DisplayMate, a company specializing in scientific display testing and calibration, gave the Retina iPad Mini third place in detailed lab tests of three leading 7-inch tablets, criticising Apple for “really bad planning” for what it considers to be out-dated display technology.

And finally… 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 […]

All of this reliance on IGZO is really bad planning… Right now there is a readily available display technology that has much higher performance than IGZO. It’s Low Temperature Poly Silicon LTPS, and it is used in all of the iPhones and in all of Samsung OLEDs (so it’s available in large quantities). Two innovative tablet manufacturers, Amazon and Google, have significantly leapfrogged Apple by introducing Tablet displays using LTPS (in the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and the new Nexus 7), and they are significantly outperforming the IGZO and a-Si displays in the current iPads. Apple is now lagging in displays, an area where it was once the leader… 

DisplayMate says that there are two problems with Apple’s use of IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) displays in its iPads. First, although IGZO was the best available technology two years ago, things have moved on, and the LTPS displays used by both the latest Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 tablets are now significantly better.

Second, says the site, IGZO has suffered poor yield rates, and as a result Apple has not been able to get enough of them to use the displays in all of its iPads, mixing them with less-efficient Silicon a-Si screens.

This has created a production problem where Apple is using both IGZO and a-Si displays in the current iPads. The problem is that a-Si has much lower power efficiency than IGZO, so it uses much more power and also needs bigger batteries. So how can Apple use both display technologies in the same product? I’ve been told by using much higher performance (and cost) White LEDs in the Backlight of the a-Si panels, which equalizes the power efficiency for both types of displays in different ways. As a result, both types of displays can be engineered into the same Tablet and can provide comparable results for the consumer.

Shades of Samsung vs LG displays in Retina MacBook Pros here. While Apple is apparently succeeding in delivering the same brightness and battery-life with each, it does raise questions about the relative longevity of the two approaches.

The very best of today’s display technologies? The Quantum Dots displays used in the Kindle Fire HDX 7 according to the report.

Quantum Dots are almost magical because they use Quantum Physics to produce highly saturated primary colors for LCDs that are similar to those produced by OLED displays. They not only significantly increase the size of the Color Gamut by 40-50 percent but also improve the power efficiency by an additional 15-20 percent. Instead of using White LEDs (which have yellow phosphors) that produce a broad light spectrum that makes it hard to efficiently produce saturated colors, Quantum Dots directly convert the light from Blue LEDs into highly saturated primary colors for LCDs. You can see the remarkable difference in their light spectra in Figure 4. Quantum Dots are going to revolutionize LCDs for the next 5+ years.

DisplayMate did give top marks to the iPad Mini display in many categories, praising its resolution, small color shift with different viewing angles, “close to perfect” contrast accuracy, accurate calibration, low reflectivity – and rating as “very good” its maximum brightness, black levels, contrast ratios and viewability in high ambient light.

The greatest criticism was reserved for the 63% color gamut (range of colors that can be displayed) against 97 percent for the Kindle and 103 percent for the Nexus – an issue picked up in some earlier technical reviews.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 11.59.36

You can read chapter and verse, and see all of the detailed tables, over on the DisplayMate site.

Of course, none of this changes the generally rave reviews the new Mini has received, but it will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on Quantum Dot displays to see if & when Apple makes the switch down the line.

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14 Responses to “DisplayMate tablet shootout puts Retina iPad Mini in last place, with ‘out-dated technology’”

  1. I’d agree with this. It’s a lovely bit of hardware but the immediate impression you get is that the display is washed out.


  2. I got mine and returned it 3 days later. Got the air instead. I’m more than happy with the change.


  3. yeung jasper says:

    sigh this made me wonder whether i should buy a mini or not……(originally a BIG yes)


  4. rogifan says:

    And yet Leo Laporte said on MacBreak Weekly that he didn’t even notice the difference on the mini until someone pointed it out to him and even then he still thought the screen looked fine. I played around with one at an Apple store and the screen looked great to me (and I own an Air). When the iPad 2 came out where were all the complaints about poor color gamut?


  5. Bob Black says:

    selling 2 year old technology ( no innovation needed ) is how they became the worlds richest company.. but not for long…


    • tallestskil says:

      5¢ a post really adds up when you’re THIS mind-numbingly stupid, huh.


      • Actually, Apple does seem to often be behind on hardware technology in certain areas. I first noticed it when they came out with a Macbook Air that had Core 2 Duo processors. It was odd that they did a refresh utilizing a two year old processor that Intel was going to stop production in another 6 months. They’re also slow out the gate on new processors. It may really be an issue of their production cycle being out of sync with Intel’s processor roadmap although that is published by Intel well in advance.

        Also, Apple was one of the signers of Blu-Ray technology, but never incorporated it. The Apple community begged for it, but it was never received. Apple believes the consumer needs to embrace streaming. I think Apple needs to do a better job in appealing to their user base. Instead, they have taken a position of deciding what the consumer wants/needs and will likely only choose technologies that force you through their economy (i.e. iTunes).

        I believe Apple has the bright young minds to return to being an innovator. I guess the real question is if they have the leadership.


      • Tallest Skil says:

        Enjoy your FUD. Oh, and your nickel, I guess. You’d think for such wastes of your time you’d get a little more than that. Not a single conclusion you’ve drawn is in any way accurate.


  6. And yet the appleheads will still buy this in droves.


  7. I think the kindle HDX has a completely unacceptable screen due to the blue colour bleed issue. Kindle users are livid on Amazons site with plenty of bad reviews about how poor the kindle is for reading. Why review sites do not even mention this controversy is appalling too! I also personally feel that gamma is more important than color gamut once the colour range reaches the level we are talking about here. All of these displays would smoke my pcs LCD monitor, however unless you put them side by side you aren’t really going to notice a massive difference. Could the mini be improved? Sure, but its screen looks fantastic to me. The brightness of the nexus also drains battery faster, so there is a trade off.


  8. markroder says:

    “While LTPS is better than IGZO, IGZO is expected to win out because it’s easier and cheaper to manufacture. LTPS will probably stick around in smaller, flagship smartphones and tablets, while IGZO eventually takes the rest of the smartphone/tablet/laptop/desktop/TV market.”