Android tablets beat out Apple iPad mini's graphics

Android tablets beat out Apple iPad mini's graphics

Summary: Well-known graphics expert finds that both the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 have better displays than Apple's newly launched iPad mini.

When it comes to Apple's iPad Mini display, both Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 are better.

Lots of people may have bought Apple's new iPad mini, but that doesn't mean that they bought the best 7" tablet. When it comes to the display, graphics expert Raymond M. Soneira, president of DisplayMate, found that the two most popular 7" Android tablets, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7, had better displays.

After running a comprehensive series of DisplayMate's Mobile Display Technology Shoot-Out tests, Soneira found that while the "iPad mini is certainly a very capable small Tablet, but it does not follow in Apple’s tradition of providing the best display, or at least a great display – it has just a very capable display. What’s more, the displays on existing mini Tablets from Amazon and Google outperform the iPad mini in most of our Lab tests."

Why didn't the iPad mini measure up? According to Soneira's analysis, "Some of this results from constraints within the iPad product line, and some to realistic constraints on display technology and costs, but much of it is due to a number of poor choices and compromises."

Specifically, "Many people were expecting a Retina Display like the new iPad 3, but that would have required a 326 Pixels Per Inch display with more than 4 times the screen area of the iPhone 5. That is currently out of the question for both cost and manufacturing volume and yield since it would need to be Low Temperature Polysilicon. Given that Apple has been sticking with either 1024x768 or 2048x1536 iPad displays for compatibility reasons, that meant the iPad mini had to be 1024x768 with 163 Pixels Per Inch. But that’s now considered to be rather on the low side, especially given that the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 both have considerably sharper displays with 216 Pixels Per Inch. So Apple, the inventor of Retina Display marketing, now has a significant competitive shortfall on this very issue." Whoops!

Since the iPad mini, at $329. costs considerablly more than either of the Android tablets, buyers should carefully consider if the mini is really worth the extra-money. To me, the Nexus 7 is now, more than ever, the better choice. 

In addition, "Apple could have increased the iPad mini Screen Resolution in the same way as it did for the iPhone 5 – simply having older Apps running Letterboxed inside a higher resolution display, which would have been a great way to provide a higher Pixels Per Inch display." For some reason, and Soneira doesn't know why, Apple didn't do this. Had they done so, this would have increased the iPad mini's text visual sharpness.

The iPad mini also fell short of the mark when it comes to showing video. "On the iPad mini 16:9 content is viewed Letterboxed with only 1024x576 Resolution, which is getting pretty close to Standard Definition video rather than true High Definition 1280x720 video on most other mini Tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7. A much better screen resolution choice for the iPad mini would have been 1280x960, because it could then deliver true HD video content, satisfactory Letterboxing for older 1024x768 Apps."

Another major weakness with all small tablets is how they reflect light oft their screens. Soneira explained, "Screens on almost all Tablets and Smartphones are mirrors good enough to use for personal grooming. .... So low Reflectance is very important in determining real picture quality, especially on the smaller and more portable Tablets."

Unfortunately for Apple fans, the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 both do much better than Apple does with this problem "even at their low price points, but the iPad mini comes with an unusually high Reflectance – it reflects 53 percent more ambient light than the Nexus 7 and 41 percent more than the Kindle Fire HD. This is another poor choice and another significant competitive shortfall."

The bottom line is that the iPad mini's display is simply not just poorer than the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7, it's a lot poorer than either Android tablet. This is troubling for Apple to fall short on a "fit and polish" issue. Usually, Apple cleans up the floor with its competition with their product's looks, but not this time. 

As for the Kindle FIre HD and the Nexus 7, in an earlier study, Soneira was impressed by both tablets. "This second generation of 7 inch Tablets has resulted in impressive improvements in display quality, now rivaling the top performing and most expensive large format Tablets, including the new iPad." But at day's end, the "Kindle Fire was the decisive winner of these two leading 7 inch Tablets. It is much better than the iPad 2 and almost as good as the new iPad in overall picture quality and color accuracy."

