The new iPad display: Impressive, but lots of room for improvement

Sharpness and color saturation both 'state-of-the-art.'
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Apple claimed that the 'retina display' screen on the new iPad is the "best display ever on a mobile device," and now independent testing carried out by DisplayMate Technologies confirms that this is not just marketing hyperbole. However, there's still plenty of room for improvement.

According to DisplayMate, in developing the 'retina display' panel for the new iPad Apple has improved on two weak points of the iPad 2 screen - sharpness and color saturation. Both have now been improved to a level the report calls 'state-of-the-art.'

On top of that, DisplayMate goes on to say that not only is the new iPad's picture quality, color accuracy, and gray scale not only much better than any other tablet or smartphone currently on the market, but that the screen also beats most HDTVs, laptops, and monitors, and could, with minor calibration tweaks, qualify as a studio reference monitor.

But there's still lots of room for improvement across a number of areas:

  • Screen reflectance Light reflections make the screen harder to read in even moderate lighting, and requires the brightness levels to be turned up in order to compensate, which consumes more battery power. The report states that companies should look at ways to reduce this problem by the use of anti-reflection coatings and haze surface finishes.
  • Forward-facing ambient light sensors These measure the brightness of your face instead of the surrounding ambient light.
  • Automatic brightness Awful and close to functionally useless on all tested smartphones and tablets.
  • RGD LED backlights Using red, green and blue backlight LEDs instead of just white LEDs would allow for greater accurate when it comes to calibration, and allow the image color saturation to be increased under high ambient lighting.

Another interesting test carried out on the new iPad by DisplayMate was battery runtime at two screen brightness settings -- in Airplane Mode, with no running applications, and with Auto Brightness turned off. At maximum brightness the new iPad ran for 5.8 hours, while on half brightness it managed 11.6 hours, so for best battery life, turn down the screen brightness when you can.

Image credit: Apple.


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