I was able to secure the new iPad at our local Apple store, but I also got to spend some time with a review model beforehand. In any case, I'll take you hands-on with the new model, plus I'll share my experience from my past two years of iPad ownership altogether, especially for those who haven't yet had an iPad to call their own. I'll also reveal a treasure trove of info on how you can legitimately download tons of quality apps and games for free, in hopes of making this the most helpful iPad review on Amazon!
For those interested, I've also compiled two iPad listmania lists:
Must-Have iPad Accessories: http://www.amazon.com/lm/R1M3AJDBR2BCA7?tag=1pad-20&ie=UTF8
iPad vs. Other Tablets: http://www.amazon.com/lm/R3QLZ307253XU6?tag=1pad-20&ie=UTF8
My review tends to run long, so I've organized information by section, with headings, to make it more helpful for those just looking for specific info. For example, see the heading "Downloading Apps and Games" for the info on obtaining free apps and games!
First, let's quickly cover what's new, and what each means for you:
+ Retina Display - twice the resolution of the iPad 2, at 2048 x 1536 pixels (264px/in)
+ 5 megapixel rear-facing camera - take photos with over 8x higher resolution and quality than the iPad 2 (but still no flash)
+ Dual-core 1GHz A5X processor with quad-core graphics - better multitasking and flawless high-res graphics performance
+ 4G LTE capable - faster mobile connections on AT&T and Verizon when in 4G-LTE-covered network area
If you're considering the now-cheaper iPad 2, here's a quick recap of what was new last year:
+ Dual-core 1GHz A5 Processor - better multitasking, 9-times faster graphics
+ 3-Axis Gyroscope - allows for higher precision and more motion gestures
+ Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound pass-through with Apple Digital AV Adapter (sold separately)
+ Rear-facing camera - supports 960 x 720 sized photos (0.6 megapixels), plus 720p HD videos
+ Front-facing VGA-quality camera - VGA-quality is a resolution of 640 x 480 (0.3 megapixels)
+ Verizon 3G model now available - no longer limited to just AT&T for the WiFi+3G model
+ Thinner, lighter and smoother with contoured back - feels more comfortable in your hands
The iPad 2 brought a lot more new features to the iPad lineup, but the 3rd generation iPad still brings us some welcome new features. First, it sports the new A5X processor. Don't be confused though, it's not really that much better than the iPad 2's, and it's not technically a quad-core processor. The CPU itself remains dual-core, but the graphics processor built-into the CPU chip can compute 4 streams of graphics information, thus making the graphics aspect of the A5X processor quad-core. It's confusing, I know. To be honest, there was no noticeable improvement in performance over the iPad 2, except maybe behind the scenes where it handles 4x more pixels. In general, everything on the new iPad runs just as smooth as it always has, which is as to be expected from Apple! But I imagine the new processor has particularly been used to speed up image processing for the new 5 megapixel camera, making photography just about as snappy as it is on the iPhone 4S, which I own as well. 4G support was also a nice surprise that had been rumored.
On the other hand, other rumors didn't exactly pan-out, including an SD card slot for photos and file storage, nor the possibility of a smaller, more manageable 7" iPad model, but I'm still holding out hope for one in the future (UPDATE: a 7.9" iPad Mini has now been released, and you can now read my review of it too: http://www.amazon.com/review/R18KRNCDSS963I?tag=1pad-20&ie=UTF8). Thankfully, the price stays the same for these new models, but that is as to be expected. As a boon for those who don't really plan to use the new high-res camera nor need the Retina display or 4G speed, the iPad 2 is going to stick around for a while longer, with a new lower price for those in the market!
===== My Background =====
I'm a website and mobile app developer who's created a few apps and games for iOS devices, including the iPad. I also develop websites, so I like to ensure that those sites look and perform well on the device too, since it's continually growing in popularity for surfing the Web with over the past two years. I've spent lots of time with both the iPad and various Android-based tablets, and I have to be honest... apps are what make the iPad (and other iDevices) so great. Android tablets have the benefit of price and size, but Android apps available for tablets are terribly mediocre! They're also not as responsive as the iPad, at least not after you load them up with apps, games and other junk.
I'm no Apple fanboy, but I can recognize quality hardware and software when I see it, and as far as 10" tablets are concerned, the new iPad simply can't be beat, but that's mostly due to Apple's knack for high-end hardware, plus the ridiculously huge following of quality app developers that Apple can boast about. With over 200,000 apps just for the iPad alone, there's more than enough to keep you busy!
===== First Impression =====
Unboxing any new device certainly has its appeal, but the iPad has an allure all its own, and the new model is just as touch-worthy as its older siblings, especially when it's fresh out of the box and accompanied by that scent synonymous with new electronics. But when you turn it on for the first time it becomes clear: there's something different about this new model, especially if you've been using the iPad 2 for a while. There's a rich, vibrant crispness to the image that wasn't there before. It's almost like the screen isn't there at all, as if the silky-smooth graphics are just floating there.
===== Interaction Experience =====
Thanks to the powerful processor, animations and transitions remain smooth on the new iPad, even on a Retina screen with 4-times more pixels! Plus, text on the new model is crisper than ever, even in apps that haven't been retweeked for the new Retina display. Meanwhile, where the iPad really shines is with its continuation of a phenomenal multi-touch interface that is second to none, seriously. Android tablets and other devices may tout "multi-touch" support, but usually this just means they support 2-finger gestures like pinch-style zooming. The iPad touch-screen, on the other hand, supports up to ten simultaneous touches. Nothing new here, but still worth mentioning, especially for tablet newcomers. So if an iPad app ever needs to support that many touches, the iPad is ready. For example, the most common app supporting ten simultaneous touches is the piano app.
===== So What Can the iPad Actually Do? =====
Naturally, there are things you can do with the iPad right out of the box. You can browse the Web with Safari, set up your email, download your photos and videos to your iPad via iTunes, as well as shoot new photos and videos using either of the two built in cameras. You can also surf YouTube and watch your favorite videos via Apple's built-in YouTube app. There's also an iPod built in, so you can listen to your favorite tunes via the Music app, or download new music via the iTunes app. Another popular iPad app is iBooks, which lets you download and read e-books on your iPad. You can also jot notes, manage your calendar and contacts. You can even chat with other Apple-device users via FaceTime (over WiFi only). Of course, the fun and usefulness of the iPad doesn't stop there. The App Store app is your portal to unending games and utilities. One thing Apple has been really good at is showing off just what you can do with the iPad. App developers have undoubtedly been busy creating unique experiences through their iPad apps, most of which have yet to be rivaled by (or ported to) Android and other tablets.
You can also download two additional Apple-made apps: iBooks, which lets you download and read ebooks easily on your device, and iWork, Apple's office-document editing suite, a trilogy of apps which consists of: Pages (for editing word processing documents), Numbers (for editing spreadsheets) and Keynote (for editing PowerPoint-like slideshows); Each of the three apps can be downloaded separately for $9.99 each. Completely reworked for the iPad, the complete iWork suite will set you back a whole thirty bucks. So be aware of that before you go ahead and grab the iPad for use with work-related document editing, and so forth.
