The In-Depth Review: Apple 3rd Generation iPad
I’ve been testing the New iPad for a week and if it wasn’t black in colour I’d easily mistaken it for my white iPad 2. They are the same size, have the same feel, and even the same features. It’s just that there are a few things the new model can do far better. The differences are improvements, not real changes, enough to help Apple hold onto their lead in the tablet market without making everyone feel like they have to buy a new iPad each year.
The New iPad is a touch heavier and a touch thicker, but you only notice it if you hold it up for comparison with an older model. The frame surrounding the display is slightly thicker and slopes down towards the screen, a change so subtle you can only feel it, not see it.
With 3.1 million pixels and a resolution of 2048 x 1536 the new Retina display is by far the most impressive difference. It’s like getting a new pair of prescription glasses. Suddenly everything is a whole lot clearer and in focus. Although it will be awhile before we see apps and games that take full advantage of it, for now you can see the benefit with crisper text in books and websites, better clarity when you zoom into photographs, and better performance in the playback of videos.
Computing power hasn’t really changed, the main CPU is still a dual-core A5 processor, but it’s now coupled with quad-core graphics (changing the name to A5X) and so any task with a visual element, animated transitions for example, will now perform faster or feature more powerful effects entirely (such as morphing between images in iPhoto rather than slowly transitioning between them).
Where the graphics engine roars is in the new ability to play movies in 1080p High Definition and thanks to the Retina display you do get most of the impact even on a 9.7” screen. It will surely also power a new generation of hardcore video games in the next year too.
It’s important to note that this carries forward to the way the New iPad displays on HD televisions, either through mirroring the system with an HDMI adaptor or by sending content wirelessly through AirPlay.
Now with Long Term Evolution (4G) internet access (thankfully supported here in Canada, by all the major networks) the New iPad is faster when it comes to demanding tasks. It’s not a big difference for messaging or even surfing the web over 3G, but more useful when it comes to streaming services or the downloading of apps or video files. There’s a certain boost. If you’re like me, you’re long into the habit of using Wi-Fi for such tasks, so while it’s nice to have, it’s not life-changing.
You need to go into the Settings Menu, under “Keyboard” to turn this special feature on and when you do it will add a microphone icon to the touchscreen keyboard. Give it a tap and you can speak a few sentences for it to record. It uploads the audio clip for transcription (a bit of waiting), before typing it out into your open writing app. It takes a few tries before it picks up on your speech patterns and you’ll need to learn how to include punctuation commands, but it does work. Although Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, is not included in the New iPad, it seems to be the same technology as it can handle the same selection of languages. Do you think you’ll use Voice Dictation often? Admittedly, I won’t.
The camera on the back, the one you would use to record the world around you, has been upgraded to a 5MP iSight camera. Combined with the autofocus, auto white balance, and face detection added by the recent iOS update, it’s a handy little camera that’s worth using in a pinch and tapping into with apps designed to work with it. It can also record video at 1080p High Definition, but since it can be extremely awkward and clumsy to use the iPad as a camcorder (especially without a zoom), you may not give it full use.
While the battery has been upgraded, it’s only to maintain an approximate battery life of ten hours, to prevent the rest of the improvements from adding more drain. I think we all hope that every new smartphone, tablet, and laptop will have a longer battery life, but for now we’ll have to wait.
Usually when Apple upgrades a product the changes tend to be made across as many features as they can, but this time Apple has been very selective, only making improvements that work together to focus on the visual. This is an iPad that is significantly better at displaying, recording, and streaming imagery, which thankfully includes photos, text, movies, and games, enough to be of great value.
Should you buy the New iPad? Only if you don’t already own one. it’s still the best tablet I can recommend. iPad 2 owners, no need to feel jealous here, and I think you bought at the right time. There will be another iPad, naturally, and I’m guessing well see more sweeping changes then.