Related Stories:

Topics: iPad, Amazon, Android, Apple, Google, Hardware, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • "For some reason, and Soneira doesn't know why, Apple didn't do this."

    Ooh oooh! Let met say it for once..

    Because it would be an inferior experience - developers would have to go back and retool all their apps for the new resolution.. unlike Android and Windows...
    • yup

      not only that, apple needed to unload all the extra parts for ipad 2 and 3s that are laying around doing nothing. They know isheeps will buy anything with an apple emblem on them no matter how bad the specs because they will justify it by saying spec is not whats important.

      This is the first major product release from apple lacking in polish and is a big finger at consumers and basically saying to them "so what, you're going to buy it anyway so why pretend we care because we don't have to".
      • Isheeps

        The iMac mini is an AD product from Apple. AD meaning after the death of Steve Jobs. Anything built after Steve Jobs death is not a true Apple product. There will be no more Steve Jobs inspired and directed products coming from Apple. You knew who ran Apple but you can't say who runs Samsung or any other company out there not even Dell. The Ipod Mini was something Steve did not want to make yet it was produced after his death. Maybe the iPod Mini 2 will have Retina Display. All the older macs were very good but their speeds and connect ability was superseded by way is available today. Whatever Apple puts out now can't hope to compete with what Steve would have produced. Sure wanting to buy all things Apple is like blindly following a religious institution that has lost it's leader, things will change and probably not for the better. The Steve Jobs era equipment will probably be collector items but the artistry and innovation that was Steve jobs is gone and what Apple produces will now just be another product found on the shelves of computer stores to consider when shopping.
        • True

          for the price of $325, Steve Jobs would not have allowed the iPad Mini to be released with an inferior display than it's competitors. They would have used IPS display with IGZO panel. That would have justified the premium cost.
        • Not exactly true...

          To say that the iPad Mini was produced after Steve Jobs' death is not true. Products like the iPad Mini would have had to have been in the development pipeline for quite a long time prior to Steve's demise.

          Make no mistake, Steve knew about the Mini, and approved of the Mini.
    • Many Great Options

      The new Nexus 7 isn't the only new model out this week -- the Novo 7 Flame 32GB also just launched - which offers a pretty impressive 7 Inch tablet priced at $189 at a site called TabletSprint -- The Novo 7 Flame Android tablet has a "cool factor" and is sleek and compact with a brush metal back cover, and offers a 1280x800 High Resolution screen, Dual Core CPU, 32GB Memory, MicroSD portable storage, an HDMI connection to your TV with full 1080p (HD) that's great for movie downloads, a 5 megapixel Rear Camera with AF & LED Flash and a 2 MP webcam; Plus great connection - Bluetooth, WiFi, Ethernet, and options for 3G. The tablet is made by Ainol Electronics, which received a "Best Tablet of the Year" award at CNET Consumer Electronics Show 2012 - Two other models are also being released and both are 10-inch tablets with high resolution screens; one offers most features as above, with a Dual Core CPU and a 1280x800 display for $220; and a similar model that features a powerful Quad Core with a 1920x1200 Liquid Crystal display (like Apple's Retina screen) for $270. All offer pretty nice specs and pricing and one of the first online sites to offer this new product line is TabletSprint -- which also offers something pretty exciting with each tablet, an option for a free 3G/4G 500MB monthly data plan with full internet access/VoIP calling in the U.S. -- Definitely worth checking out and comparing --
      Jessie Forrester
      • But it's made in China!

        Where are the reviews of this Ainol Novo Flame or Crystal and how responsive is the touch screen?
  • iPad mini's screen is made on the same equipment that was making iPhone 3Gs

    ... sceeens -- hence the same pixel density, 163 dpi, and the same colour gamut -- up to 65% of sRGB. So yes, the colours are undersaturated, as those are in, say, iPhone 4/4S.

