Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
It's been two years since the original iPad was launched and almost a year since the iPad 2 made it to market. The third generation iPad brings a few mini-revolutions to the tablet space while maintaining the winning features that have kept the iPad the superpower of the category it created.
Apple has sold 55 million of its iOS tablets and has simply crushed the competition in terms of sales and user satisfaction. We're at a point where the iPad isn't even advertised for its specifications or its horsepower but how people can use it as a tool to do the things that matter to them.
For 2012, the stakes are higher. New Android tablets are sporting a variety of sizes, some have introduced quad core processors as well as 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) connectivity.
Tabletized eReaders like the Kobo Vox and the Amazon Kindle are sniping for the low end of the market and even smartphones are creeping up in size and toting stylii as 'hybrid' devices.
The Android OS on tablets is still a mixed bag and is generally a disappointing experience.
This is mainly because Android is in one of its transitional periods migrating from various flavours of the OS to a more unified Ice Cream Sandwich OS. It still isn't at the point where anyone can pick up a tablet and figure it out in five minutes.
In the iOS world, Apple continues to refine the tablet operating system and is now putting the onus on developers to create truly compelling apps that will help the iPad realize it's Post PC aspirations.
The recent release of iWork and iLife for the iPad mirrors Apple's strategy of pump priming applications for OS X when software makers were dilly dallying with the Mac versions of their PC apps. Leading by example, Apple seems to be saying, "you can offer more on this platform."
The new iPhoto app is an impressive and multifaceted application that can truly compare with its desktop counterpart, at least in the features that people use and value the most.
The iPad has thousands of apps but Apple wants traditional desktop apps like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office to make the iPad a proper tool, an all around computing device and a bona fide replacement for your desktop or notebook.
iPad 2 vs. new iPad
The comparison of the original iPad with the iPad 2 in terms of general performance was quite dramatic. Everything on the iPad 2 seemed zippier, like it was caffeinated and eager to get you to the next page or load the next app. The step up from single core processor to dual core processor and improved graphics granted the iPad 2 a sizeable boost in speed.
I am happy to report that for the most basic applications, like reading mail and loading webpages, the iPad 2 still keeps pace with the newer model.
It is only when running video or loading very complex websites, games or apps that the new iPad's quad core graphics kicks in.
During my briefing with Apple, it was explained that the tight integration of the hardware to the software and the fact that Apple designs even its processing chips enables them to really fine tune the experience. Hardware and software work together so that no power is wasted but it is there when needed. It is the same thing with the WiFi and 3G/4G radios, the system knows when to use what at any given condition.
Coming from an iPad 2, the increase in physical thickness and weight is mildly discernible. Almost as if the iPad went to the gym and hit the weights. As a result it feels more solid and dense than its predecessor although nowhere as beefy and phat the iPad numero uno.
When I reviewed the iPad 2 last year, I said I couldn't imagine tablets getting any thinner. I think for Apple, the iPad 2 is as thin as it is going to get for some time.
In terms of dimensions, the 9.50 in (241 mm) (h), 7.31 in (186 mm) (w),0.37 in (9.4 mm) (d) iPad will fit in most cases, sleeves and even keyboard cases (like the ClamCase) without any problem. The magnetic Smart Cover fits in nicely as well.
Aside for the slight increase in weight and thickness, it is nearly impossible to tell the new iPad from the model it replaces. The dock connector, power/sleep button, volume up and volume down rocker and the microphone and headphone jack are all where you expect them to be.
The new iPad adds voice dictation which is one step closer to getting Siri on the iPad. Voice dictation can be used to type notes, answer emails and iMessages. The feature uses complex cloud computing and needs to be connected to the Internet to work.
Battery life on the new iPad is lightly better than the iPad 2, we were able to cruise for 12 hours on WiFi with some LTE usage and watching various videos on YouTube as well as writing this article and surfing. The larger capacity battery does require a longer charging time. Around six hours to fully charge.
The third generation iPad will cost $519 (CAD) for the 16GB model, $619 (CAD) for the 32GB model and $719 (CAD) for the 64GB model. iPad Wi-Fi + 4G will be available for a suggested retail price of $649 (CAD) for the 16GB model, $749 (CAD) for the 32GB model and $849 (CAD) for the 64GB model.
The new iPad Retina Display features a 2048-by-1536 resolution, this panel has 44 percent greater color saturation than the previous model. This means four times the pixels of the iPad 2 in the same space and the result is a super crisp image that makes the even the vivid iPad 2 look a little washed out by comparison.
The benefit of having such a high resolution display is that photos, videos, games and most notably text get a much higher degree of visible detail.
The finest details like blades of grass on a field, sublte ripples in a pond and the shadows that add mystery and character to a picture are so well rendered on this display. Jaggies are gone, everything feels smoother to look at and saturation brings out more depth in photos and video.
The new display can power HD video at 1080p resolution easily thanks to the quad core graphics in the revised A5X processor.
