iPad (two-up, iPad, iPad mini, hand)

Despite Google’s recently refreshed Nexus 7 now boasting a Retina-class 1,920-by-1,200 pixel resolution screen (check out Jeff’s awesome Nexus 7 vs. iPad mini video showdown), Apple’s seven-inch iPad mini by contrast remains stuck with the rather pedestrian 1,024-by-768 pixel screen.

And now, seemingly corroborating a flurry of rumors pointing to a Retina iPad mini upgrade in 2014, references a developer discovered in the iOS 7 SDK suggest Apple has been testing a new iPad mini with a faster A6 chip, but without a Retina display…

According to the information developer Nick Frey provided to Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac, Apple may be considering three new iPad mini models: an iPad ‘2,8’, an iPad ‘2,9’ and an iPad ‘2,10’, with the respective code-names for the devices J75, J76 and J77.

“This points to one WiFi-only model and two cellular-compatible models (just like the current iPad minis),” Gurman observes.

The ‘s5l8950x’ CPU reference suggests the device will run the same A6 chip found inside the iPhone 5. The A6 chip is bound to provide major speed gains over the current A5-based iPad mini, especially while playing games and running graphics-intensive apps.

And because the references only include non-Retina images and lack the @2x hook which denotes Retina artwork in app assets, Gurman concludes with a high degree of certainty that Apple at this moment is not extensively testing a Retina iPad mini.

Non-Retina A6 iPad mini (9to5Mac references 001)

“Perhaps corroborating this is that the rumored Retina display iPad mini codename is ‘J85,’ while the iPad mini model we have learned about is ‘J75’,” he wrote. Other discoveries point to the second-ten iPad mini using the same cellular technologies and baseband chip as the current model.

We’ve heard before Apple was switching back to Samsung for Retina panels for the second-generation iPad mini. And don’t forget that analysts have repeatedly cautioned a Retina variant may not be ready until March or April of 2014 due to the ongoing yield, supply and engineering issues.

At any rate, a re-tooled non-Retina iPad mini with a faster A6 chip should allow for jerk-free iOS 7 experience. As for the full-size iPad, a fifth-generation model should be due this Fall featuring Apple’s Retina display and iPad mini-like design.

Delaying a Retina iPad mini until Spring 2014 might make sense because the less profitable device won’t steal the thunder from the much-improved iPad 5 come this Fall.