Apple is the 500 lb gorilla of the tablet market, so the release of this company's third-generation model generated a tremendous amount of hype, much of which is well deserved. The new iPad offers a number of enhancements over its predecessors, all of which will be covered in this review.
Build & Design
Apple hasn't tinkered much with the design of the iPad since the first model. The current version is slightly thicker and heavier than the second-generation one. This makes room for the larger battery needed to power some of the new features. The differences are minor, and most people would have a hard time noticing them without a careful examination.
Overall, the device is 9.5 x 7.3 x 0.4-inches and 1.4 lbs. That makes it smaller and lighter than virtually every laptop, about the size of a magazine, and roughly the weight of a hardback book. There are some who are hoping Apple will introduce a tablet that's smaller than the current one, but I find this one has hit the "sweet spot": large enough to handle everything it is asked to do, small enough to be very portable.
Much of the attention given to the third-generation iPad has centered on its 9.7-inch display that has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels. For those who are counting, that's four times as many pixels as are in Apple's previous versions, with 264 pixels per inch. That makes each one so small that, in most situations, individual pixels can't be discerned with the human eye.
Trying to describe how great this screen looks is a challenge. The best I can come up with is to say that you could hang this device on the wall, put an image of the outdoors on it, and people could easily mistake it for a window.
Like all iPad displays, it offers great viewing angles -- two people could watch a movie on this screen at the same time without a problem. And the display works well outdoors too, as long as you have the backlight turned all the way up. Once you get into direct sunlight though, the device becomes almost unusable.
Apple chose the 2048 x 1536 resolution because that's double the iPad 2's resolution in both width and height. This allows apps written before the launch of the new model to run without needing any modification through a technique called pixel doubling; they won't look as good, however.
As this is a tablet, there is no physical keyboard. Still, the on-screen one is quite good. In portrait mode, you can enter text fairly quickly with your thumbs. In landscape mode you have a keyboard that is about three quarters of the size of a standard one, so you can type with both hands.
For those who are not fans of on-screen keyboards, Apple has built text entry through voice recognition into the latest iPad. This free service works fairly well, though recognition errors are not infrequent.
If you are planning on writing the great American novel on your tablet, I would suggest you get an external keyboard. That would be a lot easier on your fingers than typing on a touchscreen for hours at a time. Trust me, I know.
Other Controls and Ports
Apple uses a minimalist design philosophy with the iPad and all its mobile devices. This tablet has only a power button, a screen-lock switch, a volume rocker, and the all-important Home button.
The latest iPad uses the 20-pin connector port from previous models, which means most of your plug-in accessories should still work. For example, the device is compatible with the cradle from my first-generation iPad, and the same is true of video-out cables.
Because Apple is still Apple, there is no removable memory card slot. When deciding which model to purchase, think carefully about how much storage capacity you will need, as there is no way to add more later. Your choices are 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB.
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