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iPad Mini display schooled by Amazon, Google tablets in tests

ipad mini
Wilson Rothman / NBC News

The iPad Mini may be the hottest (and rarest) tablet on the market this holiday season, but its newly 'Retina'-upgraded screen falls well behind the similarly sized competition from Amazon and Google, according to tests by the specialists at DisplayMate.

Apple's latest contended with Google's Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7" in a battery of tests designed to reveal how each display shines — and where it fails.

Historically, iPads have taken the crown, or at least been highly competitive; a similar test published last week by DisplayMate had the new iPad Air neck and neck with Amazon's latest in a fierce battle for first place. Yet the iPad Mini is the loser in practically every category compared to the other small tablets.

This chart shows the color gamuts of each device, which represent how accurately and to what extent colors can be displayed. The smaller and off-center iPad Triangle means it has a smaller gamut and one biased towards green at that.DisplayMate

Both the HDX 7" and Nexus 7 had extremely good coverage of the color gamut, meaning they display the full range of colors required by today's software and media. The iPad Mini, on the other hand, performed so poorly compared to them that its results had to be put in a separate chart.

The Mini's mirror-like surface also had the highest reflectance, meaning images can be washed out from ambient light — which wouldn't be a problem if it didn't also have the lowest brightness by far, nearly 30 percent dimmer than the Nexus 7, and lowest contrast ratings as well.

Does this mean the Mini has a bad screen? Not exactly — it just means that Amazon and Google leapfrogged Apple's already-solid displays, using state-of-the-art technology to achieve professional levels of color accuracy and brightness. And both the Nexus 7 ($229) and HDX 7" ($229 with built-in ads, $244 without) cost far less than the iPad Mini ($399), to boot.

If you go to the Apple Store and the Mini looks good to you, go for it — but if you're really serious about how things look on-screen (a photographer or movie buff, for instance), you owe it to yourself to check out the competition.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is