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iPad 3 - Display, Camera and Specs

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


iPad 3 - Retina Display

The moment you turn the new iPad on, everything changes, as it provides a visual experience on a whole other level to any other current tablet thanks to its astonishing 9.7in screen. If you were impressed by the 1,024 x 768 display in the iPad 2, prepare to be blown away by the 2,048 x 1,536 pixels Apple has managed to cram into the iPad 3. Incidentally that’s more pixels than in most TVs and high-end monitors, and only a professional 30in or 27in panel like the one used in the Samsung S27A850D can exceed it.

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iPad 2 on left, new iPad on right

As a result, everything on the new iPad looks razor sharp. At normal viewing distances you won’t even be able to distinguish individual pixels, which is why Apple is justified in calling it a Retina Display even if its 264ppi doesn’t quite match the iPhone 4S’ 326ppi; in practical use it won’t matter as it’s still more than good enough.

With this move, Apple has put its latest tablet well ahead of the Android pack, of which even the most premium announced models, like the Transformer Pad Infinity, still ‘only’ come with 1,920 x 1,200 screens. Meanwhile the current Transformer Prime, with its 1,280 x 800 resolution, has a pixel density of merely 149ppi.

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Regardless, the new iPad’s new screen will be a Godsend for those who like to read or game on their tablet, as even zoomed text is lovely and smooth while compatible games burst with detail. Especially photographers and artists will find much to love: even the smallest minutiae are visible, and you may notice blemishes in the original image you could never distinguish before. As the screen uses an IPS rather than TN panel, viewing angles are also as good as it gets, meaning you can look at the tablet from the side without contrast or colour shift.

Apple has improved colour saturation over previous iPads too, leaving colours bright and punchy without oversaturation, as can be the case on some AMOLED screens. Luckily, backlighting is beautifully even too and bleed virtually non-existent. Contrast is also good - though as it’s only marginally better than the iPad 2’s, the Transformer Prime’s IPS Plus panel still noticeably comes out on top. Still, we’d rather take those extra pixels and more accurate colours any day, and we have no hesitation in calling the iPad 3’s Retina Display the best tablet screen out there, followed by the Prime’s IPS Plus.

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So are there any downsides to the new iPad screen, aside from requiring more power to run? Not really. Its squarer aspect ratio than the vast majority of competing tablets could be an issue if you use your slate to watch a lot of video though. For while the picture the display produces is undoubtedly superb, you do end up with rather huge black bars on the top and bottom. Again, this is an area where the 16:10 (the same aspect ratio as 1,920 x 1,200 monitors) Prime takes the lead. On the other hand, we prefer a squarer screen for reading and browsing, so it’s horses for courses.

While we’re moaning, it’s also a huge pity that Apple still doesn’t offer an optional pressure-sensitive stylus, like the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet or Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 do. This would be a great feature for designers and artists, or even those who like handwritten notes, and would complement the Retina Display very nicely.

iPad 3 - Audio

On the audio side of things, meanwhile, the iPad 3 is still one of the best-sounding tablets around. Its mono speaker manages admirable volume with quite a bit of detail and punch for a tablet. However, due to the lack of bass and occasional distortion, you may still want to hook up a decent set of headphones.

iPad 3 - Camera

One thing in dire need of improvement with the iPad 2 were its cameras, and Apple has obliged with the new iPad – to an extent. The front one is, at best, only a very minor improvement over the poor model on the previous Apple tablet. Thankfully, the rear one has received a major update. It’s now a 5 megapixel, backside-illuminated affair with a five element f/2.4 lens and autofocus, and it can shoot stabilized 1080p video at 30fps. New iPad 3 7

The iPad 3’s rear shooter is now also called iSight, because Apple loves to give even its completely unoriginal ‘technologies’ catchy names. Creative naming aside, it produces pictures on a level with the original iPhone 4, which is certainly no bad thing. Video is even better, no doubt helped along by the powerful processing the new iPad can provide courtesy of its A5X SoC.