    However, iPad mini's display is much better calibrated -- whether about colour, or grayscale. Also, the screen is much bigger (35%) and much thinner than competing screens. This results with iPad mini being much thinner and lighter device, despite it having way bigger screen area.

    Also, remembering the title of this article, graphic power of iPad mini is dramatically better than any rival solutions among small tablets:

    This link does not contain directly iPad mini (iPad 2) results, but it contains iPhone 4S results. This phone which has the same A5 SoC as iPad mini (iPad 2), but with lower frequency.

    So to get iPad mini (iPad 2) results, you have to add 20% to results of iPhone 4S and see how dramatically faster iPad mini is comparing to **any** small tablet.
    • Re: Also, the screen is much bigger (35%)...

      ...but shows less than the Nexus 7. It's like the difference between regular Lego and Lego Duplo: which one is for the littler kiddies?
      • iPad mini screen shows up to 67% more of an internet page comparing to the

        ... likes of Nexus 7:

        This is landscape mode; 49% is in portrait mode. And, even in the best variant possible, iPad mini still has 35% more of the page. So this is dramatic advantage in any way.

        Yes, iPad mini's screen resolution is worse than that of rivals, and it is a drawback. But since no rival still has Retina class resolution (1280x720 is still like thrice less pixel density per square inch than Retina would require), the difference is not principal. And by the time rivals will come up with better resolution, Apple will update iPad mini with Retina screens by IGZO technology, what will allow them making it without increasing the battery, weight, thickness, and the price of the device.
        • Apple Smoke and Mirrors

          Apple fans swallow the smoke and mirror show put on by Apple without questioning
          Van Der
          • Fanboys maybe but not your average Apple fan

            Of course Apple haters swallow up the talking points without questioning so they are no better than the fanboys.
        • and on the other hand

          The nexus 7 shows your movies with no or less black bars.
          Robin Jacobs
          • No, most films are 7:3 (21:9), so there is letterboxing anyway

            But iPad has long solved the issue -- main mode is to chop off left and right parts of the image, so centre would fill whole screen.

            This technique worked perfectly fine for many decades, and it will live on for long time.
          • thats no solution

            Thats surgery to force something to work because you have no other choice. Surgery is always the last desperate option.
          • Yeah, decades with CRT TVs that no longer exist for good reason

            And why the standard home LCD HDTV has a 16:9 form factor as does the Nexus 7. Not the antiquated 4:3 format of the iOS devices except for the iPhone and iPods. You do realize that those iOS devices are just a tad shy of 16:9 and no where near 4:3.

            4:3 form factor is a dead end and Apple knows it.
          • I always have to laugh at you haters that bring up the aspect ratio

            You are always claiming that the iPad is just a toy and you can't be productive yet then turn around and bash the iPad for not having the best aspect ratio for watching movies. So what are you looking for in a tablet, to be productive or to watch movies? I personally use my iPad to be productive and watch movies on it maybe once every six months. If the iPad was 16:9 it would be a benefit to me on average twice a year and a negative the rest of the time when it's used to be productive.
          • Nexus has 16:10, not 16:9 format, and since actual films have 7:3 (21:9) ..

            ... aspect ratio, Nexus 7 is still very bad with the bold black stripes it will have above and below the actual film. Yes, on iPad the stripes would be even bigger, but this already makes that principal difference.

            Nexus 7 (10 or whatever screen) will still have 1/3 of vertical space blacked out -- unless you chop off film's left and right part of the image to have 16:9 ratio -- then the stripes will be thin. Or to chop off more, to have 4:3 aspect ratio as in iPad.
          • With the black bezel those...

            pesky black bars sure are annoying aren't they?
        • You're wrong

          You can actually see more information from a given webpage in portrait mode on the Nexus 7. Just checkout a number of comparison videos on the net. It's obvious.