Much has been said about the new iPad — stating with the “new” name, the same old design, the slightly beefed profile and the underwhelming specs. Only one thing remains and that’s the hyped up, beyond-HD display. Check out our full review of the new iPad after the break.
First off, and for the purpose of making this review less confusing, let’s just refer to the new iPad as the iPad 3 (besides, that’s how everybody else calls it, especially the folks selling them in Greenhills).
We then refer you to our earlier review of the iPad 2 for comparison, considering the profile and design are almost exactly similar. In fact, at 3 or 4 feet away, you would have a hard time figuring out which one is the iPad 2 or the iPad 3.
Once you’re done with that, let’s move on and walk you thru some of the major improvements Apple did with the iPad 3.
Faster, better processor under the hood.
The iPad 3 sports an improved central processing unit Apple refers to as the A5x chip. This includes a dual-core processor which is the same as the one on the iPad 2 and a quad-core graphics chip which is double that of the previous model.
Apple’s focus on the graphics is logical as most of the processing power of the iPad involves heavy graphics rather than number crunching of the CPU. Add to that the much needed juice to support the very high resolution of the display (the highest and densest in any tablet) you will understand why Apple had to put extra effort in the GPU department.
Nevertheless, a lot of people including competitors to the iPad have pointed out the deficiency or insignificance of the new chip used in the iPad 3. For example, NVidia’s Tegra 3 processor used in the Asus Transformer Prime and the HTC One X has 5 CPU cores (referred to as 4PLUS1 with the 5th core for battery-saving features) and 12 GPU cores. By the numbers alone, the iPad 3 pales in comparison.
Setting aside any benchmarks or core-counting, normal users will stick with actual user experience rather than faster clock-cycles or number of cores and this is where the iPad 3 always impresses. Simple UI, smooth transitions, really fast app switching, quick app load time, and almost no noticeable lags or delays is what makes the over-all experience on the iPad 3 enjoyable and without a doubt, impressive.
Compared to the iPad 2 though, we did not notice any generally significant performance boost except maybe on a few key features and specific apps. That includes some graphics-intensive games, video editing apps like iMovie and photo manipulation apps like Photoshop Express. Everything else seemed to work just as fast or as smooth as in the iPad 2.
Thicker, fatter profile.
Apple started out with with really thin tablets since they first introduced the iPad a couple of years ago. They pushed the limits even further with the iPad2. So, it was a bit of a surprise that they actually decided to make the new iPad a bit thicker (about a millimeter) and heavier. This is primarily due to a bigger, higher-capacity internal battery that they had to include to compensate for the juice-guzzling hardware upgrade.
I guess it boiled down to two things that they had to choose — retain the thin-ness and declare a lower battery life OR increase the thickness to retain the claimed battery life. Now we know which one they picked.
The iPhone4-ish Camera.
One of the most noticeable upgrades Apple made on the iPad 3 is the rear camera. At 5MP, it’s the same optics they used on the iPhone 4.
To date, we can definitely say this is the nicest camera on a tablet we’ve ever used and tested. The great thing with the iPad is that the live preview is so big (the whole 9.7-inch screen) you can clearly see what the output would look like and how accurate the focusing is.
The image quality degrades pretty quick though under low-light conditions. He are some sample photos taken with the iPad 3:
You can view the original, raw photos here.
Video recording is now up to full HD 1080p and the rear camera does a really good job with taking clear, well-saturated and fairly focused shots. There might be some subtly noticeable lags or choppiness when you’re shooting dynamic or active scenes but that’s pretty much expected of any non-dedicated camera in this category.
Here is a sample clip to better appreciate what we’re trying to describe here.
Basically, if you’re familiar with the camera on the iPhone 4 or the iPhone 4s, it’s almost identical with the one on the iPad 3.
Because of the size of the iPad, the tendency of the user is to shoot at the portrait orientation and not the landscape which is what you’d normally do on the iPhone. It is also a bit awkward and cumbersome to carry this and use it to take pictures. Nevertheless, when the need arises and there’s nothing else around to use, you’ll be confident enough that the iPad 3 can do the job just as good as any other camera on any other smartphone you’ve ever used. Sometimes, maybe even better.
The Resolutionary Display.
Apple has this signature marketing approach of overdoing a specific device feature, hyping it up, and owning it to the point that everybody else wanted to copy or cope up with. They did that with the Retina Display on the iPhone 4, the ultra thin on the MacBook Air, and now they’re doing it on the iPad 3.
