Retina iPad Mini: Avoiding the Mistakes of the iPad 3?

Ready for Retina

I'm sure I'm not alone in being more interested in the new iPad Mini than in anything else Apple has planned for its October event. Like many, I prefer the Mini's form factor to the larger iPad, and could only knock it for a lack of retina display.

But whilst the jump to retina has been the most obvious evolutionary next step for the iPad Mini, the question of "when" and "how" has repeatedly divided the usually-harmonious views of Apple analysts and rumour blogs. Putting a 2048x1536 display into the Mini's chassis is, in the words of Rene Richie, "non-trivial". As little as a month ago, many blogs were reporting that the Retina mini might have to wait for 2014. Cost, battery implications, and stock shortages have all been cited as challenges to delivering the Retina mini.


To my mind, the question of whether a Retina Mini would come this year was put to bed when it was explicitly cited in AllThingsD's post "confirming" the event date. Given ATD's close connections to Apple, and the fact that their reports of this nature are widely understood to be a proxy for official Apple comments, leads me to be confident that Apple will, indeed, push ahead with it this year.


But that leaves a big, critical uncertainty about the Retina Mini: how will it be powered? More specifically, will Apple avoid a repeat of the iPad 3, which was lumbered with an underpowered, inelegant A5X that was a nightmare for developers and a step backwards in performance by comparison with the iPad 2 (which was not burdened by the demands of a retina screen).

I desperately want a Retina Mini - but I am concerned that the rush to deliver it in 2013 will come at some cost in terms of performance. The iPad 3 was on store shelves for only 6 months - a tacit concession by Apple that it was seriously underpowered. Given the legitimate concerns about the compromises involved in delivering Retina to the Mini, and the apparent rush to get it to market this year, I hope that it won't meet the same fate.


What do you, the Apple Core hivemind, expect Apple to put inside the Retina iPad Mini?

One must assume(/pray!) that the A5X is not on the table. Which leaves us considering the iPad 4's A6X; an A7; or a (hypothetical) A7X. The A6X must be a possibility - it is plenty powerful enough, and comparatively cheap to manufacture as year-old technology... but I do wonder if it is too power hungry for the Mini's slender battery. An A7X is only the stuff of hypothesis and extrapolation so far, but if it does exist I should imagine it would be the new top-of-the-line model, and reserved for the full sized iPad.

Which leads me to conclude that the most likely scenario is an A7. And, assuming so... what I really want to know is how the A7 is likely to perform in a Retina iPad - by comparison with, for example, the A5X or A6X? Has anyone seen any articles that have attempted such a comparison? The A7 has a quad core GPU, but does this mean it could match/exceed the performance of the A5X/A6X? Have Apple's SoCs reached the stage where retina iPads no longer need an X-designated GPU bump in order to drive their panels?