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Why doesn’t the iPad mini have a Retina display (yet)?

The iPad mini might not have a Retina display just yet, but there's a few good reasons why. Read on to find out what's stopping Apple from going hi-res now.

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iPad mini - Main

Having sold out in many locations over its launch weekend, there’s no denying that the iPad mini is a success, but if there’s one thing that’s gained any negative attention, it’s the lack of a Retina display. Unlike the fourth-generation iPad and the third-generation iPad before that, the iPad mini’s screen sizes up at 163 pixels per inch – not quite close enough to be considered Retina. With rumours of a Retina display iPad mini already in production, there’s a lot of speculation as to why this wasn’t the case in the first place. Fortunately, Instapaper creator Marco Arment has a few thoughts as to why it might be.

You’d have to supersize the battery

As Marco points out (and an iFixit teardown confirms), the battery in the third and fourth-generation iPad is huge because, “a Retina iPad screen is a much bigger power hog than a non-Retina screen of the same size.” With technology not quite advanced enough to shrink a battery’s size significantly while still maintaining capacity just yet, a Retina iPad mini would be significantly thicker and heavier and hospitals across the land would be flooded with the broken hands of those who tried to single-handedly show off their hi-res device. Okay, the last part is an exaggeration, but you get the point.

iFixit - iPad mini teardown
A Retina iPad mini battery could be bigger than this if it were made right now - Courtesy of iFixit (ifixit.com)

You could cook your eggs on it

The iPad 3 already runs pretty warm (and Marco puts this down to its A5X chip that’s slaving away to power the Retina display) so imagine what’d happen if the same happened in a smaller shell. Granted, you could play Angry Birds and iron with the same device, but it’s hardly going to make reading in bed a comfortable experience for your palms, is it? As Marco notes, though, things have improved with the A6X chip in the fourth-generation iPad (and our testing confirms this – a review is on its way!). In a year’s time, then, there’s every chance Apple will have mastered the art of going small and keeping cool.

It’d run slower than treacle

With the compromise on components that needed to be made to fit everything into such a small form factor, there’s every chance that the processor the iPad mini is currently rocking wouldn’t play so nicely with a power-hungry and processor-intensive Retina display. The result? An iPad mini with Retina display right now might well be slower than your average tortoise.

Here’s to the future

In case you hadn’t noticed already, we’re inclined to agree with Marco on this one. The combination of compromised performance, bulkier design and a higher cost associated with Retina parts makes for an iPad that Apple wouldn’t want to try and sell right now. That said, if they can improve on the iPad 3 significantly with the fourth-generation iPad, then there’s no reason why they can’t do it in the future with a Retina iPad mini. Marco doesn’t reckon we’ll see that before this time next year, so be sure to keep your fingers crossed until then.

 

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