Retina iPad mini has inferior color gamut to iPad Air

Christmas 2013 (iPad Air, iPad mini Retina 001)

Apple’s latest iPad mini with Retina display went unexpectedly on sale last Friday. As is the case with any Apple product launch, this one, too, came with its share of teething issues.

Some early adopters may have bought a device with Sharp-made IGZO screen which apparently exhibits slight image retention issue, for example.

I was deep into AnanandTech’s exhaustive Retina iPad mini review the other day and stumbled upon a section which describes the device’s Retina display as actually showing fewer colors compared to the iPad Air. Not that an untrained eye will notice any difference, but I’ve decided to post this anyway for purely academic purposes…

AnandTech’s review mentions that even though the iPad Air and the new iPad mini now share the same 2,048-by-1,536 pixel resolution Retina screen, color gamut hasn’t changed between the old and new minis.

iPad mini 2 (Retina display color gamut, AnandTech 001)

Here’s the quote:

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).

It’s unclear why Apple would outfit the smaller iPad with a less capable screen.

AnandTech on its part speculates it may have something to do with Apple’s philosophy of pitching the bigger iPad as being “a better fit for photographers”. I for one am inclined to think that maybe this is the result of the ongoing yield issues Apple’s screen suppliers have been facing.

iPad mini 2 (Retina display color gamut, AnandTech 003)

Not sure if you can make out the difference at all (I couldn’t), but here’s the money shot.

iPad mini 2 (Retina display color gamut, AnandTech 002)
From left to right: iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina Display and original iPad mini.

“The display looks really good otherwise, but you don’t get the same visual punch you do on the iPad Air,” the review explains. Average users will barely notice any difference so the color gamut difference may be of concern to high-end pro users (such as photographers, videographers and so forth) who demand accurate color reproduction.


If you talk to DisplayMate‘s Ray Soneira, the iPad mini with Retina display comes third after the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and the new Nexus 7 due its narrow color gamut:

The iPad mini with Retina Display unfortunately comes in with a distant 3rd place finish behind the innovative displays on the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and new Nexus 7 because it still has the same small 63 percent Color Gamut as the original iPad mini and even older iPad 2. That is inexcusable for a current generation premium Tablet.

The big differences in Color Gamut between the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and Nexus 7 and the much smaller 63 percent Gamut in the iPad mini Retina Display were quite obvious and easy to see in the side-by-side Viewing Tests.

DisplayMate criticized Apple’s gamble on Sharp’s IGZO and says the company should have adopted better-performing Low Temperature Poly Silicon screen technology.

iPad mini 2 (Retina color gamut, DisplayMate 001)
Image courtesy of DisplayMate.

For what it’s worth, AnandTech hasn’t seen “the slightest degree” of the screen burn-ins that Instapaper creator Marco Arment noticed on his unit. “At least on the two minis I have, image retention isn’t an issue,” writes AnandTech. Screen burn-ins stem from Sharp’s malfunctioning thin-film transistor screen technology.

four iPad mini retina display

Apple is understood to be negotiating with for the supply of Samsung-made 7.9-inch panels starting next year as the South Korean conglomerate was the first to successfully solve the technological problem.

You can run the image retention test yourself by visiting this web page from your device. Just leave the checkerboard pattern open on your device for fifteen minutes and then switch to a gray screen.

If your Retina iPad mini has an underperforming display, you should see the faint checkerboard pattern (pictured above) in the solid gray area, which is a tell-tale sign of the image retention problem.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out AnandTech’s review of the Retina iPad mini, I suggest giving it a read as the blog’s technical expertise and insane in-depth articles are unmatched by any other publication in the industry.