After spending a few days with Apple’s new iPad Mini, early buyers report that the tablet exhibits a prominent “jelly scrolling” effect in portrait mode. Apple made a surprise statement to acknowledge the issue, but unfortunately, the company doesn’t seem interested in finding a solution.
Update, 9/29/21 3:41 pm Eastern: Updated to mention iFixit’s iPad Air teardown, which reveals that the screen refreshes from top to bottom in a landscape orientation (left to right in portrait mode). This is different from previous models, which refresh in a portrait orientation.
Jelly scrolling is one of those things that’s often unnoticeable, but once you know it’s there, you can’t unsee it. Basically, it’s a consequence of LCD design. Because LCD displays refresh their lines one at a time, usually from top to bottom, the lower half of a screen refreshes “slower” than its top half. This can cause a tilty screen tearing effect when objects move on an LCD—especially if they move diagonally or side to side.
But when an LCD refreshes its lines from left to right, its screen tearing effect can turn into a jelly scrolling effect. Objects on the right side of the screen may appear to move faster than objects on the left, causing text and images to “tilt” when scrolling up and down.
This is the effect that people are noticing in the iPad Mini, which refreshes its lines from side to side (instead of top to bottom) when in portrait mode. While a small amount of jelly scrolling should be expected from any iPad, the phenomena is nearly impossible to see on most models, leaving some to believe that the new iPad Mini has some unknown bug or GPU issue.
Haven't seen if anybody else reported this but I see when scrolling in portrait mode with a lot of text on the screen there is a small amount of jelly scroll, where one side moves faster than the other. It’s subtle enough that it’s hard for me to film it, but it’s there.
— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) September 22, 2021
But Apple disagrees. In a statement to Ars Technica, an Apple spokesperson says that screen tearing and jelly scrolling are “normal behavior” for LCD panels, implying that the problem doesn’t need to be fixed.
Yeah, Apple is kind of right. Screen tearing and jelly scrolling effect all LCD panels to some extent. But the jelly scrolling we see on the new iPad Mini is pretty extreme, especially when compared with previous LCD models (such as the iPad Air 3). Also, because there are no reports of iPad Mini screen tearing in landscape mode, it’s hard to accept that this problem isn’t a quality control issue or a bug.
Update: An iFixit teardown clarifies that older iPad LCDs refresh in a portrait orientation, while the iPad Mini LCD refreshes in a landscape orientation. It’s possible that this shift in orientation made a once-unnoticeable screen tearing issue a lot more obvious. Of course, we still can’t rule out the possibility of a bug or a quality control issue.
If you’re still unsure what jelly scrolling or screen tearing look like, go ahead and visit the Blur Busters skewing test. Open it in full screen and step a few feet away from your monitor to see how objects “tilt” when moving on an LCD screen. Be sure to run this test in landscape and portrait mode if you’re using a phone or tablet.
Again, we don’t know if the iPad Mini’s jelly scrolling problem is a bug or not, and we aren’t 100% sure if it affects all new iPad Mini units. But Apple doesn’t seem to care either way, so if you’ve already purchased an iPad Mini, you may feel inclined to return it. Just make sure to get it back to Apple before the 14-day return window closes—Apple doesn’t have the same one-month return policy as Amazon and other stores!