The new iPad: Third generation takes over

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There are big changes under the bonnet of Apple’s latest tablet – it boasts the highest-resolution display of any tablet, a much improved camera, better connectivity and its A5X chip makes it the fastest iPad ever

Last year, when Apple released the iPad 2, the original iPad was quickly taken off the market. This year, though, Apple has kept the iPad 2 on sale alongside the ‘new iPad’. There’s no iPad 3 name convention and Apple simply refer to the third-generation iPad as the ‘new iPad’.

Since one is called iPad and the other iPad 2, it’s last year’s model that sounds like it’s the newer product, but, ultimately, this is Apple’s way of saying the iPad is here to stay and probably won’t have numbers attached to future releases in a similar way to the iPod and MacBook range of laptops.

The new Pad costs £329, and has access to 200,000 dedicated apps with an increasing concentration on landmark business and design apps alongside games. Even if you count apps that work on both phone and tablet, as Android does, Apple is still out in front, with over half a million apps. It has a fast processor, attractive screen and an interface that has still to be bettered in terms of usability.

New tablet hero?
The iPad 2 is an impressive piece of kit, and at its new price will surely win many doubters over – a great tablet for a little more than £300 is persuasive. Okay, you may be wondering, are we suggesting it’s not worth spending more for this year’s model? Or, if you have an iPad 2 already, should you upgrade?

Well, if you want the lightest, thinnest iPad, you shouldn’t. The new model is fatter and heavier. You really can’t see the difference easily – it’s only 0.6mm thicker. But you can feel that the new iPad is heavier by 61g. Even so, it’s still lighter than the first iPad.

But the lower weight is the only way the iPad 2 beats the new model. Of course, the screen is the headline upgrade on the new edition. The first two iPads had excellent displays but the new Retina Display is both spectacular and understated.

Put the old and new iPads side by side and you can see the difference but it’s clearest when you’re using apps which have been updated for the new screen. Books are a real stand-out. Reading on the iPad 2 was always average but when you’re used to the new model, you suddenly see jagged edges on letters and slightly blurred lines, on the iPad 2.

On the new iPad, it’s much closer to the ideal: a printed piece of paper with crisp, super-sharp text. The Retina display grows on you with time, and as more apps are Retina-optimised, it will grow even clearer. Perhaps more noticeable than the resolution is the increase in colour saturation, up by over 40 per cent, according to Apple. This means it’s bright, vivid and colourful, while avoiding the over-saturated pitfalls some AMOLED screens reveal.

The processor has been improved to manage all these extra pixels effectively. The A5X chip is essentially the same A5 processor as on the iPad 2, though with a greatly enhanced quad-core graphics processor.

Video, storage and networks
Video is great on the iPad 2, but if you download a movie from iTunes that’s in 1080p HD, the transformation is exceptionally clear. Suddenly it’s possible to have a truly high-definition 9.7in screen.

Remember, the new iPad’s display has more pixels in it than a 55in Full HD TV. You won’t be disappointed by video on the iPad 2, but here it’s unbelievably sharp. A 1080p HD movie can take up over 4GB of space, and if your broadband tariff has a cap you could bust that quickly. It also means downloading the file takes longer and – most important of all – you will fill your iPad’s storage very quickly.

True, you’re more likely to rent a movie on the tablet rather than buy, but you still need the space for that rental period. Suddenly, the 32GB and 64GB capacities seem more essential than on the iPad 2.

Storage issues
We downloaded episodes of Homeland and The River in HD which offered viewing quality unmatched by any mobile device, full stop. Again, the storage space is an issue – each episode weighs in at 1.4GB, which means you couldn’t download a full, 23 episode TV series on the entry-level 16GB iPad.

Of course, there’s iCloud and the ability to stream to a £99 Apple TV, viewing any purchases on your TV. Film fans are going to love the new iPad, but just remember the benefits of the storage space your iPhone offers for music and then consider that the entry-level iPad can hold just a few HD films at a time, before you consider apps and music.

Apple are resolute in avoiding microSD card inputs that could double the size of available memory very cheaply, and it’s one of the major issues we have with the next-generation tablet. As games, apps and movies get bigger and better, consumers are going to need more storage. The 32GB Wi-Fi version costs £479, while the 64GB Wi-Fi version costs £559.

In terms of 4G versions, you can add £100 to each of those price points for easy internet (almost) everywhere with a prepay SIM. We used a T Mobile SIM and found performance great, though the added extras of the ‘4G’ iPad involve 4G skills (alongside UK 3G functions) that will only be of use when you take the iPad abroad and join a 4G LTE network. The 4G iPad supports HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA.

Full article in Mobile News issue 514 (May 21, 2012).

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