The iPad mini Display: “Pixel Perfect” vs. “Pixel Poor”

| Analysis

Apple’s iPad mini was for many consumers the highlight of Apple’s product launch event on Tuesday. During its unveiling, Apple executive Phil Schiller dedicated several minutes comparing the new iDevice’s display to that of a rival tablet, the Google Nexus 7.

Mr. Schiller pointed out that both software and hardware choices in the design of the iPad mini allowed it to display significantly more web and app content than its competitor at any given time.

iPad Mini Nexus 7 Comparison Schiller

Some initially suggested that any display size comparison between the two devices is unfair. Apple designed the iPad mini with a 7.9-inch 4:3 aspect ratio display, which is noticeably larger than a true 7-inch 16:10 aspect ratio device, like the Nexus 7. “I’d be curious to hear what [Mr. Schiller] thinks of the difference between the iPhone 5’s 4-inch screen and, say, the 4.8-inch display on Samsung’s Galaxy S3. And what about the even larger Galaxy Note 2? Would those differences not be considered gigantic, too?” CNET’s Scott Webster wrote Tuesday.

Another factor that makes a direct comparison between an iPad mini and competing tablets in the roughly seven-inch screen size category unfair is the resolution difference, although this time Apple has an uncharacteristic disadvantage in this area.

For reasons of both cost and compatibility (apps designed for the first and second generation iPads will work at native resolution on the iPad mini’s display), Apple equipped the mini with a 1,024-by–768 resolution. This resolution will appear much sharper than an iPad 2 due to the tighter pixel density, but it still falls short of other tablets in the 7-inch product category.

The Nexus 7 that Mr. Schiller argued offers an inferior experience to the iPad mini has a 1,280-by–800 resolution on less overall screen area. The Kindle Fire HD shares the same screen size and resolution as the Nexus 7.

The Nook HD, released in September, goes further with a 1,440-by–900 7-inch display, which Barnes & Noble labels as the “lightest, highest resolution 7-inch tablet.”

These relative screen resolutions can be visually compared in a graphic released Wednesday by TechNewsDaily.

iPad Mini Tablet Comparison Nexus 7 Nook HD

The iPad mini does offer a larger overall screen area when compared to tablets like the Nexus 7, but it cannot meet its competitors in the area of resolution. While Mr. Schiller’s demonstration was an accurate reflection of current software in the Android ecosystem, the greater resolution of the competing Android tablets gives developers on those platforms the opportunity to modify their software to produce sharper images and improve the user interface layout.

At the relatively small size of the iPad mini, however, many users may not care about the higher pixel density of other tablets. The allure of the Apple ecosystem may also overcome customer doubts about screen resolution, even if that ecosystem commands a $100 price premium.

Finally, as Apple competitors reminded the market after the iPad gained a Retina display earlier this year, resolution is not the only factor in judging a display’s quality. Color accuracy, something at which Apple has recently excelled, also plays a critical role.

Like many Apple products throughout the company’s history, the iPad mini does not boast the latest and greatest hardware components and, from a purely hardware point of view, the cost of the device is questionable. As has frequently occurred, however, the overall hardware, software, and services experience that users can obtain with the iPad mini will still draw many customers, even at its higher price point.

Apple’s competitors built the 7-inch tablet market but Apple has raised the stakes. It’s now up to the product category’s pioneers to respond and, either way, it’s a safe bet that users of all platforms will be better for the competition.

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For the 32Gb version
iPad Mini $429
iPad $599

For the 64Gb version
iPad Mini $529
iPad $699

As with most choices there are pluses and minuses for each The iPad Mini is smaller and lighter and less expensive. The iPad is more expensive but has a better screen and processor and sensors and such. Aside from having to carry a larger device and pay more it’s better in every way. Then notice that the price for the iPad is only 28% higher than the Mini for the 32Gb version (429/599) but only 24% for the 64Gb version (529/699). With the prices that close and the iPad clearly the better system I don’t see a reason to go with the Mini. The larger device will fit in my pack with no problem.

Now if the Mini was less expensive, say $275 and $375 the difference would be in the 50% range. Then I might go for one.


I just went and watched the keynote video to be able to respond to this article.

The iPad mini looks a whole lot more like a Star Trek PADD.  I might have to buy one just for that. grin

The screen size comparisons, I think they are basically saying that the 4:3 ratio is better than 16:9 for web browsing.  In portrait mode you get a wider space so the web page can be zoomed in a bit more to be more readable while showing the full width of the page.  In landscape mode you get much more length of the page so you can see more than just the web site’s header graphic.

They did have lots of comments about software.  One, Android has more on-screen controls eating up space that could be used for the web site.  Two, Android apps tend to be scaled-up phone apps instead of customized tablet apps.  Both of those are addressable, but right now this is a huge advantage to Apple’s ecosystem.  As the article stated, it’s not just hardware but also the ecosystem that customers buy into.


Schiller wasn’t making the argument that bigger is always better. Apple has argued that a phone should fit comfortably in one’s hand and that a person should be able to operate it with one hand. If Apple is correct, the Galaxy S3 is to big to fit within Apple’s objective. Big in relation to usability is what Apple is shooting for.

