iPad mini Retina Display Fuss: Shoppers Won’t Even Blink

| Editorial

A kerfuffle has been artificially created about how the iPad mini Retina doesn't have the full sRGB color gamut of the iPad Air. Think of it as a group nerdgasm, another chance to criticize Apple. The fact is, shoppers aren't even going to blink. The iPad mini Retina will fly off the shelves -- given what supply there is.


What seems to have started the fuss was a very favorable review of the iPad mini Retina by Anand Lal Shimpi at the highly regarded AnandTech site. In the display section, it was noted: "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."

Despite that, in a series of standard display performance tests with graphs, the iPad mini Retina performs better in every test than the former iPad mini.


One has to recognize that the buyer of an iPad mini Retina is looking for some very specific features, and these always involve engineering trades. The Apple customers have longed for a Retina-class display on this beloved model of the iPad, thanks to its convenient size and low weight.

Neither do they want to sacrifice battery life, even though there are four times the pixels. These are real, quantitative features that will get asked about when the customers walk into the Apple stores. No customer, except those nerds to who spend too much time reading esoteric technical websites, is going say this to an Apple salesman:

I am on the fence about this new iPad mini Retina because is only has 63 percent of the sRGB color gamut of the iPad Air. Maybe I should get a Nexus 7.

That's ridiculous, and that technical fact serves only to affirm that in these state-of-the-art devices, there are many engineering trades to be made -- along with some competitive issues. Apple has to consider:

  • Current production capacity of partner suppliers and ability to meet Apple's quality standards.
  • Display cost
  • Display brightness
  • Display power consumption
  • Display roadmap. (What to bet on for the future and when -- considering the production capacity and ramp of suppliers to a next generation technology.)

While it's desirable for the iPad line to be the best in every category, the reality is that for an estimated sales volume, which will be high, there are always engineering trades.

Unit Sales Dictates

After all, Apple expects to sell many, many more iPad Airs and minis compared to Amazon and Google, so the company has to go with a display that meets its needs in terms of production volume, energy draw and so on. In other words, competitors who are in second place in unit sales have the luxury of focusing on extreme technical issues in smaller volumes. It's what they can hang their hat on in advertising. (Not to mention that Amazon doesn't generally think in terms of making any money while Apple does - and faces pressure from analysts on margins.)

There is no doubt that Apple will sell every iPad mini Retina it can make this quarter (and the next). Customers will be satisfied, not because of arcane technical specs only of interest to professionals, but because iOS protects them and lets them shop with confidence. This iPad works well, looks good, has good battery life and high resolution. These are the things tablet consumers appreciate -- things they understand, things that have meaning to them in their lives.

In the final analysis, none of this fuss about the iPad mini Retina's color gamut is going to affect demand or sales. Not even a mini bit.


iPad mini Retina image via Apple.

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Can the average consumer tell the difference between the display quality of the Air and Mini Retina? Or is this just something graphics professionals or video pros can detect?

Paul Goodwin

Color specs are very deceiving. Having the full range of color doesn’t guarantee a great display. Color accuracy is as important as the range. Standard sRGB isn’t high end color until it’s calibrated. I doubt seriously if any handheld mobile device has ever had a true color calibration at the factory before shipping. The manufacturers choose hardware and one size fits all color compensation to make it close to the standard. One thing that Apple has historically focused on is great looking displays. I’m still using an iPad 2 which has about the same color sRGB range (61-64%) as the mini Retina. Even with only 132 ppi, the display looks great and the colors look true and balanced. For looking at photos and web pages, even the old iPad 2 is great at what it was designed for because with it’s inherent color accuracy, even at that ppi resolution, it’s plenty. The mini Retina would likely resolve more detailed photo images better than the iPad 2 because it’s resolution is much higher (326 ppi - beyond which, the typical human eye can’t tell a difference). As for the color accuracy, for what the iPad Mini Retina is intended, having the chosen sRGB was deemed more than enough. But as the article says, someone will latch onto,it as some advantage, and some people will actually think they’re getting something extra on their 7-8 inch display…...but they won’t. Even with graphics professionals, there is a very small portion of that population that would ever notice a difference.

Paul Goodwin

And John, way to get “kerfuffle” and “nerdgasm” into this article. Perfect!

John Martellaro

Paul:  I’m an incurable sesquipedalian.

Paul Goodwin

Hahaha. I had to go look that one up.


Accurate colour spectrum is only good when one is preparing true colour representation in print out otherwise it is a non issue.

Btw no one can tell the slightest difference in the nuance of colour

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