Retina iPad mini display: How icons, text, and comics compare

The Retina iPad mini has an LED-backlit LCD screen with in-plane switching (IPS) for a wide viewing angle. It also has a 2048x1536 display crammed down to 326ppi to fit into a 7.9-inch screen. That's the same pixel count as the iPad Air, the same density as the iPhone 5s, and the same screen size as the original iPad mini. (And yes, the same narrow color gamut as the original iPad mini as well.) So what does all this mean for the stuff we look at all day, the icons, the comics and graphics, and the text?

First, here's a comparison between raw pixel resolution and pixel density, for the iPad mini (red), Retina iPad mini (green), iPad 4 (blue), and iPhone 5 (purple) (from left to right). I've added 44x44 point squares (standard tap target size in iOS) over the screens, so you can see how the absolute pixel and touch sizes (top) change when the displays are at physical scale (bottom).

Here's how that translates into icons, the App Store icon to be specific. Retina iPad mini (top left), original iPad mini (top right), iPad Air (bottom left), and iPhone 5s (bottom right).

Graphics in general, including words bubbles on comic books, are similar. Retina iPad mini (top left), original iPad mini (top right), iPad Air (bottom left), and iPhone 5s (bottom right).

Text, on the other hand, scales and reflows as best it can to suit whatever density and screen size is available. Retina iPad mini (top left), original iPad mini (top right), iPad Air (bottom left), and iPhone 5s (bottom right).

Obviously, the difference between an original, standard density display, and a new, Retina display, is as striking as ever. If you're already picked up your Retina iPad mini, let me know what you think of the display. If you're still considering it, let me know how it looks to you.

Retina iPad mini

Retina iPad mini
The world's most popular tiny tablet goes Retina. Features include:

Complete review >

Released
November 12, 2013

Alternatives
iPad mini (original), iPad Air, iPad 2

Replacements
iPad Mini 3
Fall, 2014

Resources
Buyers guide
Help forum

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Retina iPad mini display: How icons, text, and comics compare

54 Comments

I'm strongly considering an LTE Retina Mini to replace my 2012 Nexus 7 (which I have steadily grown more and more disappointed with). It's got one last chance with Kit-Kat...whenever that eventually turns up.

I don't know if I should bite the bullet and get this device Black Friday is around the corner and there is not a trace of this being discounted. This thing has some awesome specs

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Apple does have a "One-day" Sale for Black Friday. The problem: The discounts are crap!! We are talking 8-10% at best. Still, I will be going back on Black Friday to see if I can get a price match on the 32GB LTE Air I purchased (Yes, I know what a cheapo I am), and at least get the Sales tax amount refunded.

They will definitely price match it if its within the standard return policy. Last year I bought an iPad 4 with LTE, then saw the $50 sale on iPads on black Friday. All I had to do was call Apple and they refunded that sale amount.

Wow. Great pics. I have to say though, I have an iPad 2 and u still love the display. I can only imagine how awesome the retina ones will look like.

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I just bought a macbook pro 13" with retina and I also have an iPad 2. The differences are night and day sad thing is though I now have to sell my iPad 2 and get a retina mini lol

iOS 7 was rough on older devices, Apple should have taken more time to smooth out the bugs, Steve Jobs would have never allowed that.

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Stupid question but is the iPad Air display the same as the iPad 3 & 4 display? If so, I'll just "suffer" along with my iPad 4 for awhile longer. :)

Yeah it's the same resolution as ipad 3,4. Most reviewers say that if you have the ipad 4 hang on at least one more year, but if you want the latest and greatest technology then go get the ipad air. Hope this helps

The Air is still better, 64 bit platform is worth it, plus dual microphones, dual wifi (MiMo), dual ambient sensors, and dual stereo speakers, plus thinner, lighter, no bezels (little to none), and the M7 coprocessor, and did I mention Stereo Speakers which your ipad 3 and 4 Do Not Have, and way Faster!

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Very impressive. It looks like the Retina Mini has a better display than Air (yes, I read that it's the same display) because of all those details being crammed in a smaller screen resulting in a finer and crisper look.

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The Retina mini has a slightly higher density display than the Air (326ppi vs. 264ppi) but a slightly narrower color gamut (making reds look less saturated).

I see. Between the two, which do you think produces an overall better display (density count vs color gamut)? My guess would be the iPad Air? Darn, I think the dreamy Retina Mini just lost some cool points for me.

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Is the issue of the narrow gamut a hopelessly unfixable hardware deficiency, or is there a possibility that Apple can bring it up to par with a firmware update?

I think the text in some apps is too tiny on the Retina iPad mini, for example the Google+ app. That's obviously a problem when there are no in-app text size settings and the app doesn't support Dynamic Type.

Wow. The most interesting thing about your comment is that you actually use Google+! I honestly didn't think anybody did that (intentionally).

I would love to get my hands on the new chip... I do some heavy computing using my ipad4 as a recording preproduction device for my music and can really do with some faster processing!!!

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I love my iPad mini retina. The screen has been brilliant. Coming from the ill conceived iPad 3, I had a very high standard of quality and I'd say the new mini meets it well. I've not tried the burn in ghosting test but the way I see it, real world use wouldn't show that issue.

I find my retina mini to be a bit of the yellower side compared to my iPhone 5.

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I got mine a few days ago and love it!! Without a side-by-side comparison between this and my old iPad retina, you'd never notice any difference!!! And, still the difference is very minute!

I wouldn't trade for an Air!

Was considering to buy the iPad mini with retina but my iPad 3 still has life in it... Although it's sometimes a pain to use.