With tablets, Apple is also arguing the tablet should be a one hand experience. So , the goal here is the same. Give as much screen space as possible while keeping the device in one’s hands.

Schillers argument works.

Resolution shouldn’t be a factor considering Apple is still selling the iPad 2, and the Mini will look noticeably better.


Geoduck, it all goes to needs and uses. I have the iPad v3 64Gb and it is becoming my main event. However, when I am out about town and want to be able to access certain files, apps, music and books, with no intent on video, it could be perfect. When I do choose to update, I must first see how it fits my jacket pocket and what the reading experience is; fit, weight and eye comfort are key.
I was planning on a replacement for my iPt v2 and now for a few dollars more I could get the iPm. If I were in the market for a first tablet, it wouldn’t be my first choice. If I were dollar constrained and had no iPad, the iPt 32GB would probably be my choice. I suspect Apple now has most options covered with this new member.

As an aside, my five year old MB is on its last legs. I will be replacing it with the new Mac Mini. This will service my Apple tv and any work that I cannot do on my iPad. The iPt will do for a while longer. I don’t like buying Apple’s first ventures. Apple has certainly hit my sweet spots this week.
Darn it, Webjpram, Star Trek allusion: another point in favour of the iPm. So much complication.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@webjprgm: The ornamentation in the Chrome browser on Android scrolls away as your scroll the page. If you like, you can download Firefox for Android that is a real Firefox browser and supports a full screen mode with an easily added “add-on”.

It’s only a minor mistake that Apple invited scrutiny with the comparisons. The major mistake was that they gave the Nexus 7 the time of day. Google’s event is next week, and you can bet they’ll be updating their comparisons to include the iPad mini. FYI, a 3G HSPA+ version of the Nexus 7 just made its way through the FCC. Expect its price point to be at or below the WiFi iPad mini.

Buckus Toothnail

“At the relatively small size of the iPad mini, however, many users may not care about the higher pixel density of other tablets.”

This is the kind of spin that I think needs to be left out of articles on this website so not to appear to treat your audience like idiots.

If pixel density isn’t an issue on a 7.9” device, then why did Apple and the iPhone community make such a big fuss about the Retina Display on the 3.5” iPhone 4S and 4” iPhone 5?

Like the saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  EIther PPI is important or it’s not.  Obviously it is important, even for a 3.5” display, so for 7.9” it’s absolutely HUGE. For those of us that are used to the Retina Display, the iPad Mini does look low-res.

The think we can safely say that Apple made a deliberate choice not to include a Retina Display on the first-gen iPad Mini so that they can offer it as a “new feature” on iPad Mini 2, perhaps 6 months from now.

With the competition all offering “Retina”-type displays, this wasn’t a technology issue and certainly not a cost issue either when all the competitors are selling for $130 less per unit.

It’s the same thing when the original iPad was released with no cameras and iPad 2 was released with awful cameras that were years obsolete. I mean seriously, 0.7 MP back camera? My phone from 8 years ago had that.

The fact that the iPad 3 still had a 0.3 MP (VGA 640x480) camera despite being released just 7 months ago is another example how Apple was purposely holding back on the technology, and not surprisingly, one of the touted “new features” of the iPad 4 is the 1.2 MP front camera.

The iPad Mini is interesting, but I definitely would wait for at least the next generation iPad Mini 2 with the Retina Display. With all the new apps written for Retina, the Mini is already obsolete in my view.


Should be mentioned that the Nexus 7 has a pentile display using two subpixels per pixel, compared to RGB displays that everyone else is using with three subpixels. That’s why the display isn’t as good as you would expect based on the number of pixels. The iPad Mini actually has 15% more sub pixels.


I think Apple missed an opportunity by pricing the thing so high.  One reason the iPad remained so dominant is that the first competing Androids cost as much or more than the iPad.  If the iPad mini had been priced at $250, it would have been game over.  I think Apple left too much room for Google.  I sold my iPad2 (for $350) 3 months ago and was expecting to order an iPad mini.  Now I have to consider Nexus 7 because of the price.  I have settled for an Android prepaid phone because of cost; now I will likely settle for Android tablet for the same reason.  Will I be the only one?  I think Apple got greedy.


The Apple envy either don’t or refuse to understand the matrix.
Android and Google are in competition with each other. Google has its hair in a knot with Amazon forking with its OS. Their scenario and expectation are different from Apple’s. Apple is not in competition with two sellers who are making no profits from their equipment and whose tablets are bland experiences meant to sell adverts and bargains. The interesting reality is that neither publish their sale numbers and, from estimates from many analysts, their products are not selling well in the very few markets the hack-togethers are offered.
Apple doesn’t see these tablets as competition and the only ones who use these lame products as examples of Apple’s demise are confused Apple obsessors. When it comes to predictions, nonsense never wins. In short, the iPm is another Apple gem in a market full of pickles.
And that’s my rant for the day.

Akshay Walunjkar

Ipad mini..when come in india?


I guess I haven’t read such unique material anywhere else online.
The quality of your articles and contents is great.

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