Marco Arment, as usual, offers a smart take on why the iPad Mini isn’t Retina (yet):
If you’ve never used a Retina-screened device, you probably won’t care, but if you’ve been spoiled by Retina, you’ll notice the lack of it in the Mini almost every time you turn it on. I stop noticing after I start doing something with it, of course, but those first few seconds are a rough reminder every time.
It’s not hard to imagine, given what we see with the iPad 3 and 4, what an iPad Mini with a Retina screen would be like with today’s technology. Its battery life, portability, or performance would suffer significantly. (Probably all three.)
Apple didn’t made an arbitrary decision to withhold Retina on the Mini to save money, upsell more buyers to the iPad 4, or “force” the first generation of iPad Mini owners to upgrade next year. They chose not to ship a Retina iPad Mini because it would be significantly worse than the previous iPads in very important factors.
Having played with an iPad Mini, I can attest to the shell-shock my eyes experienced upon first gaze of that non-Retina screen. If the iPad, conceptually, is supposed to be all about the display and perceptually, my eyes are accustomed to Retina quality, then the iPad Mini of today is a device not for me. Put another way, the other trade-offs -- size, weight, thinness -- aren’t as compelling to me as the display is. Yes, my iPad (3) is heavier and thicker1 and runs warm, but the Retina screen is worth it to me. In a word, I'm spoiled.
Unquestionably, a 4G-capable, Retina iPad Mini is the iPad Mini I want.
Heavier and thicker relative to the iPad 2, but I never had one. I upgraded to the Retina model from the original, 2010 iPad. In that context, the Retina iPad is significantly thinner and lighter. ↩