Since the day Apple first released their iPad in March of 2010, competitors have been scrambling to match its success. Despite the fact that rumors had been flying everywhere prior to its announcement that Apple was working on a tablet for the post-PC era, no other company quite knew what to expect. So by the time companies like Samsung and Motorola managed to release their competing products, Apple had already moved onto the iPad 2. Research in Motion failed to even produce their answer (the BlackBerry PlayBook) to the iPad until after the second iPad was released, which allowed Apple’s lead to grow even further. With over 600,000 apps on the iTunes App Store, including over 200,000 built specifically for the iPad itself, Apple has a clear advantage over its competitors. To developers, the iPad is “the” place to make tablet apps, something Apple CEO Tim Cook showed during the new iPad’s announcement, when he compared Android tablets apps, which looked like scaled up phone apps, to native iPads apps.
When Cook and Company showed off the new iPad in early March, many industry experts (as well as bloggers) said it was a disappointment, that it wasn’t “different” enough, that the new upgraded processor, camera, LTE radio and Retina display were just incremental upgrades. My how they were proven wrong. Once it went on sale, like the iPhone 4S before it (which was also proclaimed a disappointment when it was unveiled), the new iPad went on to break pre-order records at Apple. Within three days of its release, Apple had sold 3 million (new) iPads, which is nearly half of what all Android tablets (combined) sold in 2011. The general public once again approved of Apple’s latest and greatest. But is the new iPad really that great?
He’s my take…
I, like 3 millions others, picked up my “new” iPad on Friday, March 16 and when I saw the Retina display, I was blown away. What else can I say that hasn’t already been said by half of the tech world? The first thing that comes to mind is Will Ferrell, when on SNL, he portrayed the host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” He said an actor’s performance was so amazing, there was no word that could accurately describe how good it was, so he’d have to make one up… “Scrumtrulesent.” Yes, it is that good.It doesn’t matter if you’re an Android fan, Windows fan or even a BlackBerry fan, you still have to give credit, where credit is due. Apple managed to pull off a feat that no other company had even tried, and for the exact same price as their previous models. You may not agree that the new iPad is revolutionary, but the screen itself, absolutely is. The fact that it contains 3.1 million pixels in a 9.7-inch display is unheard of and a feat that other companies like Samsung, Acer, Asus and Motorola will likely try to follow up and top for months (if not years) to come. When I fired up my new iPad, I immediately downloaded apps that I knew were already updated to take advantage of the new Retina display, apps like: Tweetbot, Infinity Blade 2, iPhoto and Modern Combat 3, none of which disappointed. The clarity of text on screen was something that can only be experienced when you see one in person, pictures online don’t do it justice. Just for fun, I took a copy of “iPhone Life” that I had sitting on my desk and compared it to the new iPad. The text on the iPad looked as if I had put a piece of glass over an actual magazine page. The text was so clear and crisp, you’d think it was printed on the display itself. Having the iPad since it was released, the amount of apps that have been updated for the Retina display, has drastically increased. Almost every app I’ve downloaded has been updated, including another favorite, Flipbook which allows me to read all my news in stunning high-definition. Surfing the web and reading books has also been an eye-opening experience. There has been a few downsides to this amazing display though, while watching movies is great, there are no movies that match the resolution of the Retina display. Even Blu-Ray movies can look slighly less sharp, because they are only 1080p, whereas the iPad’s resolution is over 1536px. The same thing applies to movies on Netflix. Despite the fact that Netflix updated their app’s UI to Reinta quality, there are currently no HD movies available to stream, although Netflix says they are coming. Overall, the display itself is a game changer, most competitors were content on putting out tablets with 1280×768 displays, with a few producing some that are only slightly higher. But now anyone wanting to compete with the iPad will have get as close to, if not higher than, Apple’s Retina display. The other problem is that by the time they do, Apple will have already begun work on their next iPad, which will continually keep them guessing.
The battery in the new iPad has been beefed up significantly over the iPad 2′s 25 watt-hour, almost doubling in size to a 45 watt-hour battery. The increase in battery size is to compensate for the new A5X processor and Retina display, not for better battery performance. Still, even with all the new specs, like the processor, display and even LTE, Apple managed to get 10 hours of batter life out of the new iPad, 9 hours if you’re using LTE. That is exact same as performance as the iPad 2, even with 3G.
During my testing, I can confirm the battery has lasted well into 2 days with heavy use. The only downside to the massive battery, is the charging time. Where the previous iPad (2) could be fulled charged in three hours, the new iPad takes about six. Still, if you charge it over night, you should be good for the whole day.
The rear camera, or iSight camera, on the new iPad is by far the second biggest leap from the previous iPad. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it is the best camera on any tablet, despite only being 5-megapixels. It uses the same, 5-layered lens technology that Apple uses in its iPhone 4S. While I highly doubt many people will be running around with a 10-inch tablet, taking pictures and video, it’s nice to know that you can grab a quick snapshot or video, rather than digging into your pocket for your phone. Apple even redesigned the camera app for the iPad, getting rid of the screen clutter and making the overall appearance cleaner and easier to use. Below are some pictures I took with the new iSight camera.
Larger versions are included in the gallery at the end of this review.
Colors, for the most part, are pretty accurate and vibrant. While there is no flash on the new iPad, it still took decent photos in low-light situations.