Also note that if you do intend to use the iPad for heavy writing or word-processing purposes, you'll find that your ability to type quickly will be greatly inhibited by the virtual keyboard. Thus, you should snag the external keyboard as well, but I'll explain a few typing techniques below. Either way, be prepared to pay more than merely the price for the iPad alone if you intend to transform the iPad into something a little more productive than it might be for you out of the box.
===== Downloading Apps and Games =====
Downloading apps on your iPad couldn't be easier. Once you set up your iTunes account with a password and credit card, all you need to do is find the app you want from the App Store, tap the button at the top with the app's price, then tap again to confirm. Enter your password (once per session), and voila, you just bought an app. Behind the scenes, Apple charges your card for the amount of the app plus tax, while you're already off enjoying your new app. This ease of access is a blessing and a curse, because you can easily empty your wallet if you're not carefully considering each purchase.
All apps in the App Store range in price from Free and 99 cents on up, always incrementing in whole dollar amounts (1.99, 2.99, 3.99, etc). The maximum price for an app is set to $999.99, of which there are only eight currently priced so outrageously. And don't even think of toying with them. Apple does not allow refunds on apps you have purchased--all sales are final!
Now for the juicy money-saving secrets of the App Store! With the proper resources, you can legitimately download thousands of high quality apps for free. I do it all the time and it is perfectly legal. You see, Apple allows developers to temporarily put their apps on sale (and even drop the price to free). Usually they do this to get you to write some rave reviews for their apps. The secret to success is having the resources to help you spot these special app sales--so you know when and where to get them during these often extremely-limited-time promotions.
There are several resources you can use, both on the Web and on the iPad itself. I prefer to use an app called "AppShopper" that lists all apps that recently went on sale or dropped to free. You can filter just iPad apps, or show iPhone apps as well, and you can also filter just the free products or just the sale apps. But so many apps go on sale, making it hard to cut through the clutter, which is where AppShopper truly shines: the "popular" tab shows only the most popularly downloaded sale apps. If several other people aren't downloading an app, you won't see it listed there! AppShopper is a phenomenal little gem, and it has gotten me tons of apps FREE! It also has a companion website that lists the same apps. You can even create an account and track the apps you own, so you don't end up trying to redownload them if they go on sale again! It also supports watch lists (via your account) with push notifications, and can alert you whenever an app you're interested in goes on sale. It's a real thing of beauty! There are other apps such as AppZappPush, AppSniper, AppAdvice, Apps Gone Free, and more, but none of them leverage the power of the masses to help you filter out the unwanted apps. Feel free to check them out if you like, though!
===== Typing on the iPad =====
Typing on the iPad can be annoying at times, but I mostly chalk that up to it being 10-inches. Being touted more as a Web browser and email device than an e-book reader, with the added potential that you'll be using it to edit office documents, typing on the device can quickly become a concern. First, realize that the iPad's no laptop--you won't be speed-typing, so it may not be conducive for heavy usage like typing lengthy emails or blogging, let alone writing this review. With that in mind, there are a couple approaches you can try to determine what typing method is right for you. The ideal method might also change depending on where you are and how the iPad is oriented when using it.
Typing Method #1: Thumbs
The most flexible approach is to type with your thumbs, which can be done whether sitting or standing. In portrait mode: grasp the bottom of your iPad with your palms facing each other, and your pinky fingers towards you for the iPad to rest on. To stabilize the iPad and prevent it from flopping over and falling out of your hands, stretch both of your index fingers upwards towards the top of the iPad as much as is comfortable. Using your thumbs, hunt & peck the keys on the virtual keyboard to your heart's content. Alternately, thanks to iOS 5, thumb-typing in landscape mode has now become painless. Normally, the keyboard is still docked to the bottom of the screen, and can be hard to reach the center of the keyboard with thumbs. However, if you press and hold the show/hide button on the bottom right corner of the keyboard. You can then choose to split the keyboard, with makes it easier for your thumbs to reach all keys, when the iPad is in landscape mode. You can also choose to undock the keyboard, which centers it vertically on the screen, instead of at the bottom.
Typing Method #2: Full Fingers
I've found this next method to be even more useful, though it requires you to be is best used while seated, with the iPad in resting in your lap, or on something soft, preferably with the iPad in landscape mode. With the iPad situated securely on your legs, you'll find it becomes easier to type with your full range of digits (fingers), like you would on a full sized physical keyboard. I find it slightly awkward, though, to hit the spacebar frequently with the side of my thumbs as you typically would on a physical keyboard. Still, whether you use your thumbs for the spacebar, or decide to use your fingers instead, you'll still find yourself typing slightly faster than with the thumbs-only hunt-and-peck method. Also, this typing method doesn't work well with the iPad resting any anything hard and flat like a desk or table, as the rounded backside of the iPad causes it to wobble uncontrollably while trying to type. However, if placement on a hard surface is a must, you might try putting something soft under the iPad to stabilize it.
Typing Method #3: Speech to Text
Now, Apple has brought us an even more convenient way to type, thanks to Siri! Just hit the microphone icon on the lower-left side of the keyboard, and start speaking. In most cases, your words will be transcribed into the currently active text field, with potentially mis-interpreted words underlined in blue. Just select any such word, and a list of possible alternates will pop up for your choosing. You can also speak most punctuation, such as 'period', 'open-paren', 'close-paren', 'hyphen' and more. At times though, network congestion does hinder the ability for this feature to work properly, so hopefully that will improve over time.
Other methods of typing on the iPad include the external keyboard, as well as third party speech-to-text transcription apps, but with Siri's voice transcription feature built in, the latter is no longer necessary.
===== Web Browsing =====
Alongside email, and spending money in the app store, Web browsing is one of Apple's biggest suggestions for using the device. The iPad was born to surf the Web, but content on the Web is often best viewed vertically, and the new Retina display's 2048x1536 resolution renders that content more crisply than ever, especially in portrait orientation (vertical). Working within the Safari Web-browsing app, the interface is swift and responsive.
However, not all your sites will work desirably on the iPad. Apple closed-mindedly refuses to support Adobe Flash on the iPad (as it has with the iPhone/iPod Touch). However, regardless of whether Apple likes it or not, Flash is being used around the Web, not only for advertising and video but for many other uses from graphs to product comparisons, but they don't seem to care anyway. The same lack of support is true of Java, AIR, Silverlight and others though. So expect some of your sites to only be supported to a certain degree, if not entirely in some cases. This can be a bit of a bummer until Flash starts being replaced with other technologies like HTML5's canvas technology, which is poised to take on some of Flash's most familiar capabilities. Alternately, you can jailbreak your iPad (when a jailbreak is released for the new model), which would allow you to circumvent the Flash limitation.
