My iPad 3’s Retina screen is great, and the form factor– save one issue– is good for reading and working. Weight is the problem, and that’s solved by the new iPad Air. But an iPad mini is even lighter, and has higher pixel density, so it’s almost perfect. Put another way, why would anyone want a 13-inch iPad?
MaxiPad: Doing The Math
There’s a reason we don’t see Apple rushing a touchscreen Mac to world. Microsoft touts the touchscreen friendliness of Windows 8, and new hybrid tablets with keyboard and touchscreen (which, to date, have not sold well).
Apple, on the other hand, obviously recognizes the problem. Who wants to control a PC with a fingertip, hand, wrist, and shoulder when a simple tap of the trackpad or mouse is better, faster, easier?
Word on the streets is that Apple is working on a bigger iPad, a maxiPad or iPad Pro, with somewhere along the order of a 12.9-inch screen.
While I have no doubt that Apple tests various screen sizes for all iDevices, those that are shipped to paying customers have some inherent issues, which means a nearly 13-inch iPad has more than a few weighty problems to overcome, including the trend toward smaller and lighter, as opposed to larger and heavier.
What would be the so-called 13-inch maxiPad’s screen’s resolution? The iPad Air weighs in at about a pound, with a 9.7-inch Retina screen– 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, and 264 pixels per inch (vs. the iPad mini, with the same resolution, but 326 pixels per inch).
At Apple’s standard iPad aspect ratio of 4:3, a 12.9-inch (diagonal) maxiPad would have dimensions of about 10.32 inches by 7.74-inches, or 79.8 square inches, divided into 3,145,728 total pixels, or a pixel density which drops to less than 200 pixels per inch (thank you, Pixel Density Calculator).
When he announced the Retina Display in the iPhone, Steve Jobs said the magic number for a Retina Display is about 300-pixels per inch, for a device held at 10 to 12-inches– an iPhone, for example. For larger screen devices designed to be held farther away, the pixel density could be much less.
While that reduced pixel density may make for a decent display, it’s still going backwards. Going forward, is Apple planning a 12.9-inch iPad with an Ultra HD or 4k-like display? If so, such a device would quadruple the number of pixels on the same 12.9-inch diagonal, 10.32 by 7.74-inch maxiPad screen, which would require a more powerful CPU, and a much larger battery to drive the increase in pixels, which would approach 400 pixels per inch, a high resolution screen, indeed.
Marketing is all about product differentiation. A 12.9-inch maxiPad with nearly 400 pixels per inch would be a different beast in a category set apart from all competitors. For that, there is some precedent. Native resolution on the 13-inch MacBook Pro is 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, which is nearly 230 pixels per inch (and still called a Retina Display because of the average viewing distance from the screen).
I suspect Apple, if it chose to introduce a larger iPad at all (maxiPad, iPad Pro) at all, would opt for a lower pixel density and keep screen resolution the same as iPad Air and iPad mini, until both CPU and battery could handle the Ultra HD 4k-like resolution requirements for a higher pixel density device.
Similar screen size and pixel density issues arise in an iPhone with a larger screen (say, 5 or 6-inches diagonal). At the same resolution, pixel density goes down.