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iPad Mini Doesn’t Cut It For Images

Discussion in 'iPad Mini Forum' started by lecycliste, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. lecycliste
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    lecycliste iPF Novice

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    I spent a couple hours at my local Apple Store checking out the iPad Mini and iPad 4 yesterday. (Yes, I know it’s officially the iPad with Retina Display, but no one calls it that except Tim Cook.)

    For a photographer, looking at the iPad Mini’s screen could make you think you need glasses. Critical sharpness of faces, trees and rock features becomes hard to evaluate. Text on Maps and web pages looks fuzzy. Details are just unsharp enough to make you check a couple more times to be sure they’re there.

    You may also be sick of feeling like a packhorse. Most pros and serious amateur photographers carry multiple camera bodies and two or three zoom lenses, usually with wide, constant f/2.8 apertures across the zoom range. More heavy gear like an iPad 4 you really don’t need.

    I like the Mini's small size, light weight and usability. The 7.9 inch screen gives you a keyboard with all commonly-used characters showing.

    I also like Apple's huge app selection compared to the tiny one for the Nook Color I wish I'd never bought.

    But for critical image evaluation on location, this photographer will wait for the Mini with Retina display we should see next year.

    That Mini could have been made right now. It would have had an A5X processor, 2048 x 1536 display in IGZO that would burn sufficiently low power to use existing battery technology in the same small size, and pricing similar to the debut model. Apple instead chose higher profit margins on inferior technology.
  2. Somerled
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    Somerled iPad Junkie

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    I completely disagree. they went for sustainability of the battery and lower production costs. The increase in pixels in a retina screen means an increase in output from the battery and a shorter battery life.The mini was brought out to compete with the smaller tablets already on the market, it was also made with iBooks in mind. The more and more I read about the mini, the more I see it being used in the classrooms even being rented/leased to students both in grade/high school as well as college.

    It was not meant to be a lightbox. As a photographer and cinematographer outside my real job, I use my iPad 3 (with a retina screen) to proof images and as a wifi screen for a friend's Red Epic. For that, the Retina is freaking amazing, but I would not want to drop my screen real estate just to shave off a couple ounces.
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  3. AQ_OC
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    AQ_OC Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Where is the evidence that a 326 ppi screen can be produced at 7.9 inches and still meet Apple's standards for quality, battery life, and weight in the resulting mini? Apple is only making screens at that ppi for iPhone 5 and the iPod Touch. 7.9 is a lot bigger and thus the yields are lower.

    I think it is too simple to accuse Apple of always going to profit...they go for creating the best user experience they can with technology that is proven. If they were just about profit, there would be no iPad 4 out today...because they would have held that back until next March.

    Frankly, I find the images on the mini look fine...they certainly look better than they do on the iPad 2. No, they are not retina quality, but so what? The screen is not a high resolution screen. What can you expect?
  4. thormcse
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    thormcse iPF Novice

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    They are a for profit company and no retina is for profit. There will be a mini 6 months to a year with retina. They trickle out technology to sell and if people didn't buy every time they do this, they would raise the bar quicker. I have enough people in my house that I give them the old and I get the new.
  5. mgpitt
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    mgpitt iPF Noob

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    A retina display would not only cost more it would increase power consumption considerably. For this reason.the ipad 3 was thicker than the 2. All these products are compromises. I guess in designing the Mini Apple decided that thinness and cost were more important than pixel density.

    Also the human eye can't really resolve much above about 200 pixels per inch so jumping from 160 to 320 in the Mini would not have the same benefit as the jump from 120 to 240 had wrt the ipad 2 vs 3.
  6. AQ_OC
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    AQ_OC Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Agreed on the screen. People don't seem to have any consideration for the impact of physics on the design. I would not want a mini if it were not so light. If going to retina adds too much weight (due to more battery) etc, or decreases battery life too much, then I wont buy. For me, the weight is a critical factor. I suspect this will prove true for millions of people, too. It's just too easy to say "it doesn't have retina, I want retina", but it is another thing to make it work in a device, and keep standards and design goals met. Apple did what they knew they could do to deliver a great experience. What they can meet in a year is another matter.