Granted, I don't often actually find myself surfing the web with the iPad for a few reasons. First of all, I prefer the display to be parallel with my face, but for the iPad that means craning my neck downwards and after a while that gets tiring. I also tend to do a lot of typing on the sites I use, and typing a lot on the iPad isn't really an enjoyable experience. There are however some keyboard alternatives if you decide that on-screen typing isn't for you. I just find it easier to work from a laptop when I'm on the go, and the 11" MacBook Air fits that bill simply enough for me. Finally, when I browse the Web (on my computer), I typically have more than 9 tabs open at any given time. I say that because the iPad's browser limits you to 9 tabs. If you rarely use more than 9 tabs when browsing the Web though, the iPad may be right for you.
===== Email, IM and Social Networking =====
Email on the iPad's Mail app is best viewed in landscape mode, as it allows you to see both your list of messages on the left as well as the selected message itself on the right. It also makes managing emails easier, such as moving messages to other folders (or to the trash). Another reason for landscape mode is to make typing those lengthy emails easier (using typing-method #2 mentioned above).
You can have multiple email accounts, including Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, MobileMe, Microsoft Exchange and other custom POP3 and IMAP accounts.
Important Note: With the growing number of portable web connecting devices, there is one concern I want to express on your behalf. When you close the Mail app, it continues running in the background, even after disconnecting from one WiFi hotspot and reconnecting to another. My concern with this is that if haven't set up your e-mail with a secure connection, and you connect to a public WiFi hotspot that a malicious user is monitoring, then the instant your mail app connects to the hotspot to check your e-mail, your e-mail credentials may be suddenly compromised. To avoid this you definitely want to be using some kind of secure connection for your e-mail if at all possible. Web-based email such as Gmail typically support this out of the box, and Gmail accounts are the easiest to setup on the iPad.
===== Media =====
If you own an iPhone or iPod Touch, it's comforting to know that you audio/video experience will be similar on the iPad. You can watch videos via the YouTube app, which has been updated for the iPad to show YouTube HD videos beautifully. While the 2048x1536 resolution of the iPad is a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, not a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, the HD videos as well as other video (including downloads from the iTunes store) display just fine, albeit with black bars. Some may not like that though, but I don't see a wide-screen iPad coming to market for a while.
The Netflix and Hulu+ apps are great for members of those online video streaming services. Netflix videos stream quickly and even moving the play position back and forth in the timeline, the movie starts playing very quick without much time rebuffering the video. For those who want to watch live TV, I also recommend getting yourself a Slingbox and snagging the SlingPlayer app to stream live TV to your iPad. I do that, and it works quite well!
===== Photography and Video =====
The new iPad brings a phenomenal new high-quality 5MP camera to market that picks up where the iPad 2's half-megapixel camera left off. 5 lenses inside the aperture, and the more powerful processor, combine to create the sharpest iPad image yet. Even low-light pictures are better than ever, though there's still room for improvement there. There's also a new iPhoto app from Apple (for five bucks) that lets you organize, edit and share your photos right on the iPad!
As if that's not enough, there's built-in Picture Frame mode that lets you use the iPad's gorgeous Retina display to showcase your favorite photos, using clever transition effects like "Dissolve" with "Zoom in on Faces", or the nifty multi-photo "Origami" effect. In this review's comments, I'll include a helpful link to an article that shows you how to set up and use this mode.
Plus, you can now record full-HD (1080p) videos, instead of just the previous 720p videos. Though I must warn you, in you plan to shoot a lot of video with the iPad (or even the iPhone 4S), you'll want to go with a 32GB or 64GB model! These incredibly high-quality videos take up an incredibly large amount of storage space!
===== Productivity =====
Productivity carries numerous definitions. Usually its "getting something done" though some people tend to believe that it's the ability to focus without being distracted, which I see as one of the iPad's strengths because of its one-app-seen-at-a-time multitasking approach.
In the context of software though, applications that allow you to edit office documents are commonly referred to as productivity software. Apple's own suite of productivity apps, collectively called "iWork", has been re-created from the ground up just for the iPad. (Previously it was only available for Macs.) For work-minded individuals, it will probably one of the most popular uses of the iPad. There are three apps in all: Pages is a word processing app that allows you to create and edit word processing documents. Then there's Numbers, which allows you to create and edit spreadsheets. Finally there's Keynote, which lets you create or edit presentations and slideshows (including PowerPoint files). So far, I've found the latter to be pretty invaluable in giving personal presentations within small groups or one-on-one meetings.
However, there is a whole category of iPhone and iPad-specific apps dedicated to productivity, and they're naturally located under the category titled "productivity" in the categories section of the app store. Remember, any app that works for the iPhone will run on the iPad, but do note that there are some exceptional productivity apps made or updated for the iPad specifically. Some notable iPad-specific productivity apps include Bento (personal organization/information management), Things (project management), iTeleport (remote desktop/VNC), Layers (drawing/painting), and GoodReader (best PDF+ reader around).
===== Gaming =====
If you're like me, you probably don't have time for games. Ultimately, I still see the iPad as a productivity device more than as a gaming console. Regardless, the iPhone and iPad changed the game on that. Millions of people use their computers for gaming, and with the iPhone and iPod Touch having taken on a clear role as a gaming console that has been as revolutionary for mobile gaming as the Wii was for living-room gaming, it goes without saying that the iPad is, and will continue to be, a decent platform for playing games. Most Android games look terrible on tablet-sized screens, but iPad game developers have taken care of us with good quality iPad versions of most iPhone games. Board games and lap-friendly games are also perfect for the iPad. Meanwhile, I suspect that games heavily dependent on device-rotation and other accelerometer-based interaction may quickly wear you out do to the weight of the iPad. I got tired of playing EA's Need For Speed: Shift after about 5 minutes. Resting the iPad on my knee didn't help much.
===== Printing =====
Printing with the iPad is really hit-or-miss. The ability to print documents right from your iPad came along last year, with the iOS 4 update, but there are some caveats. Your printer must support "AirPrint" or, if yours doesn't, you might have some success working with some software called Printopia (if you have a Mac with a shared printer). Google AirPrint or Printopia for more info and device compatibility. From there, printing is easy. The iPad will walk you through the process of locating the printer and setting up the printing options the first time around. For more information about printing with your iPad, I'll linked to some informative off-site pages in the first comment for this review.
===== Security =====
With portable devices, there should always be some level of concern regarding the safety and protection of your data. The iPad deliver surprisingly well in the area, providing several layers of security to protect your data. You can require complex passcodes to securely access important information, encrypt data whether stored or transferred over WiFi, and even remotely wipe everything from your iPad instantly in the event of theft or loss (with subscription to Apple's MobileMe service).
===== Praise =====
+ Apple continues its trend of creating the best multi-touch experience around. Android doesn't even come close
+ The Retina Display - Phenomenal! Kudos for bringing it to the iPad as well as the iPhone and iPod touch
+ High performance 1GHz A5X processor - provides performance power for cutting-edge gaming and multitasking
+ Multitasks like a dream with iOS 5 and the powerful dual-core central processor
+ Rear camera - 5 megapixel photography goodness, plus it can do 1080p HD video (up from 720p)
+ 4G LTE option - It's clearly the next big thing for improving connection speed when away from WiFi
===== Dissappointments =====
+ The 10" model is not very portable, it's often just too bulky and heavy to tote around or hold up for long durations
» UPDATE: a 7.9" iPad Mini has now been released, see my in-depth review of it here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R18KRNCDSS963I?tag=1pad-20&ie=UTF8
+ No true GPS - IP-based location just doesn't cut it, and GPS has no subscription fee or contract to use like assisted (cellular) GPS does
+ No 128GB model - would have been useful for high-res videos that look great on the Retina display, or hold more of those huge 1080p videos
+ No USB or SD card slot - for storage expansion, or more importantly, importing pics from your external camera to the new iPhoto app
+ Front facing camera - great for FaceTime communication, but it only works over WiFi, Apple isn't even letting it work over 4G!
