Apple iPad mini with Retina Display Review

Performance: Graphics and GLBenchmark

GLBenchmark (now known as GFX Bench) is a unified 3D graphics performance benchmark suite. We use the fillrate test and the Egypt Off Screen test to measure 3D performance in frames per second.  The Off Screen test renders workloads at 1280x720 for all devices, but off-screen so Vsync and screen resolution are not limiting performance factors.

Graphics testing
iOS and Android Graphics testing

After cruising through our initial set of benchmarks going mostly unchallenged by the competition, the iPad mini with Retina display falls just behind the iPad Air and the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, but by a relatively small margin. It's also useful to note that puling 60 frames per second in this test is tremendous for a 7" slate; the Nexus 7 (2013) managed just 43, despite being one of our favorite tabs of the year. Granted, it costs $170 less, but at least this benchmark does prove that the mini's price premium leads to meaningful numbers in the graphics department. In our real-world testing, we were duly impressed by the graphical horsepower. Pairing the Retina display with a 64-bit A7 SoC was a wise move, as the visuals in even new game titles were completely fluid throughout. 

We like running the Basemark X benchmark because it's built on top of an actual game engine, Unity 4, and features workloads modeled after real games designed for smartphones and tablets. Basemark X utilizes features like particle effects, advanced lighting effects, and post processing, giving us a good metric of real-world gaming performance.

The iPad mini with Retina display nearly topped the chart in the off-screen test (with the iPad Air edging it out ever-so-slightly), though it couldn't keep up with NVIDIA's SHIELD in the on-screen test (mostly because of the SHEILD's lower screen resolution). Still, this is yet more evidence that the A7 SoC inside the latest iPads is more than capable of playing games and handling heavy graphics workloads.

We wrap up our graphics testing with Futuremark's cross-platform 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark. Only the iPad mini's Physics scored trailed the top of the pack. The iPad Air led the way with the highest Graphics and Overall Ice Storm score, far outpacing the iPad 4, and just edging the mini. 

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