So it’s finally here, and surprisingly there isn’t a suffixed number to remind you which iPad it actually is. Since the iPad 2 came out in March last year, there were murmurings of a hi-res iPad that was in the works behind the iron walls at Cupertino. The iPad 3 or iPad HD were the early favourite monikers, but Apple threw caution to the wind and just called it…the iPad. Gasp. A lot has been made about the nomenclature and numbering of these iDevices, but fast forward to 2020 and try imagining what the iPad XI or 11 will look like. Exacly, sounds stupid doesn’t it? Just like every new MacBook or iMac is called exactly that, Apple appear to be doing away with the numbers and just calling it as it sees it….the new iPad. Now that that is out of the way, and we have had the time to give the new iPad a run around the block, head past the break to read our full review.
Having sat through the liveblog on countless sites, I was convinced it was time to part with some money and buy the new slate. Wisely, I pre-ordered the device online to avoid the chaos that ensues every year at Apple stores countrywide. Upon delivery, I tore the packaging apart like a sugar-high tween clawing through the packaging of the latest Bieber album. Except, not like that at all. This review is going to sound very similar to reviews you read last year for the iPad 2. Only because Apple has perfected its recipe for success, and as you now know, things don’t change that drastically in Apple-world. The packaging is the same nondescript, white packaging that holds no more than the iPad, the charger and some paper and Apple stickers.
To the untrained eye, the iPad is identical to last years model. But once you turn the screen on, you can immediately tell this is something special you’re holding in your hands. The new iPad boasts a new display that has garnered a lot attention, for all the right reasons. The screen is the first of its kind; it has a resolution of 2048-by-1536 which corresponds to 264 pixels per inch. The highest of any kind on a mobile device. This qualifies it as a “retina display.” In non-marketing speak, that merely suggests that when you hold the device at the normal distance from your eye sockets, you can’t tell two pixels apart. Technically the iPhone has the most pixels per inch (326) but the display on the new iPad looks gorgeous. Tim Cook was quick to point out that this display packs 1 million more pixels that your prized 1080p TV at home. A stunning engineering task to say the least. Text and pictures on the device look unreal. Joshua Topolsky, Editor at TheVerge, put it best when saying “For rendered text or high resolution images, it just looks otherworldly; like a glowing piece of paper. There were moments when I was testing the device when I would just marvel at a single paragraph of text, or I kept zooming in and out on a particular headline to see how cleanly fonts are rendered on this screen.”
Display Comparison (Source: TheVerge)
No picture of the display can do it justice. Until you see for yourself, you wont really believe it. Apple has been positioning the device as a media consumption hub, and for reading, pictures and video there is nothing like it on the market.
As far as physical dimensions go, the new iPad is a tiny bit thicker (0.03 inches) than the iPad 2. Given that Apple had to accomodate the new screen, and a larger battery (more about that later), this bump in thickness is understandable. When holding the device you wont feel it, but as for the weight, there is a more significant increase. Weighing in at 652 grams over 601 grams, means the new iPad is little heavier and this wont sit well with some. Tablets are always awkward to hold for long periods of time, and this extra silicon fat will give your arm a workout.
On the back of the device, one will find an updated camera with a larger lens. The new 5-MP iSight camera on the rear, is a solid bump up from 2MP snapper on the iPad 2. Apple claim, the camera features the same optics and camera software found on the new iPhone 4S. While the camera isn’t going to replace your point-and-shoot, it is definitely one of the best you will find on a tablet and good enough for capturing the one off moments in good light. The lack of a flash means taking pictures in low light conditions is close to pointless. Like before, there is still a VGA camera for video-conferencing on the front of the device. The camera again isn’t great, but for video chat or FaceTime calls, its more than sufficient.
Image taken using the 5MP iPad camera
The new iPad also supports LTE or 4G (or faux-G) bands for the first time, meaning you can opt to purchase a LTE-capable iPad and get on either AT&T or Verizon’s 4G network here in the US. In this article we were reviewing the 32-GB WiFi-only model.
Unlike the similar looking exterior, the innards of the new iPad have been overhauled. At center of it all is the new dual core A5X processor which has an updated quad-core GPU. Prior to launch, it was widely believed that the new iPad would work off a quad-core A6 chip, however this was not to be. This silicon is no slouch though; clocked at around 1GHz nothing I did on the tablet appeared to slow the device down. Whether I was watching 1080p videos, streaming music and editing images, everything worked like a charm. The new iPad is also the beneficiary of more RAM, 1GB of it to be precise. At the iPad unveiling, Apple waxed lyrical about the graphical performance of the new iPad and even flung mud at the competing Tegra chips found on many Android tablets. Apple claim the performance of the A5X is roughly 4 times better/faster than the Tegra 3. These claims were thought to be generous and inaccurate, but since launch benchmark test have shown the A5X is roughly 3 times faster than the Tegra.
The iPad has been in the top of its class when it comes to its 9-hour battery life, and Apple were tasked with the tough job of maintaining this with the new display, 4G radio and CPU. Driving a screen with that many pixels and supporting LTE data transfer would surely knock battery life down significantly, however Apple have combated this by cramming in a 42.5-watt-per hour lithium battery that is nearly 60% larger than the predecessor. In our tests with the iPad, I was still able to get 9.5 hours of use while browsing the internet, listening to music, editing pictures and sending out emails over WiFi. With 4G models, this may drop down to 7-hours. I will sleep soundly knowing my next long haul flight wont be as boring as I though initially.
Siri may still be exclusive to the iPhone 4S (oddly enough), but the new iPad did receive a small added bonus in the form of voice dictation. When you enter an text input field, you will find a little microphone button on the keyboard. Tapping this will enable you to dictate your next great novel, and the iPad will transcribe this to text. In my tests, the accuracy was spot on and the iPad had little trouble transcribing my voice.
– The screen on the new iPad is second to none.
– Great battery life
-“HD” games like Infinity Blade look stunning and run smooth like butter
– New CPU, GPU and RAM upgrades benefit the device greatly
– Updated iSight Rear camera is a big upgrade from the iPad 2
– Increased resolution means apps are now 3-4 times larger in size
– A lot apps wont be scaled up any time soon to accomodate the new display
– The larger battery takes more time to charge to capacity (~3.5 hours)
– Still pricey compared to other tablets
So the new iPad is definitely an evolutionary update as opposed to a revolutionary one; one that should be at the top or thereabouts of your “next tablet” list. The ‘resolutionary’ (Apple marketing talk) display alone makes a strong case for you to shell out between $499 and $899 (model dependent) on this new slate. If you can’t be fussed about the display, then it gets interesting. The iPad 2 is no slouch, and will definitely holds its own for another year or so. People who currently own an iPad 2 might want to hold off and wait for this time next year to see what rabbit Apple pulls out of it hat. Apple has also dropped the price of the iPad 2 to $399, making it a very good option for those who just need a tablet, but aren’t too fussy. I for one have upgraded from the original iPad, and this was a big, big jump in terms of performance. If you think you’re going to wait it out and hold off on the new iPad, I suggest you don’t look it in the eye!