Oh, iPad, has it been three years already? Why, it only feels like yesterday when Apple unveiled the latest member of its “i” family, giving new life to the tablet sector in the process. Since then, Apple has sold a gagillion (or is it fafillion?) units of the the iPad and its slimmer follow up, the iPad 2. Which brings us to the third installment of Apple’s popular slate, the not-iPad 3. This time around, the company decided to drop the numerical designation, opting instead to just call it the “new iPad.” Unlike its two earlier siblings, the third-generation iPad also launches at a time when the competition has fielded some pretty worthy tablets of its own — including Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line and ASUS’ Transformer line. So how does the new iPad stack up? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Stellar graphics: Apple wasn’t messing around when it decided to update the screen on the 2012 iPad. Prior to its release, the tech media was fawning over the Transformer Prime TF700T’s beautiful 1920x1200 resolution display. For its new iPad, Apple decided to go above that, serving up a 2048x1536 display with 264 pixels per inch. It also threw in a new quad-core graphics chip. While per-inch resolution isn’t quite up to the standards set by the iPhone 4, Apple still deems it worthy of its “Retina Display” moniker, saying that tablets are held a wee bit further than phones. Regardless whether you buy Apple’s explanation or not, one thing that’s for certain is that the new iPad’s display looks really good — provided that you have the right material to view on it, of course. Images have better detail and an extra pop in color. For video, high-definition buffs will especially like the ability to display video up to 1080p. The iPad also supports 1080p video output either via AirPlay or the Apple Digital AV and VGA adapters. All in all, the new display is certainly the pièce de résistance of the 2012 iPad.
Great battery life: Depending on your usage, the third-generation iPad still gets pretty close to the 10-hour standard offered up by the two previous iPads. This is possible despite the slate’s more power-hungry features thanks to a bigger battery. Apple claims a 10-hour battery life for movies and regular browsing and 9 hours on 4G. I didn’t have a chance to test the 4G version but I got pretty close to 10 hours based on regular use. that number also can go up or down based on your brightness and wireless settings.
Better rear camera: Thanks to its new 5-megapixel camera, you can now take better photos and video with the third-generation iPad. It’s also possible to capture video at 1080p. Unfortunately, the new camera still won’t make you look like less of a goof if you use it in public.
High-speed mobile connection: The new iPad now also comes with 4G LTE variants for folks who want faster data speeds than 3G when they are outside of a Wi-Fi spot.
Minimalistic design: Although a smidgen thicker and a wee bit heavier, the new iPad still sports the same slim design from the iPad 2. That may be a bummer for folks who like new stuff but if it ain’t broke...
Same Apple experience: For fans of Apple’s devices, user experience is just as important as hardware, and the new iPad delivers on that front. The device is zippy and smooth. Users also have access to a wealth of applications from Apple’s app store. The ability to set up the device without connecting to a computer is also a plus.
No expandable memory: I harped on this with the original iPad and iPad 2 and — at the risk of sounding like a broken record — I’m going to harp on this again for the iPad 3. There really should be no reason that an iPad can’t come with a microSD slot, especially given how apps, HD content and other media can quickly fill up a 16GB iPad. And honestly, paying an extra $100 for an extra 16GB of memory or $200 for an additional 48GB feels like a rip off whether it’s Apple doing it or one of its competitors — but at least some of those competitors offer microSD slots. Even if you don’t count the cost factor, it would be nice to be able to put content in different cards and swap them around like I can do with many of my other portable devices. Don’t even get me started on the extra costs from using Apple’s proprietary cables.
Longer charging time: Charging my new iPad took more than five hours, so the bigger battery is a bit of a double-edged sword.
Weak front camera: The third-generation iPad still sports the piddly VGA camera from the iPad 2 so you get the same poor video quality when using FaceTime or Skype. It especially sounds like a wasted opportunity given the new iPad’s slick new display.
Still dual-core: Although the GPU was bumped to a quad core, the CPU itself still uses two cores.
Display catch up: There still aren’t a lot of apps that natively run on the iPad’s new higher resolution.
The iPad certainly remains a powerful player in the tablet sector but still has some issues that keep it from earning a perfect score. Owners of the original iPad may have reason to upgrade but iPad 2 owners don’t have as much impetus to do so unless they really have to have that new display. Despite being a worthy successor overall, it still isn’t a big leap from the iPad 2, something made even more noticeable given the higher expectations about the device. If you don’t have an iPad yet, then by all means, get the new one since it’s a great device. If you already have an iPad, though, it’s really OK to hold off — and that’s coming from someone who actually bought a new iPad.
Final Rating: 4 stars out of 5