What we initially expected to be the iPad 3 is now known as the new iPad. Some may be confused by the new nomenclature but in my opinion, it’s a welcomed change. With the exception of the iPhone, Apple has always referred to its products by their names: iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro. Taking the opportunity now to change the way we refer to each generation of iPads will work out better in the long run, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the next iPhone will be known as “the new iPhone.”
Back to the iPad. The third generation (2012) iPad was announced on March 7, 2012, and have recently reached their new owners across the globe. How does it compare to its predecessors — the iPad 2 and original iPad? Should you get one? We’ll take a look at what the new iPad has to offer. Our review is based on a a 16GB WiFi iPad which we’ll be giving away to one lucky reader. So read on to find out how you can be a proud owner of a new iPad.
The new iPad
What’s new? Without going into too much detail, Apple upgraded the new iPad to sport a Retina Display, better graphics performance, 4G (LTE) support, a better rear camera, a larger capacity battery and voice dictation. Some say that the upgrades weren’t significant, disappointing even. But unless you’ve held the new iPad in your own hands, I would advise you to keep your initial judgement to yourself. On paper, the upgrades may not seem like much but trust me, I haven’t met anyone who wasn’t blown away by the Retina Display alone.
At the core of the new iPad is Apple’s custom-designed A5X chip, running the same dual-core 1 GHz architecture as the the A5 chip found in the iPad 2. The only difference here is the added power from a quad-core graphics engine to drive the new Retina Display. The new iPad now has 1 GB of RAM, twice the amount of memory found in the iPad 2 (and quadruple the amount of RAM in the original iPad, which was a measly 256 MB).
What does this mean to the everyday user? Web browsing is smoother, switching between apps and multitasking is snappier, gaming is more amazing, watching videos is more enjoyable. And with the new, larger battery, you’ll be able to enjoy it all on the crisp Retina Display for 10 hours on a single charge.
With prices starting at $499, the new iPad is available in 9 different flavours: 16, 32 and 64 GB WiFi, Verizon LTE and AT&T LTE models. Each configuration comes in either black or white and LTE models are $130 dearer than their WiFi counterparts. Considering that the iPad has significant role to play as a media consumption device, the 32GB LTE model is probably the sweet spot — and it will cost you $729, that’s a pretty penny.
However, if you’re willing to spend that extra bit of cash for a new iPad, rest assured that you won’t regret it in the long run. iPads are built to last, as are all Apple products. Speaking as an owner of the original iPad, surviving through iOS 3, 4 and 5; my first-generation iPad is still going strong. In fact, I can confidently say that I don’t feel the need to upgrade. Whether I want to is a different story altogether.
With Apple’s minimalist packaging mantra, all you’ll find in the box are the new iPad and a couple of bare essentials: a power adapter, USB cable and some documentation.
There’s not much to see here: a Getting Started guide, warranty information and hey, Apple stickers! Apple has always tried to reduce its carbon footprint, so you’ll never find excessive wrapping or packaging material — just what’s needed to ship the device safely to your doorstep.
The new iPad’s design is similar to the iPad 2’s — they both share the same 9.7″ screen surrounded by a black or white bezel, a single Home button, a volume rocker and mute (or orientation lock) switch, dock connector, 3.5mm headphone jack, MicroSIM slot (on 4G LTE models), and a curved, metal rear panel.
Pictured below, from top to bottom are the first-generation iPad, the iPad 2 and the new iPad. While there was a drastic leap in design from the first-generation iPad to the iPad 2, the new iPad is pretty much identical to its immediate predecessor.
Right off the bat, the new iPad is noticeably heavier. In fact, I was surprised at how much heavier the 16 GB review unit felt compared to a 64 GB 3G iPad 2. Admittedly, the new iPad only weighs an extra 40-ish grams (0.09 lbs) but it was still discernible. Most of the extra weight is contributed by the larger battery, which has 70% more capacity compared to the iPad 2. However, most of the battery’s power is used to drive the Retina Display and ultimately, you’ll end up with the same battery life as the iPad 2, which is roughly 10 hours.
