Dr. Ray Soneira and his DisplayMate Technologies Company is at it again, with a cold, hard, facts-driven analysis of "The New iPad" and its most distinguishing feature - a high-resolution 9.7-inch display that garners some high praise indeed. In his recent iPad Display Technology Shoot-out he evokes the hallowed words that ring sweet in the ears of video display professionals everywhere: "Studio Reference Monitor" quality.
Here’s the quote under the Viewing Tests heading in the Soneira write-up: "What makes the new iPad really shine is its very accurate colors and picture quality. It’s most likely better and more accurate than any display you own (unless it’s a calibrated professional display). In fact with some minor calibration tweaks the new iPad would qualify as a studio reference monitor. See our detailed measurements."
Soneira notes Apple is happily headlining the display feature with a single word "Resolutionary" to describe the new iPad, that company CEO Tim Cook said yesterday, had sold a whopping 3M units in its first weekend of sales. That’s a new record for the high-flying Apple Inc. that also just announced a stock dividend and stock buyback plan to help divert the flood of cash for Apple that hit the staggering rate of $1B/week last holiday season, according to the NY Times.
Calling it "pure marketing brilliance," Soneira sees the display as key to the success of iPad. Apple gets it when it comes to understanding the importance of a display in the tablet category. He said in his most recent analysis: "Tablets, after all, are essentially large portable displays so a top notch display is the key to a successful product - something most manufacturers haven’t figured out yet. Apple has from day 1 - and the new iPad display is impressive." Apple also added a higher capacity battery that just slightly adds to the device weight (+1.8 ounce) and thickness (+0.6mm), but boosts the power a whopping 70% (from 25 to 42.5 watt hours.) Finally, calling it the "…third wonder of the new iPad," Soneira said perhaps the most impressive feat of the new device is that "…Apple has managed to keep the retail price the same as the iPad2.
It’s a "true" Retina Display but not an "actual" one, on the spec sheet, Soneira said. The new iPad claims Retina-class functional parity with its smaller iPhone4 and -4S cousins, but "functional" is the operating word here because the fact is, the numbers do not add up to actual parity with the iPhone’s 960 x 640 pixel display in a 3.5-inch diagonal size. This translates into 326 pixel per inch density for the iPhone, while the display density for the new iPad is 264 ppi based on a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution in a 9.7-inch panel. That’s no problem according to Soneira who said: "…the new iPad does not require the same ppi as the iPhone 4 Retina Display because it is typically held further away from the eye, whose visual sharpness is based on angular resolution rather than the linear ppi resolution on the display." So it is the difference in distance to the eye, 12-15 inches for the iPhone, versus the 15-18-inches for the iPad that accounts for the lower ppi number on the new iPad and the Retina-class display resolution claim.
At 264 ppi the display may border on "technical overkill" according to Soneira, who likens the Retina-class panels to the megapixel wars in digital still cameras (DSCs). "More pixels are better up to a point, and then they wind up adversely affecting both performance and manufacturing costs." Soneira also notes the real reason for increasing the new iPads resolution to 2048 x 1536 resolution was as much for ease in up-scaling Apps written for iPad (one) and iPad2 displays (at 1024 x 768), so "…every older App pixel is simply replicated 2×2=4 times," Soneira said.
DisplayMate honored the Apple team with Best Mobile Display Award in the company’s Best Video Hardware Guide. Plus, Soneira calls this display much better than most HDTVs, laptops, and monitors-and recognized the device with DisplayMate’s Best Mobile Picture Quality Award, previously held by the original Motorola Droid.
So with its state of the art, "Resolutionary" studio reference monitor quality display, Apple is again on a roll with the new iPad outselling even the remarkable iPhone 4 in its first weekend of blockbuster sales. Apple is proving the importance of the display in making the cash register ring in the tablet market once again. - Steve Sechrist
Note: look for more detailed review in the upcoming issue of Large Display Report April 1st.