    As for the ppi....Apple will have no choice but to go to 326 ppi, since they need to double the pixel count in each direction to avoid impact to developers and to ensure that all the apps run. So, while 250ish would have been fine, stopping there is not a smart move on Apple's part.
  7. Talk2USoon
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    I concur about the images on the mini do indeed look better to me than on my iPad2. For whatever reason I had forgotten to make that comparison. I use iPad3 the most, so I was feeling a bit disappointed but your post set me *straight :)
  8. lecycliste
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    lecycliste iPF Novice

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    IGZO (Indium-Gallium-Zinc oxide) screens typically consume less than half the current of a similarly-pixelated conventional LCD. Add in a processor with smaller linewidths and additional power savings from lower capacitance, and you can approach the power consumption of the current iPad Mini.

    Screen yields at that size would be lower, so the bill of materials cost is higher. But Apple could likely do it at the same, somewhat competitive price and still make a reasonable profit. That profit would be a bit lower than on the current iPad Mini.

    As for the resolution of a retina versus non-retina display, I could easily tell the difference between the iPad 4's and iPad Mini's displays in side-by-side comparisons. Pictures and text look fuzzier on the Mini. No specmanship here, just actual viewing in the Apple Store.

    I've been a commercial and wildlife photographer with published work, and typically carry Canon EOS dSLR bodies and EF L-series lenses when I shoot - occasionally a Leica M8 and Leica/Leitz lenses too.

    I also have 25 years of analog and mixed-signal I.C. design experience in CMOS and bipolar technologies.

    My comments come from that background.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  9. Talk2USoon
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    I don't doubt your photography based expertise, but I question the (seemingly) accusation that Apple *intentionally held back on a product just to make a bigger profit. If your opinion of Apple is indeed that low, why plan on making any future purchases from them?!
  10. lecycliste
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    lecycliste iPF Novice

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    After many years in the semiconductor industry observing corporate entities, I've seen that a company's marketing and technical people belong to (at least) two different viewpoints.

    I've worked in companies that could be dscribed as engineering-driven, and others that were marketing-driven. As an engineer, I was frequently frustrated in marketing-driven companies putting out less than the best product they could produce. Sometimes it's not that simple, especially in high-tech where you're trying to hit a market window for a product and you have to produce it with limited resources in that confined time frame.

    Apple has the technical expertise to build and sell very polished, high-quality products (and that's what they frequently do). But broadly, I'm frustrated when Apple puts out a product lacking advanced features already available in other models. It looks like they had the engineering in place to produce a retina-screened iPad Mini but didn't. Based on Steve Jobs' original influence as Apple's marketing founder (versus technical Steve Wozniak), and Apple's apparent corporate culture, I'd say the iPad Mini was a marketing-driven product fromn a marketing-driven company with strong engineering.

    The choice of price points and features are just that - choices. I admire Apple's products for their polished quality and ease of use. Everything just works. I make no value judgement of the company. I only wish they'd made different choices.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  11. scifan57
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    scifan57 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Do you have a source to back up your statement that Apple had the engineering in place to produce a Retina screen iPad Mini and chose not to? If you do, nobody else has managed to find it.
    BTW, what advanced features do you feel were lacking on the iPad Mini?
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  12. mgpitt
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    mgpitt iPF Noob

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    The focus on the (lack of) a retina display for the mini in the press and on this forum is in my view misguided. Users who need the best possible display should go for the Ipad 4. For the rest of us the mini is more than adequate. I for one would not want to sacrifice anything in either battery light, weight, thinness or cost price in order to get what would only be a very marginal improvement. OK, a 320 ppi display sounds impressive but the only way to take full advantage of such a high resolution would be to use a magnifying glass.

    To my mind the area that hasn't been addressed with respect to the display quality of all tablets is the issue of sunlight readability. This is the one reason that I still use my Kindle as no LCD display performs particularly well in sunlight. In my view the Mini is an ideal tablet to take on vacation but like all tablets is let down by the poor image quality outdoors. Even with the brightness turned full up it is difficult to read from the screen outdoors when the sun is shining (even when the display is in shadow) - admittedly tested with my Ipad 2 but I don't expect the mini to be much different.
  13. Kaykaykay
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    Kaykaykay iPad Wizard

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    I was hoping that mini iPad would have more tech-advanced innards and a good screen, too, but I figured that Apple was trying to broaden its customer base with a device that was cheaper and distinct from iPad 4. Such is life.