===== The Bottom Line =====
If you already have an iPad 2, perhaps there isn't enough new to warrant purchasing the new model, unless you really want the Retina display. If you have the original iPad, it's probably worth getting though, seeing all the new additions that have carried over from the iPad 2.
Overall, the iPad still sets the pace for most other tablets in its 10" class, but I personally find all 10" tablets to be a bit bulky and somewhat unwieldy. Particularly, I find it awkward to use the iPad where I want to use it most: lying in bed, or sitting on the couch with it in my lap. On the couch, where a laptop is comfortable resting on your lap, with the screen parallel to your face, whereas the iPad needs to be angled up, and your head angled downward. This can be tiring after a while. In bed, it's just too heavy and bulky, and I've dropped the thing square on my face several times.
The solution? I started bugging Apple for a 7" model since the iPad was first released in 2010. Jobs said no, but, with all due respect, he's no longer calling the shots. UPDATE: Thankfully, Tim Cook saw the light and cooked up the iPad mini! The iPad mini is on par with other 7" tablets in size, but uses screen real estate more efficiently and thus sports a screen that's closer to 8" than 7". If 10" is comfortable for you, then the 3rd-gen iPad is definitely worth 5 stars. Personally though, I've found the iPad mini more to my liking. I've posted a more in-depth review of the iPad mini: http://www.amazon.com/review/R18KRNCDSS963I?tag=1pad-20&ie=UTF8 so feel free to browse on over to it and have a read. Some content from this review applies to the other, and vice versa, but there are plenty of differences.
In all honesty, the iPad really is the best 10" tablet around, and I would give no other tablet more than 3 stars. I'll continue to keep mine around simply because it does have it's uses, especially for Web and app development, and when not in use, it still makes a great digital picture frame with the aforementioned Picture Frame mode! (See the Photography and Video section)
However, for reading, surfing and all other entertainment and gaming uses, I've now transitioned over to using the iPad mini most of the time.
I hope you've found my hands-on review helpful. Feel free to keep the discussion going via the comments! :)
UPDATE November 2012
As you know, Apple has just discontinued this 3rd-generation model and replaced it with a 4th generation iPad. This is good news if you're a buyer. You have the option of buying the newest iPad. But you have another option that I think is pretty attractive: buying a used 3rd-generation iPad at a much reduced price.
The differences between the 3rd and 4th generation iPads are mostly minor and won't affect the actual experience of using the device for many folks. The 3rd and 4th gen iPads have the same wonderful retina display, they are the same size and weight, and they have the same battery life.
So what's different? The 4th gen iPad has a faster chip and Apple tweaked the wifi and cellular connectivity. But as an owner, I can tell you that the 3rd-gen iPad is plenty fast and the internet connectivity via wifi or 3G/4G cellular is excellent. Really excellent.
The 4th gen iPad has a different type of connector, so if you have previously invested in speaker docks and other accessories designed for the old connector, it'll be harder to use them with the new iPad (you'll need to buy adapters, and even they don't solve all compatibility problems). I have a new iPhone 5 that has this new type of connector, and while I love the phone, the incompatibility problems with my existing accessories are frustrating.
The introduction of the latest iPad last week is already causing the prices of 3rd-gen iPads to drop--even though they are at most 7 months old. It should be very possible to find a like-new 3rd gen iPad that's maybe 5-6 months old at a much lower price. This is an option worth considering.
As for me, I'm still very happy with my 3rd-gen iPad and I plan to keep it for a couple more years.
My original review follows, with a few minor edits and updates to reflect new information.
This review is for iPad 2 owners trying to decide whether to upgrade to the 3rd generation iPad. It also might be helpful for people deciding between buying a 3rd-gen iPad the now-cheaper iPad 2.
I was perfectly happy with my iPad 2, a wifi-only model with 32gb. When Apple announced the 3rd generation iPad, I typed up a long list of reasons why I shouldn't buy it. And then I bought one anyway. (I'll be giving my iPad 2 to my parents.)
You've probably already know what features the 3rd-gen iPad has, and how the specs compare to the iPad 2's specs. But comparing specs on paper is different than comparing the actual experience of using the two products, and the experience matters more than the specs. I can tell you which of those features, at least to me, really makes the experience of using the new iPad better. And there's only one: the display.
I do a lot of reading on the iPad, and this is where the retina display really matters. Text is very sharp, even for very small fonts, and this makes reading on iPad much more comfortable. I've been reading Steve Jobs on my iPad 2 (using the Kindle app); I read the next chapter on the retina iPad and then tried to read the following chapter on the iPad 2 again, and going back to the iPad 2 was unpleasant. I had similar results when I compared reading articles on websites using Safari and when reading a few pages of War and Peace in the iBooks app on the retina iPad vs. iPad 2. After reading on the new iPad, you just won't want to go back to reading on iPad 2.
If you read a lot on your iPad, this to me is a compelling reason to upgrade, and perhaps the only compelling reason.
What about photos? Videos? Games? Here, you can tell the difference, and the retina display is better. But in terms of how much the retina display increases my enjoyment of viewing pictures, video, and games, it is not enough to justify the cost of upgrading.
On both iPads, I compared hi-res pictures I took at the Chicago Botanic Gardens using a DSLR with a good lens. On iPad 2, your eye can indeed discern individual pixels if you look closely enough, whereas on the retina iPad, it's like looking at a real print of the photo. But after looking at the pictures on the retina iPad, and even noticing the differences, it was still quite nice to view them again on the iPad 2. Similarly for video: I watched a scene from the Breaking Bad season 4 finale on both devices, and while it looked a bit better on the retina iPad, it still looked great on iPad 2. Streaming hi-res movie trailers looked better on the retina iPad, but still looked great on iPad 2. For streaming video from Netflix, I could not tell any difference, most likely because the resolution of the source material isn't any higher than the iPad 2's display.
I'm less of a gamer than most iPad users, but I did try Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy (a game supposedly optimized for the retina display) and Plants vs. Zombies HD (an older game). PvZ looks exactly the same on both, Sky Gamblers looks better on the retina iPad but it still looks very awesome on the iPad 2.
In short, you can notice the difference the retina display makes for photos, videos, and games. Yet, the experience of using the iPad 2 is still quite excellent. The fact is that, even at a lower resolution, the iPad 2's IPS display is exceptional.
What about the other specs? Is it worth upgrading to get a newer processor, for example?
