mount a Retina display on the mini: lighting, power and the payment of a 2048 x 1536 panel, which would have resulted in a considerably thicker, heavier and more expensive tablet. But what is the real difference?
For some people the non-inclusion of a Retina display in a 2012 device is a break with innovation. For others, the inclusion of a Retina display in the mini was ridiculous. And others want the Retina display anyway and can’t live without it. Everything is relative and everyone has their priorities.
Anyone who has been using an iPhone 4S or 5 or iPad 3 for a few months will notice that the pixels are like thick sandpaper to your eyes. However, if you’re using the second version of the tablet, as I am, you’ll think the mini is a step up from Apple. You have to choose between screen performance or portability .
However, screen density is a real thing. It can be measured and compared. What is most important to you? Is the Retina screen a priority for you? It’s something you should consider.
So let’s try to analyze this screen density with a macro lens. First, the Safari icon. From left to right, iPad 2 at 132 dpi, mini at 163 dpi, 4 at 264 dpi, and finally iPhone 5 at 326 dpi.
Obviously, the iPad 2 has the largest and easiest pixel-perceptions, and the iPhone 5 has the least. The mini, while better than the iPad 2, is close enough that it looks about the same. Likewise, the 4 isn’t as good as the iPhone 5, but it’s good enough not to notice much of a difference.
Here you have some text and web graphics, the order of the devices is the same.
Here you have a text from iBooks, once again, the same order of devices (although they are not images from the same book) .
And here are some iBooks graphics, just to highlight the difference between the iPad mini (top) , the iPhone 4 (middle) and the iPhone 5 (bottom) .
Personally, I think that the small text is the one where you can see the most difference and the one that is more difficult to read on the iPad mini. While it’s denser than iPad 2, it’s also smaller. Going from a 3 or 4, and especially from an iPod touch 5 or an iPhone 5, to a mini is not as bad as going to an iPad 2, but it’s close. Switching from iPad 2 to mini is a small upgrade in terms of display, just like switching from a 3GS or an iPod touch 3, which have identical density but not nearly as good color or panel quality.
Fast moving videos and video games are maintained with a good level across the entire range of devices , it is only based on perception and movement. So, if your main use is this, you will hardly notice any difference.
In summary, the lack of Retina display in the mini is noticeable , and a lot. Even more so when you’ve been using an iPad 3 for a while. If that’s the case with you, it can get annoying. But the compact size, slimness, and especially lightness are important enough to support the lack of a Retina display for now.
Apple has had to give up the Retina display in order to make the iPad lighter, thinner, smaller and less expensive. For those of you coming from an iPad 2, the mini model is an upgrade in every way. For those who don’t care about screen density, you won’t even notice.
What do you think? Is the Retina screen a decisive factor for you?
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