Apple’s new iPad Pro has a lot going for it, from the inclusion of the so far Mac-only M1 chip, to 5G support, and the Liquid Retina XDR display on the 12.9in model. The display is attracting criticism though.
The problem seems to relate to the fact that the display uses an IPS panel, not an OLED like the iPhone 12, and the specific complaint relates to “blooming”. It is no coincidence that Apple published a detailed support document for the new display that deals with this topic on 24 May.
The issue is being discussed in great detail in MacRumors forums and on
Reddit. Among users of the new iPad opinions about the severity of the problem are divided though. Some have returned their iPads while others consider the problems to be irrelevant.
A tweet from Josh Teder sums up the issue.
Here’s my experience with the blooming on the M1
#iPadPro so far. It’s very noticeable in dark room with UI elements on top of a black background, but that’s the only scenario where I really notice it. It’s expected with this display tech but still jarring coming from OLED.
Numerous videos have appeared on YouTube relating to the the subject, the problem is that it is very difficult to show the defect in a photo or video. It is almost impossible to photograph or film this image defect in the way that an observer sees it. It is no coincidence that the examples are often photos in dark rooms, as the effect is even more visible there.
What is booming?
For optimal picture quality HDR videos require a first-class playback devices. Reviewers of TV sets will often criticise them for “blooming” and what this refers to is a kind of aura or shadow effect that becomes visible around light objects on a black background.
According to the reports, this effect is seen on the iPad Pro especially with white text on a black background.
Why is it happening?
Apple address the issue in the
support document. According to Apple, blooming occurs when the LED zones are larger than the LCD pixel size. A white shimmer can then be seen around a white letter.
In the support document Apple explains: “The Liquid Retina XDR display improves upon the trade-offs of typical local dimming systems, where the extreme brightness of LEDs might cause a slight blooming effect because the LED zones are larger than the LCD pixel size.”
The company explains that the light of the display is generated by 10,000 mini LEDs (only on the 12.9in model). Four of these combine to form an individually controllable local dimming zone. According to Apple, thanks to these 2,500 individually controllable local dimming zones, the display should actually not have any blooming effects.
In addition, the optical coating of the display should also support this. Outside of the Apple universe, the technology is also called full-array local dimming or FALD.
The mini-LED and LCD layers of the display are controlled separately at the pixel level. Proprietary algorithms should also coordinate transitions between the mini-LED and LCD layers in order to achieve an optimal viewing experience. A slight blurring or colour changes when scrolling against a black background are “normal behaviour” according to Apple.
How bad is it?
According to most reports, this problem is barely noticeable in movies and photos, only with certain objects such as the non-moving representation of text. One example is fixed white text on a black background – a situation with particularly high contrast.
How strongly the described effect bothers the buyer is subjective and could very much depend on the individual and their type of use.
The display is superior to the previous model in many areas. It offers real HDR support for the first time, even if it cannot keep up with OLED panels in this area. For many buyers, the excellent and increased brightness (useful when working in sunlight) and colour accuracy are probably more important – and these are an area with which OLED panels again have problems. If you are looking for perfect HDR film enjoyment an OLED TV is probably a better solution.