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Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 12:32 am PT (03:32 am ET)

Retina Display iPad addresses two 'major weak points' of iPad 2 screen - report

An in-depth analysis of the Retina Display on the new iPad claims Apple has addressed two of the "major weak points" of the second-generation iPad, sharpness and color saturation, and has upgraded them to be "state-of-the-art."

Dr. Raymond Soneira, display expert and president of DisplayMate, put the new iPad's display through its paces and agreed with Apple that it is the "best display ever on a mobile device." He also noted that the new iPad's picture quality, color accuracy and gray scale are even better than most HDTVs, laptops and monitors.

Soneira found Apple's own definition of a "Retina Display" to apply to the new iPad, assuming the device is held 15-18 inches away from the eyes. He did, however, take issue with Apple's use of the term "Retina," as he has in the past, because the "true acuity" of the retina would require at least 458 pixels per inch for them to be indistinguishable at that distance.

According to the report, the new iPad "decisively beats (blows away)" all of the other tablets DisplayMate has tested.

"As expected, all of the images, especially the text and graphics, were incredibly and impressively razor sharp. In some photographs, that extra sharpness made a significant difference, especially in close-ups and when fine detail like text was photographed," Soneira said.

iPad comparison

Credit: DisplayMate.


The analysis discovered that the new iPad has "a virtually perfect 99 percent of the Standard Color Gamut." By comparison, the iPad 2 has just 61 percent of the gamut.

"The colors are beautiful and accurate due to very good factory calibration – they are also “more vibrant” but not excessively so or gaudy like some existing OLED displays," he said.

The new iPad is so accurate that Soneira believes that it could function as a studio reference monitor with some "minor calibration tweaks." The device's very accurate colors and picture quality make it "really shine," he noted.

One area the new iPad was not as strong in was screen reflectance. Reflecting 7.7 percent of the light from all directions on average, the iPad was listed as in "the middle of the range" seen for tablets and smartphones.

iPad reflectance photo

Magnified photos showing screen reflectance. Credit: DisplayMate


The tablet is also not as efficient as its predecessor. According to Soneira, the new iPad "uses 2.5 times the Backlight power of the iPad 2 for the same screen Brightness."

Soneira was, however, impressed by how Apple managed to preserve the 10-hour battery life of the first- and second-generation iPads without significantly adding to the device's weight and thickness. The new iPad's battery has a 42.5 watt-hour capacity, 70 percent more than the iPad 2. At full brightness, the third-generation iPad had a running time of 5.8 hours, compared to the iPad 2's 7.2 hours, but at medium brightness, the new iPad lasted for 11.6 hours, nearly identical to the iPad 2.

"Apple has taken the very good display on the iPad 2 and dramatically improved two of its major weak points: sharpness and color saturation – they are now state-of-the-art," Soneira concluded.

He awarded the new iPad the Best Mobile Display award for his company's video hardware guide and also gave the device the Best Mobile Picture Quality award. Soneira said the new iPad is now "qualified" for professional level applications, such as professional photography, medical imaging and field service technicians.

Alongside the high praise heaped upon the iPad, the report listed some areas where the Apple and other manufacturers could see further improvement. Screen reflectance, ambient light sensor, automatic brightness, display user interface, RGB LED backlights, OLED displays and size were all mentioned.

Apple's new iPad was released last Friday and quickly became a hit with three million units sold in its first weekend on the market. In just a few days, the device has already been subjected to teardowns and infrared heat tests.