Review: iPad (3rd Generation)

Is the new iPad an iPad killer? We deliver our verdict.

NameTablet: iPad (3rd Generation)
At a glance:Retina screen is sumptuous and makes for impressive text readability, Improved camera makes for decent video and still shots,Runs a little warm
Summary:It's the best tablet money can buy
RRP:16GB $729

If you read onscreen, then going back to the iPad 2 after using the new iPad even for an hour or two is going to feel like the worst kind of pain. The text clarity is just that much better. Don’t take my word for it: I’ve got a photo to prove it. That's the iPad 2 on the right, and new iPad on the left.

It’s not like the iPad 2 has poor text readability, either. For a tablet, it’s pretty sharp and pretty crisp, but the new iPad just raised the bar. During use, the backlight can be a little hard on the eyes, but this is as sharp as an eBook reader, web-page or email is ever going to look.

Make no mistake, the remainder of the apps I tested, except those marked as retina-ready, do not show the same kind of amazing difference. But for web browsing, email, forums and e-readers, it’s incredible.

And that sharp, crisp, amazing text clarity comes down to the screen - 2048 by 1536 pixels. That’s more pixels than your average big screen TV has, and it’s more than all but the very largest monitors. When you consider that the huge number of pixels (3.1 million of them, to be precise) is compressed into a space that measures just 9.7 inches diagonally, you can expect wow-factor. The sheer density of pixels puts the screen close to a glossy magazine in terms of image sharpness.

Currently, there aren’t huge numbers of retina-ready apps, but that will change rapidly, and many keys apps are already on board with higher resolution. Flipboard, Kindle, Comics+, Skype, WordPress, Pulse, Evernote, Flight Control Rocket (the sequel to FireMint’s fabulous Flight control HD), and Apple’s own apps are just some of those that have taken advantage of the new iPad specs.

Speaking of specs: if you have an iPad 2, and you’re considering the upgrade, you’ll notice the slightly chunkier dimensions and slightly greater weight of the new iPad. It’s slight - just 49g more - but I found the older iPad a little more comfortable to hold.

That’s hot!

One thing I noticed, even during normal use, is that the new iPad gets a little bit warm. It’s not more than warmth, and it’s mostly noticeable in the lower left quadrant of the rear of the tablet. Having said that, the warmth didn’t get worse when performing tasks you might expect to require more power, such as playing Civilization Revolution, or when the display was being used to display almost fully white screens on forums. It just seemed to run a little warmer overall. I’m used to the iPad 2, which never gets warm, so I found the increased temperature disconcerting - it had me concerned that something was going wrong - but other reviewers have noted a similar issue. It’s definitely not a dealbreaker, but you will notice it.

Speed and time

The other key benefit is that theiPad 3rd gen is slightly faster; it’s noticeable for returning to the home screen, for loading apps and for scrolling through and within apps. Moves during Civilization revolution were faster, email screens loaded faster and photos were exceptionally quick and smooth to load.

That speed and performance is thanks to the updated A5X processor. The older iPad 2 has a dual-core 1GHz processor and dual-core graphics. The A5X in the new iPad is manufactured by Samsung and features a 1GHz dual-core processor, alongside a quad-core graphics chip. That additional graphics grunt in the new iPad is used primarily to power four times as many pixels in the new retina screen. You can get models ranging from 16GB of storage through to 64GB, and all have 1GB of RAM onboard.

While Apple says the battery life should be the same for the iPad 2 and new iPad, I found that the battery ran down slightly faster on the new iPad than on my one-year-old iPad 2 when performing a range of normal uses such as reading forums for several hours, watching an hour of anime video, taking photographs and playing Civilization Revolution for a couple of hours.

Photos and video

Apple has made much of the new 5-megapixel iSight camera on the new iPad. Apple claims that there’s better white balance, improved optics and face recognition. What that really means is that the new iPad camera is equivalent to that of the iPhone 4. It’s good, but it’s not blow-you-out-of-the-water brilliant.

It has a wider-angle lens than the previous iPad, and the colour saturation is heavier, though we can’t say that colour accuracy is better, per se. In low or indoor light, in particular, reds tended to be a little on the pink side. In bright daylight, colours seemed entirely natural. White balance is improved, and face detection works.

The camera app hasn’t had any major adjustments to it, however, so you still get very few options for adjusting camera settings. However,  the autofocus is fast, and the results are very sharp and detailed. They’re a vast improvement on the iPad 2, but the camera on that device was so-so. this ranks as the best quality camera on a tablet that I’ve seen yet.

When you view images taken using either the iPad camera or any other device, it demonstrates the lovely clarity of the retina screen, too.

The new iPad now shoots in 1080p, and the results from a short video shot on the iPad 2 and new iPad were good - much less blockiness than we’ve been used to in iPad video and far better white balance. The standard app still allows very few settings to be adjusted, so we’d suggest that more can be made out of it using a third-party app.

3G, 4G

Here in New Zealand, we don't get the benefits of the superfast "4G" LTE speeds of 73Mbit/s that Apple says the new iPad is capable of. Instead, you'll get 3G speeds on our networks. As with most tablets, however, we don't think getting a SIM is worth it for most people.


Is the new iPad an iPad 2 killer? For most people, the improved text and photo display are likely to be the deciding factor, as well as video shooting, which has a definite appeal for those in education.  For me, the dominant uses for my iPad are keeping up with news and web forums, reading eBooks and watching videos - everything from Crunchyroll’s anime shows to Ted talks. The videos show at 1080p, at maximum, and there’s no upscaling to the iPad’s extra screen real estate. The text improvements and faster speed are nearly enough to convince me to upgrade.

Is it worth $150 more than the iPad 2? I’d say yes, but only barely.

There's no doubt that this is the best tablet out there, and it's worth buying new if you don't have one. We're happy to give it a Platinum Award.

If you have an iPad 2, wait: as with most Apple devices, you can usually skip generations.

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Tags smartphoneWiFiipad hd4g3gnew ipadTabletiPad 3iPadApple

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Zara Baxter

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