Since Tim Cook officially confirmed on March 7th that the iPad 3 (or shall we say, “new iPad”) will feature what we’d all been anticipating – the retina display – I’d immediately pre-ordered the lateset Apple slate online (Wifi model) and counted the days before the UPS driver would pull up to my driveway. Now that I’ve had the chance to play with the iPad throughout the weekend, I can honestly say that I’m loving it more and more every time I flip open its smart cover. Coming from the original iPad, this is a gigantic leap forward – pretty much like going from a Mazda 6 to a BMW M coupé. For those who, like me, skipped a generation, the new iPad will simply blow you away. It’s faster, packs four times the memory and has a display that’s currently best-in-class.
The moment you turn the iPad on, it’s clear that the retain display is THE main attraction. From a technical standpoint, the display has a 2048-by-1536 pixel resolution and 264 pixels per inch. Numbers aside, the screen is just stunning. Held at arms length, it’s pretty much impossible to make out individual pixels. Text look razor sharp and photos look better than ever.
I tend to do a lot of reading on my iPad (be it ebooks, surfing the web or articles I’ve saved for later reading on Readability/Instapaper), so needless to say, the Retina display is a godsend. On the old iPad, you read for extended periods and the pixels around the edges of the letters start becoming more noticeable; at least for me anyway. It didn’t help when I would switch over from my iPhone 4 to the iPad, making it painfully obvious. It got to a point about 7 months ago where I decided to buy an ebook reader (ended up with the Kobo Touch) for this very reason. Now, reading on the new iPad is an absolute joy and it’s instantly replaced my Kobo – well, perhaps save for outdoor reading at the beach/park.
Currently, not a whole lot of apps are “retina ready”, but the ones that are look great and will give you an idea of what’s to come. Apple recently featured a section called Great Apps for the new iPad and it’s being updated as more retina apps roll in.
Battery and Weight
Thus far, I’m getting close to 10 hours of use from a 100% charge, very similar to what I’m accustomed to on the first iPad. This is with brightness set to 50% and Wifi on, web browsing, reading an ebook, playing 2 hours or so of games and some App Store browsing. Basically, just everyday stuff. Charging the new iPad though takes significantly longer than before. It took me just under 7 hours to charge it from 0% – 100% (with included charger and cable), which shouldn’t exactly come as a complete surprise as the battery on this thing is massive. iFixit’s recent teardown revealed a 42.5 watt-hour Li-ion battery within, up from the iPad 2′s 25 watt-hour battery. One thing to note is that after some use, the iPad does get noticeably warm (though not hot) around the lower left side of on the back. I went into the Apple Store and asked an employee about this, and was told that it’s normal and largely due to the battery. I did find that upon lowering the brightness setting all the way down, the heat dissipates rather quickly.
In terms of weight, the new iPad is slightly heavier than the iPad 2, though not by too much (650g vs 601g on Wi-Fi model). It is lighter than the original iPad, so that’s a big plus in my book. Realistically though, the difference in weight is quite negligible that you likely won’t think much more of it after the initial stages of unboxing and handling.
CPU, Memory and Gaming
By and large, using the new iPad won’t feel any faster than that of the iPad 2. Again, not surprising considering that the A5X chip onboard also runs at 1GHz. Ram on the other hand, did make the leap from 512mb to 1GB. This means there’ll be even less lag after periods of use, apps will boot up faster (they won’t be killed in the background as often when RAM runs low), tabs on Safari won’t need to reload as much and multitasking in general will be much smoother.
For iPad 1 owners who’ve never used the 2, be prepared to feel a world of difference. Everything is so much more responsive – from exiting an app to using the multitasking gestures (i.e pinch to home screen and swiping left/right to move between apps).
As for the ‘X’ in the new A5 chip, we learned during the unveiling that it stood for quad-core graphics. And it’s supposedly 4x as powerful as the NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor (one of the fastest chips for Android and Windows 8 devices). Whatever the case may be, all I know is that games look amazing on the new iPad. Real Racing 2 HD was updated several days ago with full 2048-by-1536 retina support, along with 4X anti-aliasing and the visuals just looks sick. They pretty much rival gaming graphics you see on high-end PCs. Oh, and it runs ultra smooth. Same goes for Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy and Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation. Both look pretty incredible for a mobile device.
The camera on the new iPad is another component that has been upgraded. It’s now 5 megapixels and features image stabilization, face detection and the ability to shoot 1080p HD video. From my brief tests, the rear camera performs surprisingly well, especially considering that it’s mounted on a tablet. Image quality is quite similar to photos taken on my iPhone 4, and in some cases, even better. Around the front, the camera remains at VGA quality, so don’t expect to snap impressive mugshots of yourself. For FaceTime though, it gets the job done.
To be honest, I just don’t see myself actually making much use of the improved “iSight” camera. I’ve seen how silly people look trying to snap pictures on their iPads, and I don’t plan on being seen in public doing likewise anytime soon. Granted, I suppose it’s still good to have around for times when that’s your only option available.
The new iPad also has a new dictation feature built in (internet required), which turns your voice and into text. It’s not Siri, but it does provide the convenience of having your spoken words transcribed into written words for tasks like emails, web search, twitter/facebook updates etc. By default, it’s turned off and it can be enabled under Settings –> General –> Keyboard –> Dictation –> On. Once turned on, you’ll find a microphone button next to the spacebar and it’ll be present whenever the iOS keyboard pops up. This means that you can use dictation even on third party apps, like Byword, the very app I’m using right now to type out this article on the iPad.
Accuracy is quite good and the written text is returned from Apple’s servers a second or two later, making it much faster than having to manually type out an entire sentence. Just make sure you speak at a steady pace and enunciate your words clearly.
The new iPad truly is an amazing tablet. For the first time, I finally feel comfortable leaving my 13” Macbook at home when I travel and relying on just the iPad for all my work (like updating content on TMA). It’s become my primary ebook reader once again and I’ve even developed an addiction to saving articles I find online just so I can enjoy them on the iPad.
iPad 2 owners may have a harder time deciding whether it’s worth the upgrade, but there’s no doubt that iPad 1 owners or entirely new users will love all it has to offer. You really have to see the Retain Display in person to appreciate just how beautiful it is. Text, photos, HD movies and retina-supported games simply look incredible. If you’re still on the fence whether or not to buy the new iPad, I’d suggest visiting your local Apple Store and trying it in person. Just be prepared though that you won’t walk out empty handed.