The new iPad uses an enhanced version of the A5 processor, dubbed, the A5X chip. The actual processor speed remained the same, a dual-core 1GHz, which by all means is no slouch, it’s still unbelievably quick and responsive. However, with a display that offers four pixels for every one, when compared to the iPad 2, Apple knew it was going to need more horsepower, so they dropped in a quad-core graphics processor. This new processor is responsible for powering all of the iPad’s visuals/graphics like games and apps. Apple believes this new GPU is even more powerful than NVIDIA’s Tegra 3, which has been confirmed by some early benchmarks (when it comes to actual graphics performance). While the physical processor may not be as fast, the GPU certainly blows past the Tegra 3. I tested the new iPad’s GPU with a few games like Infinity Blade II, Modern Combat 3 and Order and Chaos: Online and Galaxy on Fire II HD. I was amazed how just how smooth the gameplay was, there was no hiccups, no lag, everything was just as smooth as butter. Having a Galaxy Tab 10.1, I’ve experience choppiness when scrolling from panel to panel and even slowdown in games like Sprinkle. None of that was present in the new iPad. Of course, I don’t put all the blame on Samsung’s hardware, Android 3.2 gets the lion’s share of that blame. Apple’s iOS is tied to the hardware in a way that most companies don’t understand. That’s why iOS runs so smoothly, Apple optimizes their OS to work on the hardware they choose, so that no matter what game, app or overall function a user does, it all works perfectly, with the new iPad, that continues.
Another area where the new GPU really shines is with video capture. When shooting video, the quad-core GPU works with powerful image stabilization software, which is remarkable. While it’s impossible to turn the feature off to truly see the difference, at Apple’s iPad event, Phil Schiller showed an example of the feature on and off, side by side. The new iPad also records in 1080p, which is much improved over the iPad 2’s 720p.
The last big upgrade Apple included in the new iPad is 4G LTE connectivity that works with for Verizon and/or AT&T’s next-generation network. If you haven’t already used a device that is equipped with LTE, then you may not realize why this is such a big deal. Depending on your location and carrier, it is possible to get download speeds of up to 50Mbps. This makes working (and playing) on the new iPad extremely fast, with songs and video (streaming) downloading almost instant. It’s also one of the only features Android tablets have been able to flaunt about having, that the iPad did not. Not anymore.
Obviously, speeds of 4G depend on coverage. Verizon currently has the most LTE coverage, but AT&T’s network is growing rapidly. AT&T currently has less stress on their network, which can also help provide faster speeds. Verizon’s network has had some difficulties since launching with intermittent outages that have lasted for over 24 hours. I purchased the AT&T unit, reason being, I know that AT&T’s network will continue to grow, I have no need to tether to my iPad and with 4G LTE eating up data like Pac-Man eats ghosts, I’d prefer to have the extra 1GB (a total of 3GB) for the same $30 that Verizon charges for only 2GB. I’d suggest that if you’re looking for a 4G version, you look into each carrier’s coverage and plans to see what works best for you.
There’s not a lot to say about the overall desing of the new iPad, if you’ve seen or held an iPad 2, it’s virtually the same. Except the new iPad is less than 1mm thicker and slightly heavily, this is due to the size of the battery that Apple’s designers had to squeeze in there. But in all honesty, unless you test these devices out for a living, you’d never notice the difference.
Aside from the barely added thickness and weight, Apple’s new iPad keeps the same aluminum back design, but the tapering to the edge is more gradual due to the added thickness, which actually looks and feels better. The device features the same front-facing camera location and the home button returns as well.
While there are other things we could cover about the new iPad, many of them have already existed in the iPad 2. As for iOS 5.1, other then the battery fix and japanese language added to Siri (which isn’t available for the iPad) there really isn’t much to cover. Unless you consider the ability to delete photos from Photo Stream news worthy.
So is the new iPad a must buy?
That depends on if you need the newest, hottest device. There is no arguing that the new iPad is certainly the hottest tablet on the market, but other than the features we listed above, there really isn’t much difference between it and the iPad 2. That’s not to say the new iPad is a disappointment, it’s just that the iPad 2, was that damn good. I personally didn’t own an iPad 2, I still had the first generation iPad, which I sold a week before the new one released. For me, it was worth every penny to upgrade, I’m so glad I did. Everytime I turn it on, I’m still amazed at the display. I thought that it would get old and wear off after a week, but that just isn’t the case. Despite only having a dual-core 1GHz processor, the iPad has never felt so smooth, especially when performing a simple task like swiping through pages.
I’ll lay it out like this, if you own the first iPad or have never owned an iPad or any other tablet, then yes get the new iPad. It is worth the $100 difference, easily. It’s an experience that no other tablet can even come close to matching and with over 200,000 native apps, it has the most robust eco-system. The other reason to get the new iPad is a no brainer, while developers are scrambling to update their apps to take advantage of the new Retina display, almost all new games, apps and content will be created with the Retina display.
If you own an iPad 2, it’s a 50/50 decision. You already have the snappy A5 processor, but you lack the quad-core graphics processor that many developers may use to optimize their apps. But, if you don’t have LTE in your area, don’t play graphically intense games or take a lot of pictures/videos with your iPad 2, then you may not need the new iPad, unless you’re lusting after that gorgeous Retina display. In which case, it’s all up to you.
The new iPad is “the” must have tablet right now and while some may complain that it doesn’t “look” any different than the iPad 2, you need to learn the phrase, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” The new iPad is plays games and apps faster and smoother than any iPad (or any competing tablet), it has an amazing 5-megapixel iSight camera that uses the iPhone 4S’s “5-lens” technology and it also shoots 1080p video, features 4G LTE connectivity, has voice dictation and of course, it has the best display on any mobile device. Simply put, Apple has once again leapfrogged its competitors and solidified itself as the tablet King.
TechHog Score: 9.7 / 10
Quad-Core GPU / A5X Processor
5-megapixel iSight Camera
10/9 hour batter life (wifi/4G LTE)
No quad-core (main) processor
VGA front-facing camera
1mm thicker than iPad 2