    Even though I'm not getting a mini, I'm glad buyers are liking them. It gives Apple incentive to keep making that size, and I hope the next go will include a screen upgrade, as well as more advanced guts.
  14. AQ_OC
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    I'm a mini fan too and I also believe that Apple will release the mini when they feel they can make a device that meets their design goals, no matter what others here are saying in regards to their experience (if you haven't actually worked on tablets and screens, looked a source capacity and yields, your experience just doesn't count, sorry). However, despite that, I still want a mini with a retina screen if/when it is possible. The fonts on screen won't get smaller, they will get sharper. The characters and letters will remain exactly as they are, but sharper. In fact, at 326 ppi, the display will look just like that of an Iphone 5. It will rock. People don't seem to be paying attention....apple is a the leader in producing high res displays....they offered this first in the Retina iPad, MBPs, etc, and the rest of the industry followed suit. If they could have pulled it off here & now, they surely would have...because doing so would have drove the rest of the tablet makers into bankruptcy. The tablet market would be theirs. Instead, the rest of the industry gets a chance to catch up. Why would apple do that? So they can then offer another device later to sell more? What about all those Kindles people are going to buy this year? What about the GN7 and 10? Are people evening paying attention. It is so easy to just make claims on the internet without any evidence whatsoever. The Google Nexus 10 has a 300 ppi screen but it has been criticized on quality. It is also lacking in having enough horse power to toss images up on that screen. The actual number of pixels on the screen has a big impact on performance. And lets keep in mind that Samsung made this device.

    I don't see this happening anytime soon. I don't have a problem with not using an expensive tablet outside, either. That's when you pull out a real e-reader.
  15. lecycliste
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    lecycliste iPF Novice

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    1. Apple already uses retina screens for iPad 3 and 4 at 9.7 inch diagonal size, with wide color gamut and good contrast. Yields were high enough to allow those products to be produced and sold to Apple's high profit-margin requirements. Yields generally go up with smaller die and display sizes, all other things being equal.

    2. Large die and panel yields can be quite low (15-20%) and still produce saleable product, depending on the process and profit goals. No one likes yields that low, but products can be made. After initial release, it's time for design and product engineers to work on increasing yields.

    3. While I haven't worked directly on displays, I've designed products that drive them, and worked on relatively large-die products in bipolar, CMOS, and BiCMOS. Some of the basic engineering and product P&L considerations apply to most electronic products.

    4. Apple's Retina screens in iPad 3 and iPad 4 both have large color gamuts approaching 100% of the sRGB colorspace commonly used in consumer displays. The iPad Mini's color gamut is considerably smaller at 62% of sRGB, according to iPad mini Display Technology Shoot-Out. Apple has demonstrated they know how to do it better right now with the 9.7 inch tablets.

    5. Apple has access to 28nM and smaller technology. If the goal was to produce an iPad Mini with a retina display, they could drive it with low-power graphics processor and CPU designs in the small-linewidth technology. That would reduce battery drain.
    There are small-linewidth processes available with low gate capacitances and high k' Apple needs for high-speed, low-power design at Samsung, their foundry of choice, and others (TSMC comes to mind for this too - I designed in their processes awhile back).

    6. I've edited photography for commercial clients on several platforms. To do this adequately, you need a high-resolution display with accurately-calibrated color rendering, large color gamut, and high contrast range. I've been seeking a lighter-weight alternative to a laptop for critical evaluation of photographs in the field. I'd like to use the iPad Mini for its light weight, small size, and apps it runs, but its display isn't good enough *for this application*. Differences between its display and Retina alternatives are definitely visible to my naked eye.

    7. Apple's corporate culture was opposed to producing tablets with screen sizes below 9.7" until relatively recently. Faced with the explosion of the small-tablet market, they may have decided to (a) produce a 'good-enough' small tablet to compete (b) with sufficient profit margins to meet Apple's profit model (c) in a relatively short time-frame - before this Christmas.

    I have trouble believing a company with Apple's engineering talent and technology access couldn't produce a retina-screened iPad Mini at a competitive price point right now. My guess is that Apple's marketing people drove this one, or there was a temporary yield glitch. Most products are a tradeoff, and the marketing folks may have won out this time.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  16. mgpitt
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    Given the clamour for an iPad mini with a retina display it is only a matter of time as to when Apple introduce such a product. Technically of course it is possible since a 7.9" retina display would have about the same pixel density as in the iPhone 4 and 5. Any yield issues can be solved given time. However, I would wonder whether it would be wise to introduce a new product with only a 15-20% yield as aside from the impact on cost this would be a major bottleneck in ramping the product (from what I read I think that Apple already sold something like 3 million minis).

    Why would an iPad mini that had a spec essentially that of the iPad 4 be significantly cheaper? Having a higher resolution display predicates having a bigger battery and a faster processor. The end result would be a product costing maybe $50 more to build and therefore selling for significantly more than $400.