No. I really don't notice a difference in performance. The 3rd-gen iPad is super fast, but so is iPad 2. Some apps load a little faster, others I can't tell. But the speed difference, if any, isn't enough to make the 3rd-gen iPad more enjoyable to use than iPad 2.
What about battery life? The retina display has 4x the pixels of the iPad 2 display and requires a lot more power, which would drain the battery faster. But the new iPad also comes with a much bigger battery inside (that's why it's 1/10 of an inch thicker and an ounce or so heavier than iPad 2). Apple says battery life is about the same, and that seems to be true in my experience in seven months I bought it.
What about the improved camera? Sure, it takes better pictures than the joke of a camera on iPad 2. But do most people use their iPad for photography, anyway? If you have an iPhone 4 or newer, your camera is just as good or better as the camera on the 3rd-gen iPad, and taking pictures with the cameras on iPhone and most smart-phones is more convenient than using the iPad. Ditto for most smartphones. And only the rear-facing camera was improved; the front-facing camera is just as crappy as before. And that's a shame, because the front camera is the one I'd actually use (for skype and facetime).
What about dictation? I find it works about 80%, less in a noisy room. Sure, it is easier to dictate and then edit the few errors that result than to type something from scratch on the iPad's on-screen keyboard. But I don't think most people will use the dictation feature enough for it to matter in the upgrade decision. People who write a lot on the iPad will already have an external keyboard (or should get one).
So, for me, the only new feature that matters enough to justify the upgrade from iPad 2 is the retina display.
But there's one other reason you might upgrade: If your iPad 2 is a wifi-only model and you think it would be handy to also have 3G/4G connectivity. (Or, if you bought an iPad 2 with 3G and you never use the 3G, now is your chance to buy an iPad without it and save $130.) I bought a new iPad with 4G so that I could use it when I'm traveling and away from a hotspot. Which isn't very often, but I figured it would be handy to have.
What about 3G vs. 4G? If you have an iPad 2 with 3G, should you upgrade to enjoy the faster speed of 4G? The answer is only if you use it a lot.
4G on the new iPad is very fast. My iPad 2 doesn't have 3G, so I can't say how much faster. My verizon iphone 4S has 3G and it's way slower than a wifi connection, but 4G on the new iPad is at least as fast as a good wifi connection.
That said, the cellular service is not cheap, so most people use it only when wifi is not available, which is not very often. You have wifi at home, at work perhaps, at most coffee shops and libraries and hotels. The exception would be people that have an expensive plan with a high data allowance; if that's you and you use cellular connectivity a lot, then you have a good reason to upgrade. 4G is crazy fast.
A reader emailed me another good reason to consider an iPad with cellular connectivity (4G on the 3rd-generation iPad, 3G on the iPad 2) instead of just the wifi-only model. iPads with 3G or 4G also have a true GPS receiver built-in that will work anywhere you can get a cellular internet connection.
(Actually, the GPS radio inside the 3G/4G ipads will pick up a signal anywhere, even if you're not in a location with service; but you can't see your location on a map unless you either (1) have internet access so that the maps can be accessed from the cloud, or (2) pre-download the maps to your device, but they will take up a TON of space, at least a few GB, depending on the app you're using.)
The wifi-only model can estimate your location when you are connected to a wifi hotspot based on the location of the hotspot. But it's less precise than the true GPS that comes in the 3G iPad 2 or 4G new iPad. And, the location features of the wifi-only iPads don't work when you're moving (as in a car, plane, or boad) or away from a wifi hotspot.
But the 4G model contains a true GPS chip. It is very precise, and combined with 4G connectivity, your iPad can take advantage of some great navigation apps. For example, your iPad can effectively become a Garmin with a huge 10" display. And there are lots of apps for hiking in the national parks, or fishing, or aviation, that take full advantage of the GPS inside the iPad models with 3G or 4G.
Thanks very much to the reader who emailed me this info; I'd forgotten to include it, even though I use and love the GPS mapping on my iPad.
But back to the main point of my review, whether to upgrade from iPad 2. Upgrading is a tough call, because it's expensive. The difference between what you'll get if you sell your iPad 2 and what you'll spend for a similarly configured retina iPad is probably around $250, maybe a little more. And if you upgrade, you might want more memory since apps designed for the retina display take up more space than standard apps designed for the iPad 2's display.
I recommend that most iPad 2 owners upgrade only if they really want or need the retina display, especially for people who do a lot of reading on iPad. Or, if they bought a wifi-only iPad 2 and always regretted not getting cellular internet, now's their chance.
If neither of these is true for you, stick with your iPad 2. It is still an absolutely great device, and still a very worthy purchase for people who want an ipad but can't afford or don't need the retina display.
UPDATE APRIL 22
Still very happy after 5 weeks. Excellent battery life, and no heat problems as some have reported.
In case you're considering a 4G iPad with Verizon, you should know that Verizon offers two types of service plans. You should know the difference between them before you buy. I didn't, and it was a hassle and unnecessary expense.
The two plans are "post-paid" and "pre-paid." Pre-paid has no activation fee. Post-paid has a $35 activation fee. The cheapest pre-paid plan is $20/month for 1 gig. The cheapest post-paid plan is $30/month for 2 gigs. So if you use wi-fi as much as possible and don't use 3G/4G a lot, you've got 2 reasons to choose pre-paid.
The pre-paid plan also has an option for 2 gigs for $30, same price as the post-paid plan, and you can pre-pay for larger amounts of data for the same prices you'd pay with the post-paid plan. So you really don't give up anything by choosing the pre-paid plan, as far as I can tell.
You control the pre-paid plan from the ipad itself (under settings > cellular). You can easily set up the account, choose the option you want, buy more data if you need it, and do all this without any help from Verizon customer service. Furthermore, you can purchase data only when you'll need it, with no activation fees, ever.
You control the post-paid plan from the verizon website. You can "suspend" service when you don't need it, for a limited amount of time, and you won't be billed during this time. If you suspend it, better write down in your calendar when the suspension will end, because you'll start getting billed automatically on that date. I think there are restrictions on how many times per year you can suspend the service, and how long you can suspend it for. There are no such restrictions on the pre-paid plan.
I bought my iPad at a Verizon store and, without explaining the differences between these plans, they set up my iPad for the post-paid plan before I left the store. I didn't find out about the different plans until a month later when I got my first bill and saw the $35 activation fee and the $30 charge for 2 gigs. I thought I was going to be paying $20 for 1 gig.
I called VZ customer service, learned about the two plans, and asked to switch from post-paid to pre-paid. This turned out to be a hassle. The two types of plans are managed by completely separate departments that don't communicate well with each other. One department turns off your post-paid plan, which fries the sim card in your iPad. Before you can start a pre-paid plan, you have to get another sim card. Some verizon stores believe that they are not allowed by corporate to give you or sell you a sim card unless they install it and activate it to a new account, and you don't want that if you're switching to pre-paid; I had to go to two different stores with calls to customer service in between to get my sim card. Once I had the sim card, it was super easy to replace the fried one and then set up my pre-paid plan.