The curious thing is, it usually works. We’ve now seen Super AMOLED Plus, Super IPS+, Reality Display on other screens, dozens of ultrabooks competing for the ultra-thin category and we’ll probably see more tablets with at least 10 hours battery life and full HD display (like the on on Acer and the Asus Infinity Pad).
With a 2048Ã—1536 pixel resolution, it’s the highest we’ve ever seen in any tablet. Like the iPhone 4, Retina Display on the new iPad break down to a pixel density of 264ppi. The closest we have ever used prior to this is the 217ppi of the Huawei MediaPad.
The pixel density is evident when you look closer into the display. A close-up shot of the screen will show you very fine details with images, graphics and especially texts.
Compare this to the screen quality on the old iPad 2 and you will definitely notice the difference upon close inspection. However, at a certain distance (perhaps 3 feet or farther) the benefits of higher pixel density of the iPad 3 is no longer that evident.
Since the first iPad, Apple has set the standard for battery life on a tablet and they kept that promises of 10 hours on a single full charge for years.
With the iPad 3, Apple had to make a little bit of sacrifice and increase the battery size to make up for the additional juice that is required to run that quad-core GPU and lighting up 4 times more pixels than its predecessor.
They were still able to deliver the 10 hours as promised but in return the size of the iPad grew a bit thicker and put on more weight. For most folks, this isn’t a huge issue. Besides, if you did not know about the changes, you’ll likely not notice it anyway.
Running a continuous movie on a fully charged iPad took us just minutes short of the 10 hours it promised. If you’re a long-time iPad user, this is no surprise. A few might complaint that after several years of developing the iPad, Apple has not yet improved on the battery life while many other competitors have already caught up or even surpassed the 10-hour standard.
Bigger batteries mean you’ll have to charge them much longer. Our experience with the iPad 3 puts the charge time just a little over 4 hours when the iPad is turned On and just a little shorter than that when it is Off.
HSPA+, LTE or 4G
Some variants of the iPad 3 now comes with LTE but in countries where the service is not available or the LTE frequency is not compatible, this option might have little or no value.
Fortunately, Apple made sure that if you can’t make use of the 4G LTE modem, you’d still be able to connect to cellular networks via HSPA+ or DC-HSDPA with capacities of up to 42Mbps.
Note: Our review unit is a WiFi-only model so we’re not able to test HSPA+ on the device.
The performance of mobile internet on the iPad is actually more dependent on the network you are connected to rather than the device itself.
Our solution here is just to get a separate pocket WiFi to provide the iPad internet connectivity.
Price, Release Date and Availability.
While the iPad 3 is not yet officially released in the Philippines, a sizable number of units are already available in the gray market with prices starting from Php26k and above. Several other online stores have also carried the units since a week after its initial release in the US.
The new iPad 3 was also made available in neighboring countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore but the list still did not include the Philippines. It’s probable we’ll get to see the iPad 3 released in the Philippines in the next 4 to 6 weeks.
So, is it worth the upgrade?
Like the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4, the new iPad 3 did not have major design changes from the iPad 2. This might have disappointed a significant chunk of the market but we don’t think it will affect sales. As a matter of fact, we believe Apple will surpass expectations for the iPad sales this year despite stiff competition from Android tablets.
I have to that that I sold my iPad 2 (half off) in anticipation of the iPad 3. The motivation was mostly to get the new iPad for review purposes and not because I thought it was a necessary upgrade.
In fact, I would say the current owners of the iPad 2 aren’t missing much if they don’t swap it for the new one. The hardware updates we detailed above does not really merit getting a new one.
However, if you are still stuck with the first-generation iPad, then this could be your cue.
New 3rd-generation iPad specs:.
9.7-inch IPS LCD Retina Display, 2048×1536 pixels @ 264ppi
Apple A5X chip dual-core
5MP autofocus rear iSight camera
1080p full HD video recording
VGA front-facing FaceTime camera
4G LTE 73Mbps
HSPA+ 21Mbps, DC-HSDPA 42Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Personal WiFi Hotspot
What we liked about the iPad 3.
- Impressive screen resolution
- Better graphics
- Same simple and functional design
- Option for LTE/HSPA+ connectivity
- Great built-in HD camera
What we did not like.
- Though not that noticeable, it’s thicker and heavier
- For a 3rd-gen iPad, battery life has not yet improved
- Gets a bit warm on the back-side
- Storage tops at 64GB and no expandable memory — all that HD videos easily eats up space