This is a revolutionary leap forward for all displays and once you feast your eyes on that densely packed and detail rich screen, it is hard to go back to reading on regular LCD screens.
Apple says that developers don't have to do too much work to scale up their applications to the new resolution and we've seen many of our favourite apps already offer updates that are Retina Display compatible.
The Safari browser is already tuned to render as close to 4x graphics as possible so many websites look even better on the new iPad.
Could this display be the single best reason to dive into a new iPad or upgrade a current tablet, I think so.
The display is where users spend the majority of their time in tablets, it is both the screen and the interface and it makes perfect sense to innovate in this area. Simply put, there's nothing in the tablet market today that can compare with the quality and detail of the iPad's Retina Display.
Users can't appreciate a quad core processor or higher gigahertz, at least not directly. A gorgeous and responsive display, however, offers instant gratification in everything you do. And isn't tablet computing all about instant gratification?
The best thing about this screen is that the games and apps designed for the Retina Display are still to come.
The demos we saw during the iPad launch last week were nothing short of stunning in terms of detail, definition and lighting.
I think that the new display and improved graphics opens up a huge opportunity for gaming on the iPad. The hardware can crunch graphics easily and should even be able to match some console level games. The new iPad has tremendous potential tol turn mobile gaming on its head.
5 Megapixel iSight Camera
The new iSight camera replaces the puny rear facing camera of the iPad 2 and is similar to the iPhone 4S’s 8 megapixel camera with a ƒ/2.4 aperture and a five-element lens that is also capable of recording 1080p HD video.
The camera interface seems a bit changed as well and is snappier. Some people might say, why put a higher end camera in a tablet? Well, I say why not?
You never know when you're going to need to capture something useful.
As you can see in the slideshow below, the iPad camera is quite good. I think it is better than the majority of cameras that ship on smartphones and tablets today. It is fast, has good low-light performance and captures colours accurately. This is helped by built-in image stabilization as well as smart imaging software.
Taking video on the new iPad is even better.
Discounting the fact that tablets and slates are awkward to use as cameras, the built-in gyroscope as well as the image stabilization helps keep things steady. The video below was taken from a moving train with substantial vibration but still seems well stabilized.
Is it possible to shoot 1080p at 30 frames per second on the iPad, edit it in iMovie and upload to YouTube? Absolutely!
The crude video above was shot, edited and uploaded in less than 18 minutes. I couldn't get it to play back at 1080p on YouTube for some reason, but the version on the iPad is in full HD and can be streamed wirelessly in full high resolution to the new AppleTV using AirPlay. Older AppleTVs will still work except with a ceiling of 720p HD.
All these tools are finally offering the type of quality and resolution that creative users can use. It will be amazing to see what the new iPad will be able to help create.
4G LTE Data
The iPad we tested had TELUS's 4G LTE Sim card on it and we were able to experience speedy data throughput with download speeds peaking at 20 Mbps which is comparable to some home and office high-speed services.
We noticed app updates were faster, pages loaded quicker and even buying songs on iTunes was more efficient.
In areas where LTE was not available, the connection defaulted to 3G which was fast enough for e-mail, messaging and surfing the web.
Enabling LTE on the iPad really adds a whole dimension of usability and connectivity that will help adoption of the tablet in the corporate sector and for businesses that require field agents or operatives to link wirelessly to the office.
For people who work on the go, it opens up a whole world of possibilites and cuts down on the waiting time and unpredictable nature of wireless data. Canadians got lucky as the new iPad is compatible with Rogers, TELUS and Bell and should be able to use prepaid data cards for month to month plans.
The best thing about this is the new Personal Hotspot feature that frees up the LTE connection and allows 3-5 WiFI devices to share in the high speed fun.
Apple's new iPad keeps the same price point, the familiar look and feel and access to the same robust ecosystem with over 200,000 apps and 600,000 apps on iOS that the iPad 2 enjoyed.
The most dominant tablet in the market just got better, faster and more useful and is once more ahead of the curve with some killer features.
iPad also introduces an industry first in the jaw dropping 9.7 inch Retina Display and the much awaited as high speed 4G LTE connectivity and a completely revamped rear camera plus 1080p HD capture capability.
This device has evolved in two short years from a content consumption device to a compelling creative and communications tool that can be essential for users at home, schools and the enterprise.
The cheaper iPad 2 is still a compelling tablet but is now limited to a 16GB capacity ceiling.
Competing tablets are going to have a very tough time measuring up. Not just in specs and features, but also matching the pricing, app ecosystem, accessory selection and user satisfaction that comes with owning an iPad.
The new iPad is recommended for first time tablet buyers, users trading up from an original iPad and anyone who wants a powerful, connected and fun notebook replacement.
The new iPad is available in Apple Retail stores now and can be found in various other purveryors of shiny gadgets. Online orders are available at the Apple Online Store but there's a two to three week wait due to high demand.
Rating: 5 out of 5