I learned that Verizon stores make a commission when they sell you a post-paid plan. That's probably why the guy set me up with a post-paid plan when I bought the iPad. He acted like he was doing me a favor by setting up my device. That's shameful, and all of this is a huge surprise to me - I've been with Verizon for 8 years and generally had excellent customer service, both on the phone and in Verizon corporate stores.
Despite these hassles, I still recommend Verizon to folks considering an iPad with 4G cellular. Verizon's 4G service covers way more of the U.S. than AT&T's 4G service. And you can avoid the hassles I experienced by telling the Verizon store NOT to set you up on a post-paid plan when you buy the iPad - or, better yet, buy it from an Apple store.
For the last 20 years, I have steadfastly refused anything apple -- I think it was the cult-like mentality that turned me off. Also, the fact that the devices are so easy to use, to borrow a phrase, even a cavegirl could do it (as evidenced by my very non-technical sisters and friends.) Of course, being a UNIX geek, I was steadfastly against the Apple software/iTunes/iEverything model. You can do anything you want on UNIX -- there is no one to save you from yourself. The UNIX motto: "We sell ROPE!" (Of course, I have hung myself numerous times on said rope including the time I accidentally erased the entire hard drive (including operating system) on a UNIX system at the now defunct Bear Stearns!
But then I was given a shiny new Macbook Pro for my new job and I started having... doubts. For example, the terminal application under Apple OS is hauntingly like my beloved UNIX -- including having vi and grep and the "/" pointing the "RIGHT" way. I figure any system that allows me to use VI can't be completely evil.
I have played with many tablets -- all android. I started out with the Motorola Xoom and then settled on the Asus Transformer. The thing that won me over about the Transformer was that the display was better than any I had seen... until now.
I purchased my first iPad this weekend sight unseen because I read that with the new retinal display, reading now became nearly comparable to the original Kindle/eInk technology. Despite my love of gadgets, I'm growing weary of having a Kindle, a Tablet, a Laptop, an MP3 player -- not to mention all the peripherals one needs to support them.
So the first thing I did with the iPad was installed the Kindle app. I also have my Asus transformer here at work. I downloaded the same book and COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES! I never expected there to be such a noticeable difference. On the Asus transformer, you can actually see the individual pixels. On the iPad, it looks as smooth as an eInk display.
The thing about the iPad (and Apple products in general) is that it is the little details that have won me over. For example, the scrolling on the iPad is SOOO much smoother than the Transformer. When you swipe on the transformer to scroll through the list of books, it lurches and jumps and trying to finally control where the scrolling starts and stops is frustrating.
Also, the apps just work and don't need to be updated every day -- which just gets really old.
There are 2 areas I have found where I prefer non-apple products:
1. Performance -- though I don't have this problem with the current iPad because it is brand-spanking new. However, I expect that soon the apps that have been written more "frugally" for the earlier generation processors will soon bloat to suck up the faster processors of the new iPad.
2. Apple's "control freak" mentality -- DON'T like is having to jump through some hoops to use my music library from Amazon (I try to use iTunes as little as humanly possible). I also miss the ability to have my own wall papers and control the layout of the screen a bit.
However, the downsides are much smaller since I don't wind up having to act as a beta tester for the tablet or the apps. I'm a software quality assurance engineer and while I am more than capable of troubleshooting my systems and getting them to work, I guess at this point, when I'm just using the web and a computer for my own enjoyment, I don't want to have to do that work anymore... I just want to focus on my music or my books or the web article.s
Upshot: I guess there is a reason certain technologies and products become defacto standards -- it is because they are legitimately the best. The iPad 3 is no exception -- it sets the bar over any android alternative. Microsoft is fighting back with their Windows 8 mobile phone (the Lumia) which ALSO uses a retinal display. But Microsoft has a long way to go to achieve the type of platform consistency that you get with Apple. I like only having to know how to use one interface. Apple allows that because the iPad acts like the iPhone which is a basic version of their computer OS.
I will still always love my UNIX... the fact that apple is actually reuniting me with my beloved vi and grep and still providing me with a beautiful pleasurable stable platform is a huge bonus!
I had the original iPad for a couple of months back in 2010 and really liked to browse the web on it. When I heard the new one is coming out, I preordered the white ATT 64GB from Apple website. I received it on the launch day two weeks ago, and I am really enjoying the new Retina display ever since. It is such an improvement over the first iPad, and I really enjoy reading different things on it.
My original iPad was black, but this time against all the online suggestions, I went for the white version. My reasoning was, if you really want to read something--either web or text--having black borders only makes your eyes hurt even more. Printed books do not have black borders, and yet they are the easiest to read. I am happy to report that my intuition was right, and the white version is easier on my eyes for reading purposes. Maybe it is not the best for playing video games or watching movies, but the white border actually helps the reading. In addition, it is not completely white and has a beautiful pinkish hue that looks like pearl from some angles.
Connectivity and Speed:
I could connect to both of my router 2 GHz and 5 GHz channels via Wi-Fi. Out of curiosity, I inserted my modified T-Mobile SIM card into the GSM spot, and it did pick T-Mobile internet but worked only on 2G (Edge) mode. It works very well with Apple TV 3, and I was able to duplicate the iPad screen with my 40" LCD. However, the screen aspect ratio was only 4/3 and not 16/9.
This new iPad is much faster than my original iPad. I can even browse the web much faster on this version let alone other programs and games. I ordered the Camera Connection Kit alongside this iPad, and it can import and read my 24MP pictures from Sony A77 without any problems.
My original iPad didn't have any camera, so it is so much fun to use FaceTime and the back camera. Both of them are quality cameras, although I don't see much use of the backside camera. I have my iPhone for that application. Maybe if you want to shoot movies and edit on the iPad itself, it is worth to have a good quality rear camera.
I use international keyboards sometimes to enter foreign characters into the search, and I encountered several crashes when changing keyboard in Safari. One time I was writing a paragraph in Notes app, and suddenly the app crashed because I accidentally clicked on international icon. The problem was, I lost all the text I typed. I think the new iOS needs some minor bug fixes.
It is the best tablet I've ever used. It is fast and responsive, light, and it has an excellent LCD which is easy on your eyes. Does it worth the price? It depends. Like any other Apple products, this is made from high quality materials, and it is stylish. Paying the price is hard, but once you start using it, all the fun begins. Hope you could find valuable information in my mini review.
As an iOS developer, I've owned all 3 generations of iPads. I also own a couple other tablets: a Kindle Fire and an HP Touchpad, so I have some perspective about usability. In terms of general usability in the most situations, an iPad is the way to go, it has the most and best tablet apps, and the best hardware. This release took the solid base of the iPad 2, and added the best screen I have ever seen, a very nice camera and real 4G networking. This review is about whether you should switch from an iPad 2 or possibly even buy the still available iPad 2.
First, the negatives. The new screen with 4x the pixels, the 4 core GPU to draw into it, the LTE radio, all three conspired to make Apple put in a much bigger battery, making it heavier--yes you can actually feel the difference--and longer to charge. Because Apple uses an extension of USB to charge at 2.1 Amps, which is unchanged from previous editions, it took me 5 hours 57 minutes to go from 0% to 100% charged using the Apple provided charger, compared to 4 hours 14 minutes with last year's model. As a consequence of using more energy in the same 10+ hour usage, the device can get mildly warmer.
