Thursday, March 15, 2012

iPad 3 Review

A higher-def screen than full HD, quadcore graphics and a slicker look. Does the iPad 3 mark a point at which resistance to Apple’s market-leading tablet becomes futile?

New iPad 3 review


  • Stunning screen
  • Best app and AV stores
  • Superb interface


  • Not a huge leap from iPad 2
  • Camera still awkward to use

The new iPad 3 is not revolutionary, it’s evolutionary, and according to Apple it’s even “revolutionary”, whatever that means. As with the Apple iPhone 4S bump, the hotly anticipated new iPad launch is largely about incremental, hardware upgrades; under-the-bonnet stuff that clearly annoys the hell out of everyone seeking a headline-grabbing design change.

New iPad 3: Build

Launched alongside the new Apple TV, the new iPad 3 looks much the same as the Apple iPad 2. The Home button remains, despite the big tease of the launch invite’s imagery, but where successive iThings of the past have been thinner, lighter and the proud owner of new monikers, Apple’s latest tablet is thicker (by 6mm), heavier (by 50g) and has no identifying numbers or letters to its name.
However, the third-generation iPad is also faster, more powerful, has by far the best screen ever seen on a tablet and will allow developers, including T3, to create apps of greater power than ever by exploiting all of the above. So, should you be shelling out for one?

New iPad 3: Screen

Android aficionados will find 2048x1536 reasons not to buy, but a small screen isn't one. Some 3.1 million pixels at 264ppi are now crammed into the 9.7-inch display – the leading Android tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Asus Transformer Prime, come in at 1280x800.

Put the new iPad 3 side by side with the iPad 2 and the improvement is, quite visibly, clear. On the older iPad, apps in folders are just blobs of pixelated colour; on the new one you can almost make out text.
The Apple Retina Display smooths out edges and renders text pin-sharp so ebooks, websites and documents are so much easier on the eye. There’s better contrast, greater definition with still and moving images, and better colour saturation – an improvement of 44 per cent over the iPad 2, Apple reckons.

New iPad 3: 1080p HD

Another Retina reward can be seen with HD video now up to 1080p – yes, Apple is updating its iTunes movie catalog to full HD – and stills up to 19 megapixels, though you’ll have to import the latter as the on-board camera only boasts five. Both look stunning in terms of reproduction clarity, mind.
Developers will also need to optimize their digital nuggets to take advantage of the display hike; until then, you may suffer some slight blur. Needless to say, we’re hard at work making T3: iPad Edition Retina-ready.

New iPad 3: Performance

To power this next-gen display the new iPad needs extra processing grunt, and it’s provided by an improved dual core chip, the A5X, with a quad core GPU. While HD video and menu swiping don’t appear any smoother than before – they were already plenty smooth – gaming, as you’d anticipate, really benefits.

Playing the upcoming Infinity Blade: Dungeons, the polygonal-pushing experience is exceptional, with quality not far off what we’ve seen so far on the Sony PS Vita. There are multiple layers, complex shading, frenetic action and minimal slow down.

Non-optimized games look pretty much identical to those on iPad 2, however. Will developers patch older games to bring them up to Retina standards? We’ll see…
Asus and Toshiba may be rubbing their hands in glee, with both having announced “proper” quad core tabs in recent months. However, with the dedicated chip handling graphically intensive tasks, the dual core A5X seems more than adequate, keeping the new iPad quick and slick, even when processing the likes of iPhoto and GarageBand.

New iPad 3: Camera

A lesser upgrade is the rear-facing iSight cam. Its f/2.4 aperture optics are pinched from the iPhone 4S, but with a five-meg resolution rather than eight. Images are better than the iPad 2’s but tablet cams are still hardly the last word in convenience – one-handed tap-to-focus is mission impossible – and results remain a way off dedicated compacts, especially indoors or in overcast conditions.

New iPad 3: Video

Photos and 1080p, 30fps video are pretty good, mind. If you’ve got a steady hand, stills look good on screen or when beamed to the new Apple TV while video stabilization is effective, although the automatic focus has a tendency to jump into life at inopportune moments.
Arguably the front-facing VGA camera for video chat is more useful, and would have benefited more from a resolution remix.

New iPad 3: iPhoto

The real upgrade here isn’t the hardware, though, it’s the iPhoto for iOS app. Rather than adapting the desktop version, it’s been developed from the ground up, taking full advantage of the iPad’s multi-touch screen. Typically for Apple, the interface is simple and powerful enough to make basic content look professional – slide your finger to adjust skin tones, sky saturation, white balance, etc.

New iPad 3: 4G

One of the most exciting additions to the new iPad is 4G.
A welcome addition is the iPhone-esque Personal Hotspot feature, although this will have to be activated by your provider. Bluetooth has also been upgraded to the low-power-consuming 4.0 standard, as used in the Nike FuelBand.

Connecting the iPad to other Bluetooth devices is still rather hit and miss, it must be said, Wi-Fi is, as you’d want it to be, still N standard and, as you might not want it to be, but there it is, single-band.

New iPad 3: Battery

With all its muscle enhancements, you’d expect compromised battery life. Now, Apple claims the same figures as iPad 2, with ten hours of Wi-Fi web surfing, nine hours on a mobile network and ten hours of video or music. Although longevity is pretty good given the power and resolution boost you’re getting, we found some differences compared to the previous ’Pad.
In testing we noticed a quickening in battery drain with the new iPad when browsing, viewing and creating content when compared to iPad 2. Watching a two-hour HD movie on both devices reduced 10 per cent more of the third-gen’s battery, while overnight energy seepage clocked in at six per cent, compared to zero from iPad 2.
General, non-intensive use reduced the battery by about 10 per cent per hour, which is bang on Apple’s claimed drainage. Our major gripe, though, is that the new iPad still takes an excessive amount of time to reach full charge.

It’s at least six hours using a mains charger and near double that via USB from a computer. Yes, the battery lasts a decent while but if you’re used to the speedy re-juicing of most mobile devices, this will irritate.

New iPad 3: Dictation

Voice dictation is now supported wherever you see the virtual keyboard – tap the mic button, say your piece, tap it again and it’ll jot down your babble. It’s not Siri, so you can’t command it, or ask questions about the weather, or Thailand, but recognition is fairly accurate, though you will have to perform some manual editing, especially with longer messages.
Short replies or single sentences are generally free of error.

New iPad 3: Verdict

The new iPad 3 is an improved version of the best tablet on the market, which makes the new iPad our number 1 slate by default. We’ll see more true quad core tablets from Apple’s rivals before 2013, and they might boast some snazzier features too, but what they won’t have is the might of the App Store behind them.

For us, that remains the prime reason why iPads sell loads and others don’t. It’s Apple’s trump card, its tech golden ticket, and Google and Microsoft will have to nail their digital lockers before seriously challenging. iPad 2 accessories are also forward-compatible, including Smart Covers, camera kit, AV adaptors and docks.
One paradoxical twist is that too much content could be a problem here. Retina-optimised apps, 1080p video and hi-res photos come in seriously hefty file sizes - Nicolas Winding Refn’ HD Drive movie comes in at more than 3Gb, for example.
As a result, the 16GB version ($399) sounds like a non-starter if you’re any kind of power user, meaning Apple will probably sell a lot more of the 64GB model ($559) – how upsetting for it. Yet even that could get eaten up fast, mind.
So, should you upgrade from iPad 2? Only if you want a clearer picture and slightly faster web browsing.
iPad 4 before Christmas, anyone?

The new iPad goes on sale at Apple's retail stores and the Apple Online March 16, 2012

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