When Apple launched the iPad Air and the Retina iPad mini, I was pleasantly surprised that in terms of tech specs they seemed to be exactly the same, the only difference between the two iPads was the size, weight and price.
The biggest surprise was the fact that smaller iPad was powered by the same A7 chip, especially when you consider that Apple used the A5 chip (2011) in the original iPad mini.
But as we pointed out in our in-depth comparison of the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini, we noticed that there was a visible difference in the display.
Anand Shimpi of AnandTech has carried out comprehensive tests of the displays, and has discovered that there is indeed a difference in the quality. He explains:
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. The biggest issue here is that there are other smaller tablets in this price range that do offer sRGB coverage (e.g. Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HDX 8.9). [..]
[..] Within its gamut coverage, the mini’s panel is fairly accurate. A look at our GMB checker test shows performance competitive with the Nexus 7 and not far off the 4th generation iPad. Grayscale reproduction is also quite good. The display looks really good otherwise, but you don’t get the same visual punch you do on the iPad Air. [..]
[..] Black levels are competitive and contrast ratio stays fixed at around 800:1 regardless of whether we’re talking about max brightness or the 200 nits we run all of our battery life tests at. Max brightness is down a bit compared to the iPad Air.
The difference is noticeable when you put a Retina iPad mini next to an iPad Air, as you can see the red triangle at the bottom looks a lot more vibrant on the iPad Air compared to the Retina iPad mini and the original iPad mini.
From left to right: iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina Display, original iPad mini
I suspect the justification here is Apple likely views the bigger iPad as being a better fit for photographers/those who care about color reproduction, but it’s a shame that this is a tradeoff that exists between the two iPads especially given how good Apple is about sRGB coverage in nearly all of its other displays.
While most people may not notice the issue, it is a little disappointing to find out that the quality of Retina iPad mini’s display is not as good as iPad Air’s display. If you’re still not sure whether you should buy the Retina iPad mini or the iPad Air, then I would strongly recommend checking out our comparison video below or visiting Apple’s retail store to find out for yourself if the quality of the display is a major issue for you.
If you’ve bought the Retina iPad mini, then you should also check for the image retention issue.
Is the difference in the display quality a deal breaker for you?