While the front facing FaceTime camera is unchanged in quality, it's still dismal especially in low light, you know the kind of light you're likely to have when you are inside thinking about video chatting over Wi-Fi.
Because developers will need to replace their bitmap graphics with additional copies that are 4 times the resolution, a Retina display updated app could potentially be 5x larger in the worst case, although that would be unusual. Still, apps will take up more room. This isn't an advantage over the iPad 2, as the iPad 2 will be laden with the same bulked up apps, with no advantage given.
Now, on with the positives.
Great screen. Really you have to see text on this thing. It's like you are typing into a laser printer. Not only that, but better color reproduction. I did a side by side comparison with my iPad 2, watching a synced up copy of Puss n Boots, the iTunes 1080p copy and the older device had a bit of too much orange in it, just a bit which you wouldn't likely notice without the side by side but glaringly obvious if you did. And 1080p content is spectacular on this display where all 2.1 megapixels can be shown without scaling down.
I purchased the Verizon LTE model. This has the advantage that Verizon is allowing personal hotspot tethering, while AT&T is not. I've had tethering on my iPhone and when I've needed it, such as taking my family on vacation with a laptop, the Fire, an iPod Touch and an iPad 2, it's been a Godsend in a Wi-Fi scarce world. The LTE is zippy fast when you can get it, unfortunately that doesn't include my house, where it drops down to Verizon's inferior CDMA network, which is noticeably slower than AT&T's GSM network, but I wasn't going to use it from my house. Put it this way, an iTunes 1080p movie is 2GB max; Verizon charges you $30 for the first 2GB. If you still have an AT&T unlimited plan from your iPad 2, I think you can move it to a new AT&T model, but be careful.
This release reputedly comes with double the RAM at 1GB which mainly shows up in the much larger number of tabs you can quickly switch between in Safari, a nice sweetener.
The backfacing isight camera is about the specs of the one in the iPhone 4S, excepting being 5 instead of 8 megapixels, which is fantastic, excepting the part about using a 10 inch tablet to take pictures or shoot video. Why couldn't they have put this camera on the front?
"Audio to text about comes with this release this is a bit hit or miss and you might be lucky to have a clear and constant voice which allows you to text at your text". As you can see, it doesn't like my voice, but it is a potentially cool feature.
So, in the end, I think choosing this over an iPad 2 comes down to whether you love clean text and demand the most beautiful video. If you need faster charging times and want to save money stay with the 2. Next year there will be a new new iPad, with a faster processor, a more efficient LTE chipset, Siri, a decent front facing camera, and whatever else they can think of to part you with your money,
so by now you probably read about all the major "problems" people are experiencing with the new ipad/3...main issues reported are "overheating" and wifi issues....well let me tell you, this device does get a little warm by the bottom left part of the back of the ipad BUT its not HOT, just a mere warm feel, nothing compared to the first gen iphone's heat while using wifi or simply charging it... when i first got the new ipad and opened the box and started it, they asked me if i wanted to restore my info from icloud that my previous ipad 2 had installed...so i did, and was connected to wifi downloading and installing things automatically and continously for more than 3 hours and the ipad didnt even get hot, it was still just warm.
with this said lets go onto the wifi rumor...SAME strong wifi signal i'm getting despite reports of the new ipad having considerably much weaker wifi strength than the ipad 2...its a lie, its the same exact signal u would expect to get from an ipad 2 you'll get with the new ipad / ipad 3 as some may call it.
retina screen is nothing short from amazing!!! from the moment you turn on the device you'll notice the extremely clear quality of the screen. camera at the back is a whole lot better and has face detection which is really cool.. and well the front facing cam still sucks :( voice dictation is pretty accurate, you just need to speak into the mic clear enough and make sure not too much external noises are present as the device wont understand your input. processor speed between A5 and A5x isn't something you'll really notice during regular browsing but its nice to still know you have that extra headroom of processor power though...BUT for high GPU demanding games such as Infinity Blade 2 you'll definately benefit from a smooother gaming experience and more frames per second
potential buyers should not be discouraged from buying the new ipad. I'll recommend this tablet to ANYONE looking for the best in the market right now.
I started with the original Kindle - I love reading, and an ebook reader was a lot better than reading on my old Windows Mobile 6 phone. Then the Kindle 2 came out, and I upgraded to that. I found that most of my reading was done laying in bed before going to sleep, and I was getting tired of having a little lamp clamped to the Kindle. When the first iPad came out, I sneered at it. I've done tablet PC's since their inception back in 2004, and had no plans on buying one. But after playing with one at a local brick and mortar, I grabbed a 16GB version and brought it home. 30 Minutes later, I returned it for the 32GB version since I knew 16 would never be enough. Gave the kindle to my mother. Then when iPad 2 came out, I gave my 7 year old son the old one and got the new. Now that the third gen is out, I gave my son my iPad2, my mom the iPad 1, and am enjoying the third generation immensely.
The processor step each time was very noticeable - even for something simple like changing orientation in iBooks. The convenience of checking mail while i'm reading, or doing quick searches on the web when I come across something I'm reading that I want to look into a little more, it's like having the options on my laptop but in an easy to use anywhere form factor.
Since I can find wireless pretty much anywhere I go, there was no need for any version other than just the WiFi one.
The screen is incredible. The resolution if notably different, much like the iPhone 4 was when it was released. It was the screen more than anything that made me get the iPhone 4 when it came out (was my first iPhone), and seeing it on the larger tablet format is just stunning. And it's not just photos or movies that it looks good, since I don't do much of either on here, but everything else, even just the text while reading. Everything is just crisper and much easier on the eye.
Having spent the majority of my almost 45 years scoffing at Apple, and not buying anything they offered until almost 3 years ago, it's quite a change for me. The app store makes it so easy to find things (almost too easy, like how it's so easy to spend money at Amazon). Most items I can install on all my devices (3 iPads and 2 iPhones now) as long as they don't require in app purchases.
The screen is easy to use, the touch component works great. The only downside is the handwriting - even with apps designed for it and styli, it's not anything as good as the Microsoft tablet platform. Which leaves the on screen keyboard for input, which works alright, but just not as easy or quick as a full screen keyboard for those of us who touch type.
Fortunately I have a Macbook Pro so I can charge it from USB, but I also have several speaker docks, a few alarm clock docks, so there's plenty of options. But it does not charge on my son's laptop or all in one dell touchscreen via USB.
Weight is nice - but if you're used to a kindle, it's a shock, since the kindles are SO light. But still not heavy enough to really be a problem usually. The back is just brushed metal though so it's not very "grippy" (one of the things I liked the most from the original Kindle was the back, which helped it to be held without slipping). I always have a snap on case of some sort that gives me a better handhold.
I'm using the smart cover from my iPad 2 and it works fine on this new one.
Sound is good for something with just the single speaker on it. But sometimes your hand partially blocks it depending on how you're holding it.
Sensitivity for game input (tilting, etc) is outstanding.