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I like the comparison shots of the icons- really telling. The new iPad mini is still an amazing device despite the fact that the display may not be quite up to the Air. For me, I'm all in on the Air though

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The new retina Mini is a HUGE upgrade. I know this from personal use of the first gen mini. iOS 7 is nowhere near as fluid and smooth on the mini as it is on my iphone 5. For me, it's not even about the retina display, I want the new mini because of its new A7 chip

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I didn't use it much, but I tried a retina mini side by side with a regular mini. I did not notice much difference. Even the screens looked similar. However, I was using it fast and on the fly and didn't spend much time with it to really focus on a difference. For someone like my son who is getting an iPad for the holidays the original is fine. Especially at $250 refurbished and even better deals on Black Friday.

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We're thinking along the same lines for our daughter. I don't know that she would notice the difference between a regular iPad mini and a retina. One thing in favor of the retina is that the overall hardware would stay up to date longer. How long will iOS updates work with the old model?

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I'm really digging the mini retina but for reading comics in my opinion so far the ipad air has it for me. It just looks and feels good I considered my self a comic purist until I read my comics on the air. Just plain gorgeous!

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I'm debating between buying an air and a rmini. What do you guys recommend? I mostly use it to surf the web watch videos and for travel. I know I'm at least getting the 64gb version. I have had my ipad 2 since day one and am ready for an upgrade. I was originally leaning for the rmini since I typically carry my MacBook Air with me but I'm afraid I'll miss the big screen of the ipad air. Please help!

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Get the LTE 64G air. Watching movies on the lager screen is nice. If you save movies to your device, go for the 128G, if you just stream, 64G will be fine. The reason I say the LTE version, there have been so many times I was not near a wifi spot, and needed to check information, I always said the next time I will get a cellular version when I upgrade a device. I wish they made a LTE MacBook Pro, or Air.

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Rene, what are the magenta tints on several of the screen shots? I'm still wondering if the tweak to the mini's colour gamut and brightness is an attempt to get the battery times a bit longer.

I love the "Air" I upgraded from the iPad 4 on launch day. Screen wise I don't see a difference but the change in weight has been a surprising joy even over time.

It seems the issue is what you have, and what are you needs. I waited for the iPad with Retina display, and got the New iPad (3). I will keep it until it is no longer supported with updates. I always wanted a cellular version, and should have done that with the iPad 3, but at the time did not have the money. When the mini came out, I knew there would be a Retina mini, and started saving. I will get the LTE 64G Retina this Thursday. I do not believe the minor difference in color will be a problem. Right now, it will be a device that fits in my life very well. I like to journal, and do music. The mini fits this well due to its size.

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Well, I went with the Air because I didn't care to wait. I'd say basically it comes down to preference: Do you like the feel of holding a smaller tablet, or is the powerhouse of the Air more appealing to you? It's funny because I didn' t think that there'd be a decision to make until they announced these two with the same specs! I will say I've been playing Injustice on the Air and loving that experience it's so fast!

It's such a smooth device with crisp images. I don't regret it one bit. Btw I really like the smart case as well - very lightweight but stylish too.

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I'd like to see both mini versions side by in my hand before I shell out the cash to upgrade. After owning my iPad Mini for a few days, I adjusted to the contrast between it's display and that of the Nexus 7 I traded it for. Even though the display was slightly sharper on the 7, it could not beat the overall iPad Mini's experience.

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I bought the iPad Air last week & I love it however I'm contemplating switching to the iPad mini retina display instead. I'm torn. I like the portability of the iPad mini but I feel like the screen size will comprised while watching netflix movies etc. :( don't know what to do

Still trying to decide between the iPad air and retina mini. I love the clarity on the iPhone 5s and I'm sure I will love the clarity on whichever iPad I choose. I'll have to hold the Air in my hand before deciding. But, definitely upgrading to a retina screen. Anyone compare the retina mini with the air and how does it feel on you hand.

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I'm confident that an iPad Pro will be released next year with a 4K display. But I'm so thrilled with my new mini Retina that I'll be so hard-pressed to let it go.

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I had the iPad mini 1 for a year. I sold it Sunday and drove an hour to pick up my iPad mini retina. Text is incredibly clear and crisp and it's much faster with games. Sadly my display has bad blue purplish backlight bleed on the top edge similar to that of the kindle fire HDX 7. I'm getting a replacement through the mail. Sucks but at least they're taking care of me. Just hope the next one doesn't have this blue tint on top.

I think the iPad mini retina is (among other things) a perfect device for reading/viewing comic books. I have used my iPad 2 for comic books but the display was always lacking. Between the retina display and the physical size if the new mini, it should prove to be a great comic reader.

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I was an owner of a grampa iPad 2 and an iPad mini. I raced to the store to get the iPad air. The screen was luscious, it was fast, but ultimately just a bit too big for regular use. So I traded it for the iPad mini Retina. The screen was just as sharp, but the colors washed out compared to the vibrancy of the iPad Air. Now this might not bug some people but I'm super sensitive to colors. I had thought that with technically the same screen between the Apple iPad Air and the mini retina the colors would be the same, but no, Apple released the mini with a reduced color gamut, and thus has found yet another way to screw the iPad mini. :(

Great article!

The iPad Retina seems to indefinitely lack in vibrancy and depth of colour.

IPad Air and iPhone 5S seem to shine in the colour accuracy and contrast department.

Great products nonetheless.

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Great photos! It really helps me visualize the touch target sizes. It shows why retina is better not only for my eyes but also control of the iPad.

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The IPad Air colours seem to pop out of the screen more than the mini retina which does not map with your findings