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Retina iPad mini: How good is it for comic book reading?

I don't know how big the intersection is between gadget nerds and comic book nerds, but based on how many questions we've gotten about how legible and enjoyable comics are on the new Retina iPad mini, I'm guessing it's pretty close to Galactus big. The iPad Air, thanks to its large, 9.7-inch 2048x1536 display, is currently undisputed king of the comic book tablets. The Retina iPad mini, however, includes just as many pixels, albeit crammed down into a 7.9-inch display. That works out to 264 pixels-per-inch (ppi) for the Air, and 326ppi for the mini. That means word bubbles are smaller, lettering is smaller - everything is smaller. But is it too small?

Here's what a comic book looks like in iBooks, in landscape (top) and portrait (bottom), at 326ppi on the Retina iPad mini (left) compared to 264ppi on the iPad Air (middle), with the iPhone - also 326ppi but with a much smaller 4-inch display - thrown in for good measure.

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Obviously, reading a single page at a time in portrait orientation offers the biggest, best experience. It's roughly equivalent to reading in landscape orientation on the iPad Air. A double page spread in landscape isn't that far behind, experience wise. The Retina screen makes for crisp letters and lines, and gorgeous colors. (Yes, Superman's bright red cape looks just fine, thanks.) My eyesight is terrible, and I can read them perfectly well in both orientations. In fact, I generally read in landscape, even on the iPad mini. I've been doing that exclusively for the last week and I've had zero problems.

I do prefer comics on the iPad Air, because it's closer to actual comic book size, but the Retina iPad mini is far more portable. If that sounds like the same tradeoff as always - portability vs. screen size - it's because that's just exactly what it is.

So, if you want full-sized art, and you'll be reading at home, the iPad Air can't be beat. If you simply want all your comics with you all the time, even and especially when you're traveling, then the Retina iPad mini is not only a fine alternative, it's a fantastic one.

If you've tried out comics on the Retina iPad mini, let me know - what do you think?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • It works great! Sent from the iMore App
  • My question is battery life iPad mini Retina vs iPad mini. The battery life on my first gen is incredible.
  • So far, so good.
  • Guys, dont forget abt Nexus 10 which has far more better 10.1 display and resolution.
  • No it doesn't. The Nexus 10 display is no where near as nice as either the Air or the rMini. Yes, the N10 does have 300ppi display which is higher than the iPad Air, but the retina mini has 326ppi. Not only that, but the display on the Nexus 10 is no where near as calibrated or nice. My wife has one and it wasn't even as nice as my iPad 3rd gen. It's not a bad tablet at all,but not even anywhere near as nice as the new iPads.
  • Try to read comics on Ipad Mini it is not anywhere near than on 10 tablet. Text is small etc etc...
  • "I do prefer comics on the iPad Air, because it's closer to actual comic book size, but the Retina iPad mini is far more portable." How is the Mini more portable? I used to like reading comics on the old iPad Mini but my biggest problem was always that the Mini is small but, unlike some Android tablets, too big for a pocket. And that meant I had to carry a purse. So I figure that if I have to carry an iPad Bag then the weight/size benefits of the Mini are eliminated so this year I went for the Air . And as far as comics go, I strongly prefer the larger Air (But I am still upgrading the wife to a Mini 2 so I'll probably sneak some comics on there too).
  • Stop wearing skinny hipster jeans, and it'll fit in the back pocket fine. :) Fits great in jacket pockets as well.
  • comic books in print back in the 70ths were grainy and dull so it makes no sense to me to brighten up my digital experience Just saying Sent from the iMore App
  • PDFs, ePubs, and CBRs, everything looks great on a Retina. Biased? Me?! Naaaah... Sent from the iMore App
  • I love comic books on the new mini. Like you say better on Air but I prefer portability. Sent from the iMore App
  • One of the reason I passed from the first generation iPad Mini, and got an iPod Touch instead, is that it doesn't have retina display. I've never regretted that decision and still don't as I love my iPT5 and thinks it's one of the best things I bought ever. But I think I'm ready to jump to the new rMini wagon now. One of the things I can't do that well with my iPT5 is read comics/manga and get a more pleasurable experience in reading books l, playing games and watching movies. So really excited to get one. I think it's perfect for all my needs.
    By the way, on the image above, I also don't notice any less red in the colors. And loved the Galactus reference. Sent from the iMore App
  • Seems really great! For the moment I have a regular iPad mini but this info it's really interesting since I would like to buy this as Christmas present to a friend who loves graphic novels...!!! Good to know! Sent from the iMore App
  • I would rather recommend the ipad mini as comic book reader instead of going for an ipad air. It reads very well and is extremely good to go.
  • I've never try reading comics using iPad (retina) but currently I prefer to read using my iPad Mini rather than the iPhone. Comfortable with both potrait and landscape mode. Sent from the iMore App
  • I think the mini would be fine for me for using it like this. I've used a mini before and I loved it for reading. Sent from the iMore App
  • I've never had a problem with comics unless they're really old comics and this was on the first ipad Mini. Like Rene says, it's "better" on the Air. But what you have to factor is that you really want to read in portrait with the Mini being more comfortable to hold. Each has their pluses.
  • I'd love to be able to read comics on my original iPad mini, but it's almost impossible to actually read the words on that display. Glad to hear the Retina display makes things better.
  • Thanks for the side-by-side comparison screen shots Rene. That means more to me than all the words in the article. It's really too bad that the iPad Air can't also provide that comic book smell - the memories. (I suppose if you really wanted to nerd-out you could put your iPad in a mylar jacket for that crinkly nostalgic effect. xP )
  • I've been going back and forth on whether to get the Air or Retina Mini and I think it's going to come down to one thing: I can get the 32gb mini and have loads more room for comics that the same priced Air. I hate having to manage my storage but my budget just doesn't allow for the larger storage Air model. Great comparison photos. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have tried comics on both so far the ipad air has it for me and the new form factor makes it a much easier and enjoyable read. It's one of the first things I did when I got the air. Sent from the iMore App
  • Graphic novels are something I didn't know if I could enjoy digitally. Books? Yes. However, there was something about collecting comics that brought back my youthful years. I wanted those on paper. I've seen the retina light now and days and really enjoy the eye popping color of comics on my iPad. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thank you so much! I had an iPad 2 and mainly used it for digital comics. Now I'm trying to decide between the Retina Mini and Air and this helped a lot.