Pictured below is a 64 GB 3G iPad 2 (on the left) and a 16 GB WiFi new iPad (on the right). As you can see, the new iPad is a hair thicker. Snap on covers for the iPad 2 probably won’t fit on the new iPad but sleeves and portfolio covers will fit beautifully.
The new iPad ships with the latest version of iOS 5, which supports PC Free — so you will be able to power up and start using it instantly without connecting to a computer, provided you have a wireless connection available. I won’t dive into iOS 5 because we have an entire manual dedicated to the subject.
Upon powering the device for the first time, I was taken aback by the gloriousness of the Retina Display. It’s something that you have to experience for yourself, no photo will ever do it justice. The new screen packs over 3 millions pixels on the 9.7″ display, with a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution. Just to put it into perspective for you, most 27″ LCD monitor will typically have a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels — and the new iPad has more of it, packed more densely on a smaller screen. However, don’t let these numbers manipulate you — go out, visit an Apple Store, play with the new iPad and you will finally understand what the hype is all about.
Having 4 times the amount of pixels on the first-generation iPad and iPad 2, the new iPad’s screen is more vivid and drastically clearer than its predecessors’. Text is displayed more precisely and images are truer. Comparatively, the iPad’s and iPad 2’s screens look disgustingly ancient.
The iPad’s Retina Display (above) and the display from an iPad 2 (below). Pixels are less perceivable on the Retina Display, making it a lot more realistic.
Jargon and specifications aside, how does this affect everyday use? With clearer text, web browsing, emailing and reading ebooks on the new iPad are more enjoyable. And coupled with the A5X’s graphics engine, 3D gaming on the new iPad is taken to a whole new level of awesome.
The new iPad’s screen does seem to have a slightly yellowish tint compared to its predecessors. In the image below, you’ll find (from left to right) a first-generation iPad, an iPad 2 and the new iPad, all on the same brightness level setting; yet distinctly different.
One of the more welcomed upgrades in the new iPad is the revamped rear-facing camera. What used to be a lowly 0.9 MP camera in the iPad 2 is now a 5 MP iSight camera, featuring the same five-element, f/2.4 lens setup found in the iPhone 4S. Images taken with the new iSight camera are a huge improvement over the iPad 2 with more detail and contrast. Auto-focus is snappy and it also features face detection. The front-facing VGA camera remains unchanged.
Below are two snapshots of my Facebook business cards, which were a limited-time offer from MOO. The image on the left was taken with an iPad 2, the one of the right was taken with the new iPad.
And here are cropped sections of the above snapshots shown in real size.
Despite how the iSight camera performs, it’s quite unlikely that you’ll be using it as your primary camera because, let’s face it, you can’t carry your iPad everywhere. It’s one of those features that is convenient to have but hardly used.
That said, it also sports 1080p video recording with image stabilisation. Paired with iMovie for iOS, the new iPad is a great tool for amateur videographers.
Instead of featuring the full-fledge personal assistant capabilities of Siri, Apple decided only to implement voice dictation into the new iPad. Voice dictation allows you to tap on the microphone button and speak the text whenever a text field is present. You can use it to compose emails, notes, browse the web, and so on. So far, I found it to be relatively accurate and easy to use but coming from the original iPad, I’m more used to typing, and sometimes even forget that Voice Dictation exists. If you’re a quick typist, you’re better off typing the text — it’s less frustrating.
Should you buy it?
The iPad undoubtedly remains the leader in the tablet race and a highly desirable product. If you haven’t owned an iPad before, you should definitely consider the new iPad — it’s a great all-rounder. If you currently own a first-generation iPad, the answer is a resounding, “Yes” without a shadow of doubt — the new iPad is worth the upgrade. If you’ve got an iPad 2, I’d say you should be pretty happy with your device. Like I mentioned earlier, iPads are built to last and if you have survived this long without a Retina Display, you probably won’t miss it once the hype subsides.
If you’re lucky enough, you might just win one. We’re giving away this 16 GB WiFi review unit to one lucky MakeUseOf reader. Here’s how to enter.
How do I win the new iPad?
It’s simple, just follow the instructions.
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