Camera works great, better than the previous version, but it still will never replace a real digital camera. More for when something happens and you don't have the regular camera on hand.
I'm very happy with mine.
I finally took the plunge and I replaced my laptop with an iPad. Loving it so far. I downloaded the kindle app and a few books. My friend recommended I purchase a kindle instead. She cautioned that it was hard to read whole books on the iPad because the screen is too bright but so far so good. I'm enjoying the variety of apps available and my kids have downloaded a few games. We went out to a restaurant, they have never so quiet in a restaurant before. They actually shared and were able to play together. I have read some users have warned their screen heats up but I haven't noticed anything. I love that I can use it for work, my kids to play and that I can download books and movies. I can't wait to take it on the road with me, I really hope it's true the battery lasts 10 hours. When my plan allows me to upgrade my phone in August, I'm replacing my android with an iPhone. I'm sold.
This is my first iPad and it is AWESOME. I have a friend that just got a brand new iPad 2 and we compared the resolutions side by side, and the difference is slight, but noticeable. If you have the iPad 2, it's useless to get the 3.. just my opinion.
As far as the hot spot is concerned, yes it gets warm but nothing that is annoying or inconvenient. People who complain are blowing it WAY out of proportion. All you need to do is look at the tech specs to realize why it does so. There's a lot going on to power this thing in a tiny space which is why people bought this thing in the first place! don't let it discourage you. Plus, when you put on a case on it, you never notice it.
Great product, very functional and a lot of fun.
So, on Friday I happened upon an iPad 3, wait no, iPad HD, that's not right, either, an iPad 3rd Generation that was sitting like an abandoned baby on my doorstep. So, like anyone else who had ordered the new iPad on the same day Apple announced it, I snatched my package up and ran into my room, closed the blinds, slit the package open, and turned the slate on. And the rest is history.
Actually, most of that is a lie. I waited in shifts with my fiancé to sign off on our packages, and then let the iPad sit in its shipping box for a few hours while I tried to sort out a racial conflict in Mass Effect 3. Anyhow, I did eventually open it, and now that I've spent nearly half a week using my iPad to do a variety of different tasks, I feel comfortable writing a brief little review of the device, to follow up my review of the Acer Iconia A500 tablet that I reviewed late last year.
The first thing a user will notice when picking up the iPad is that it looks identical to the iPad 2. However, this third iteration is also slightly heavier, has a wider camera lens on the back, and, apparently, has slightly more tapered edges. I don't know about that, but to be totally frank, I couldn't have told the physical form factor apart from the iPad 2 if you'd held them in front of me. And that's OK with me, to be frank. The iPad, like all high-quality tablets, has a simple and understated look that stays out of the user's way. Like previous iterations, the 3rd generation iPad comes in two flavors (black and white), with a variety of storage (16, 32, 64 gigs) and connection arrangements (Wi-Fi and LTE (4g)). Whether you care to pay for the extra space or connectivity is a matter of personal preference, I opted for just the 16 gig Wi-Fi only model. So my review is based on that.
Once you turn your new toy on, you'll notice the retina display. It's impossible not to. The screen on the iPad has effectively 4 times the number of pixels as previous generations, despite remaining the same size. Text on the screen is as crisp as print, and colors are more vibrant and defined. If you've spent any time with a laptop, desktop, tablet or Smartphone, you'll be able to see the difference immediately. It's gorgeous, and as near to life-like as we're like to get (for a few more years, anyway...). A lot of people are saying the retina screen is worth upgrading for alone. I don't know if that's totally true, but it is certainly a good argument.
Despite the massive increase in pixel density, the iPad doesn't slow down at all. It packs an enhanced A5X processor chip inside, which runs a quad-core processor (basically as fast as most laptops and computers now, if not faster), and since it runs a smaller screen without all of the hardware attachments, the extra speed is put into driving the display with fluid speed. It's a lot of fun to just flip the pages back and forth. The quad-core processor also enables more advanced graphics for games; expect to see a few envelope-pushers coming out soon, like Epic/Chair's Infinity Blade: Dungeons here soon. With a quad-core, we might even see some more console games debut on the iPad, like GTA III did last year, to major success. The speed of the machine, plus the mobility, and the glorious retina display make for a beautiful, fun gaming experience. While there are very few retina-ready games out, most still up-scale well and look quite purdy. I use my iPad primarily for web-surfing and gaming, and I'm very glad I waited for the retina display.
Oh, yeah. Web surfing. There's something so much more appealing about surfing the web on a tablet as compared to doing it on a laptop or other dedicated computing device. The tactile scrolling, the literal pointing and clicking, the meandering finger-tracing through websites and wiki-safaris--it makes for a great experience that leaves the user loathe to return to their old machines (I've taken to calling my laptop the "diesel rig"). While RSS-readers are available through most major browsers, the iPad (and other mobile devices) make a show of formatting a user's plethora of feeds and headlines into magazine forms. With my Acer tab, I used Google Reader to do just that, but on the iPad, there is a better alternative: FlipBoard. Most of my news, I read through FlipBoard, and on the retina display, the text is just as crisp, smooth, and black as it would be on a high-quality magazine print. Except that I can poke an image and start a high-resolution video, or ride a hyperlink out in half a second to the host site. It's a lot of fun to flip through my FlipBoard and read disparate articles from the wild range of feeds I subscribe to. I can sit there all day reading and flipping, poking and reading. The retina-ready FlipBoard app is the epitome of mobile media consumption: beautiful, simple, yours. That experience is worth buying the iPad for, let alone the bevy of excellent games, software, and the retina-display.
I want to comment on battery life real quick: It's the same as the last iPad. Excellent. Ten hours with heavy usage, but I've gotten a lot more than that out of it already. I ran the thing down once after watching about three and a half hours of video, playing about four hours of games, surfing for five or six hours, and letting it standby for about twenty over two nights. It's a far cry better than the competition, but, here's a bit of a catch: it takes forever to charge. And the battery gets warm while you use it. This might lead to a heating problem in some models, so beware of that, but as far as I know, there haven't been any major complaints about the heating.
There have been some complaints about the camera(s), though I don't know why. The camera is gorgeous, a five-megapixel beauty on the back and a decent one megapixel on the front. The two-way deal allows for backwards and forwards video calls, like the Acer tab did, which is a nice touch, especially with Apple's Facetime videoconferencing software. At the bottom, I've included a few sample shots I took with my iPad camera. It's a nice piece of hardware. Not the best, but by all means perfectly acceptable for shooting anything a normal human would be pointing a camera at. If you're a camera dork, the lack of a flash LED might be a turn-off, but deal with it. Light a match or something.
I'm going to wrap this up here: if you have the money, indulge yourself. When I was a kid, my father had a big, cream-colored PC with a monitor that weighed as much as I do. When I was in high school, schools and houses started to convert to flat-screen LCDs, and cell phones became common-place. Now I have a computer that is very probably more powerful, with a display twice as clear, and many times more vibrant than the one you're reading on. It's an incredible leap in technology, and a beautiful one, too. You deserve to be part of the arc.