    I guess one question is how Apple want to position the Mini in the future. Going to a retina display would likely bump up the price and from a marketing perspective I imagine that they wanted an entry level device at around the $300 mark. It may well be that when (if?) they introduce the iPad mini 2 they will continue to sell the original iPad mini (as they did with the 2 when they introduced the iPad 3). Hopefully, they would also be able to shave $50 or so off the price! Personally I do think there is a market for a (relatively) cheap, entry level device.

    Speaking purely for myself I don't feel the need for an iPad mini with a retina display and am happy to spend my money now, rather than wait 6-12 months for something that will be of marginal benefit to me (and for which I would not want to pay a significant amount of money for). I fully appreciate that other people have other needs.

    I don't think it is a question of marketing "winning out" over engineering. All products are compromises. In the case of the iPad mini I imagine that other factors such as weight, thinness and sales price won out over the display spec. It is also possible that Apple was wrong sided by the introduction of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. Remember that it takes a considerable time to introduce new products and at the time that they started development of the iPad mini they hadn't realised that there would be higher resolution, cheaper 7" tablets available from competitors by Q4 2012.
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  17. scifan57
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    Believe me, if it would have been possible to produce a retina display iPad Mini at this time, Apple would certainly done so. It would be much more difficult to produce a smaller retina display, with a greater pixel density, due to its smaller size. It would draw more power, needing a bigger battery, resulting in a heavier and thicker iPad at a higher price.
    If it were as easy as you suggest, to make high resolution displays as cheaply as you imply, Apple would have one it. You underestimate the technical challenges involved in producing such a display.
    Apple will produce a retina display iPad when it becomes technically feasible to do so at a price that results in expected profit margins and sales. Producing one now won't do any good if it costs so much that sales result in little or no profit for the company.
  18. lecycliste
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    lecycliste iPF Novice

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    Apple's competition has high-resolution screens in 7" diagonal sizes in their tablets at lower price points *already.*

    Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 7" has a 7" screen at 216 ppi and 11 hour battery life, priced at $199.
    Barnes and Noble's Nook HD has a 7" screen at 243 ppi and 11 hour battery life, priced at $199.
    Google's Nexus 7 has a 7" screen at 216 ppi and 8 hour battery life, priced at $199.

    Just for comparison with larger-screened devices,
    Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 8.9" has an 8.9" screen at 256 ppi and 10 hour battery life, priced at $299.
    Barnes and Noble's Nook HD+ has a 9" screen at 256 ppi and 10 hour battery life, priced at $269.

    You may argue that these prices give the companies no profit, that they rely on content sales to support the prices. or that the iPad Mini's screen is slightly larger and more costly than other 7" tablets at 7.9". OK, Apple's costs for higher materials quality and larger screen size are likely somewhat higher. if it costs, say, 1.2 times these amounts to build tablets with the same high-resolution 7.9" screens to Apple's quality level, then Apple's cost would be around $238.80.

    At the IPad Mini's $329 price point, that still gives a per-unit profit of $90.20. I don't know what Apple's profit models are, but that's a 27% profit, pretty good for consumer electronics.

    So we have at least three other companies able to build high-resolution 7" tablets with comparable battery life and sizes below Apple's price point. (At least two companies build tablets with larger 9" displays priced below Apple's iPad Mini). **That shows feasibility - it's being done right now.**

    Apple chose to produce an iPad Mini with a significantly lower-resolution, slightly-bigger display and a comparably-fast processor at a price 65% higher than the competition.

    Those are the facts.

    As an integrated circuit design engineer and design manager for 25 years, I understand the challenges of producing semiconductor and system-level electronic products quite well. I.C. development can take many months. I worked with Cisco and HP to supply network interface circuits meeting their product cost requirements for many years.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  19. Talk2USoon
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    Can't compare the Kindle Fire HD with a mini, because I only own the original Kindle Fire. While I couldn't fault the screen for its display, operating it by its touchscreen made me want to throw it across the room. I couldn't WAIT til the mini was announced. Sure I wanted the Retina screen too, but that's the only disappointment. The rest of it is as it should be. I just don't think any amount of expertise equates to insider information when it comes to Apple products. You get what you pay for, and nothing drives home Apple's quality like personally owning a Kindle Fire. No. Comparison. IMOHO.
  20. Kaykaykay
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    Kaykaykay iPad Wizard

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    I have Kindle Fire HD, as well as the original Fire. The new screen is much better. I use mine mostly to stream movies and read books.

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