iPad Retina Display squashes rivals (but it's not perfect)

The new iPad's Retina Display comfortably out-performs the displays on the current crop of tablets and smartphones, according to new research, though there remains room for improvement in battery life, brightness and more. The third-gen iPad's 2048 x 1536 panel bests rivals for sharpness, color saturation and accuracy, picture quality, and gray scale, according to DisplayMate's testing, and in fact outperforms the screens on most HDTVs, notebooks and monitors. However, it's not all good news.

While the new iPad could qualify – with some calibration, currently unavailable in the iOS settings – as a reference monitor, DisplayMate found power efficiency had taken a serious dive. In comparison to that of the iPad 2, the new screen uses 2.5x the amount of power to provide the same brightness; despite Apple outfitting its latest model with a considerably larger battery, at full brightness it lasted 5.8hrs, versus the iPad 2 lasting 7.2hrs.

The impact on the end-user may not be so serious, however, with runtimes at medium brightness being roughly the same for both models. The stronger backlight is a necessary evil from the fourfold increase in pixels; the LCD IPS panel uses a technology called Super High Aperture and the backlight has to work through a greater amount of TFT transistors involved in the stacked display structure.

Reflectance also gets a mention, with the new iPad falling in the mid-point for tablets and smartphones; that's supposedly something which could be addressed by a shift to OLED panels instead, though power efficiency, cost and production headaches prevent such a move. Apple could, though use RGB LED backlighting, improving color saturation, rather than the white LED system currently implemented.