The iPad's Screen Resolution for Different Models

iPad screens
The entire iPad family: Pro, Air and Mini. Courtesy of Apple, Inc.

The actual size and screen resolution of the iPad depends on the model. Apple now has three different iPad models: the iPad Mini, the iPad Air and the iPad Pro. These models come in 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch sizes and a variety of resolutions, so the actual screen resolution of your iPad depends on the model.

All iPads have multi-touch IPS displays with a 4:3 aspect ratio. While the 16:9 aspect ratio is considered the best for watching high definition video, the 4:3 aspect ratio is considered better for browsing the web and using apps. Later models of the iPad also include an anti-reflective coating which makes the iPad easier to use in sunlight. The latest iPad Pro models also have a "True Tone" display with a wider gamut of colors.

1024x768 Resolution

The original resolution of the iPad lasted until the iPad 3 debuted with the "Retina Display", so named because the pixel density was enough that the human eye couldn't distinguish individual pixels when held at normal viewing distance.  

The 1024x768 resolution was also used with the original iPad Mini. The iPad 2 and the iPad Mini were the two best-selling iPad models, which makes this resolution still one of the most popular configurations "in the wild". All modern iPads have gone to the Retina Display at various screen resolutions based on their individual screen size. 

2048x1536 Resolution

  • The iPad 3
  • The iPad 4
  • The iPad Air
  • The iPad Air 2
  • The 2017 iPad (5th Generation)
  • The iPad Mini 2
  • The iPad Mini 3
  • The iPad Mini 4
  • The 9.7-inch iPad Pro

The remarkable thing to note here is that both the 9.7-inch iPad models and the 7.9-inch iPad models share the same 2048x1536 "Retina Display" resolution. This gives the iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3 and iPad Mini 4 a pixels-per-inch (PPI) of 326 compared to the 264 PPI in the 9.7-inch models. Even the higher resolution 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad models work out to 264 PPI, which means the iPad Mini models with a Retina Display have the highest pixel concentration of any iPad.

2224x1668 Resolution

  • The 10.5-inch iPad Pro

The newest iPad size in the lineup has a casing that is just a little bit bigger than an iPad Air or iPad Air 2 with a smaller bezel that allows it to fit a 10.5-inch display on the slightly-larger iPad. This not only means the screen will take up more of the iPad, it also allows a full-size keyboard to fit on the display. This helps transition from typing on a physical keyboard to an on-screen keyboard. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro also sports a True Tone display with a wide color gamut.

2732x2048 Resolution

The biggest iPad comes in two variants: the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the 2017 model that supports a True Tone display. Both models operate at the same screen resolution with a 264 PPI that matches the iPad Air models, but the 2017 version supports the wide color gamut and has the same True Tone display properties as the 10.5-inch and 9.7-inch iPad Pro models.

What is a Retina Display?

Apple invented the term "Retina Display" with the release of the iPhone 4, which bumped the screen resolution of the iPhone up to 960x640.  A Retina Display as defined by Apple is a display in which the individual pixels are packed in with such density that they can no longer be distinguished by the human eye when the device is held at normal viewing distance. The "held at normal viewing distance" is a key component of that statement. The normal viewing distance of the iPhone is considered around 10 inches while the normal viewing distance of the iPad is considered -- by Apple -- to be around 15 inches. This allows a slightly lower PPI to still register as a "Retina Display".

How Does a Retina Display Compare to a 4K Display?

The idea behind the Retina Display is to create a screen resolution that offers a display that is as clear as possible to the human eye. This means packing more pixels into it would make little difference. A 9.7-inch tablet with 4K's 3840x2160 resolution would have 454 PPI, but the only way you could really tell the difference between it and the resolution of an iPad Air is if you held the tablet right at your nose to get the closest view possible. In fact, the real difference would be in battery power as the higher resolution would require faster graphics which suck down more power.  

What is a True Tone Display?

The True Tone Display on some iPad Pro models supports a process of altering the whiteness of the screen based on the ambient light. While most screens keep the same shade of white regardless of ambient light, this is not true of "real" objects in the "real world". A sheet of paper, for example, may look whiter with a little bit of shade and slightly more yellow when directly under the sun. The True Tone display mimics this effect by detecting ambient light and shading the white coloring on the display.

True Tone display on the iPad Pro is also capable of a wide color gamut that matches the wider range of colors captured by some of the best cameras.

What is an IPS display?

In-plane switching (IPS) gives the iPad a larger viewing angle. Some laptops have a reduced viewing angle, which means the screen becomes difficult to see when standing to the side of the laptop. The IPS display means more people can crowd around the iPad and still get a clear look at the screen. IPS displays are popular among tablets and increasingly popular in televisions.