Today is the launch of Apple's third-generation tablet, which this company calls "the new iPad" rather something clearer. Previous versions have given Apple the lion's share of the world tablet market, and it therefore has wisely decided to not mess too much with a very successful design.
The display is 9.7 inches, like both of its predecessors', and there's the same 20-pin connector. The buttons haven't moved, and the casing is just marginally thicker than the iPad 2. If you put these two tablets next to each other, at first glance you'd have a hard time telling them apart.
Which isn't to say there aren't any new features. The most obvious of these is the 2048 x 1536 display, which has four times as many pixels as this company's two previous tablets. The iPad is basically a touchscreen with a case wrapped around it, so one of the best ways to improve it is to give it a better display.
Apple promised that the resolution is high enough that with the device held two feet from your eyes you can't make out individual pixels -- what Apple calls a Retina display. So, does this screen live up to the hype?
In a word, yes. This is simply the best-looking screen I have ever seen. It offers 264 pixels per inch, which results in text that looks like it has been printed on paper... and printed with a darn good printer. There's no pixelization at all. You can zoom out on websites until the text is tiny and it's all still readable.
Images are almost startlingly clear. But there are advantages and disadvantages to this: good pictures look great, bad ones look terrible -- the flaws really show up. Also, be prepared to suddenly realize how very average your laptop or PC's screen looks. Apple has set a new bar here.
I am accustomed to using a first-generation iPad, so I saw a significant improvement in the performance of the new model. Not everywhere, of course; even Apple's first tablet is zippy at basic tasks like working with email. But the A5X processor in the latest version does speed up some tasks.
Web browsing is noticeably faster, for example, even when using the same wireless router. Also, some recently-released third-party apps that are heavily graphics laden had overtaxed my original iPad but performed beautifully on the new one.
I don't expect to see nearly as dramatic a difference in performance between the iPad 2 and the latest model; the older Apple A5 processor and the new A5X have the same 1GHz dual-core CPU at their heart. The A5X adds a quad-core graphics processor to the mix though, not just a single core GPU, but the new iPad also has four times as many pixels, so that works out to be about even.
I haven't yet had a chance to fully test out the other major new feature in the third-generation iPad: its support for 4G LTE. I'll get to this as soon as I can -- I'm anticipating web surfing approaching the speed of the Wi-Fi connection I'm using now.
The original Apple iPad essentially created the tablet market as we know it today, and the second-generation device helped increase demand to the point where its maker sold more than 50 million units last year. At this point, I see no reason why this latest device shouldn't continue this trend.
Apple gave the new iPad some great new features, including an awesome touchscreen. At the same time, the device doesn't lose any of the features that made its predecessors so popular: it's still thin, light, and very quick.
TabletPCReview will be publishing a full review of the third-generation iPad in the coming days. This will go into more depth on all the features of this tablet.
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