Our only real complaint with the rear camera is the lack of an LED flash. We also would have liked to see more of an update on the front model – after all, that’s the one you use for video calling. If cameras are important to you, again the Asus Transformer Prime is a better bet.

iPad 3 - Specs

There’s no need to worry that apps and games will require too much power to run at the new iPad’s ludicrously high 2,048 x 1,536 resolution, as the new A5X SoC copes admirably. The processor part is still dual-core, where many were hoping it would offer four. However, iOS and the apps designed for Apple’s tablet probably wouldn’t take advantage of the extra cores to any great extent anyway.

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So how does Apple’s chip compare on the processor front? Well, the A5X is essentially an upgraded A5, but the main boost has been to the graphics/GPU part. The CPU is still actually two Cortex A9 cores running at 1GHz. As you might expect, Nvidia’s Tegra 3 (as used in the Transformer Prime) with its four Cortex A9 cores running at up to 1.66GHz, happily stomps all over Apple’s chip when it comes to data processing like number crunching.

When it comes to graphics, on the other hand, things swing dramatically in Apple’s favour. While the A5X with its PowerVR GPU is putting a meagre four cores against the 12 found in Tegra 3’s GPU, it’s important to remember that the dual graphics cores on the iPad 2’s A5 SoC were already a match for Nvidia’s latest in many ways, and the new iPad has no trouble driving content at its new screen resolution. Games like Infinity Blade: Dungeons prove the new iPad’s graphical prowess in a stunning way – but we’ll tell you all about that later on.

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The A5X is backed by 1GB of RAM, double that of the iPad 2 and in line with most premium Android tablets. However, it is worth keeping in mind that Android tablets with double that again (2GB) are only just around the corner. Still, considering iOS’ efficiency, this should be plenty for the current generation.

As listed at the beginning of the review, permanent storage can be anywhere between 16 to 64GB, depending on how much you’re willing to spend. Do keep in mind that unlike almost every Android tablet, memory is not expandable, so you’re stuck with what you buy. In other words, think about the video, music and photos you’ll want to carry around, and then add a few gigabytes for apps and games. We reckon 32GB to be the sweet spot for the average consumer.

iPad 3 - Wireless Networking

Like its screen, wireless is another area where the iPad 3 currently outshines all competitors. Wi-Fi N is of course standard, but Bluetooth is version 4.0 where most competing tablets use 3.0 - though this won’t make much difference for the end user. What may potentially matter is that the more expensive versions of the new iPad also offer 4G, where other tabs give you 3G - if they have the option for mobile broadband at all.

Mind you, good luck finding a 4G network in the UK, but at worst you can see it as future proofing, and if you do happen to live in a country where it’s widely available the benefits can be significant, with far faster internet speeds of up to 73Mbps. The new iPad uses the same microSIM as the previous models, so you can just transfer over if you’re lucky enough to already own one.


March 8, 2012, 6:04 am

"However, what about your existing collection? Worry not, just like with old iPhone 3/3G apps running on the iPhone 4, the screen resolution on Apple's third iPad is exactly double that of the previous model, so everything will scale beautifully. "

- question, Does this mean that the existing iPhone specific apps that current can scale up '2x' on my iPad2 will now have to scale up even more..thus making it even less usable? There are many apps available and made for the iPhone that whilst compatible with the iPad, are not optimised for tablet use so have to scale up. I'm reticient to move to the new iPad if it means I have a choice between '1x' and '4x'. If there was a '2x' option, it *might* be ok...though I'll have to see/use it first!


March 8, 2012, 2:48 pm

Why would the experience be any worse than on iPad 2? It's only pixel doubling, hopefully with some sort of smoothing/sharpening on fonts etc. The image should be at least as sharp as on an iPad/iPad 2, and as apps are updated to take advantage of the new screen on iPhone 4/4S (surely most of the popular ones already have?!) that benefit will translate to the new iPad as well.

Russell Peto

March 8, 2012, 2:48 pm

Since the screen is the same size and there are exactly 4 times as many pixels, a cluster of 4 pixels on the new iPad will be just the same size as a single pixel on the iPad 2.
Therefore apps, even scaled up apps, will look just the same.


March 8, 2012, 2:51 pm

I think it looks fricking awesome. I have been holding off on an iPad purchase for a long time waiting for the new screen, and with the chunkier processing capabilities as well, this looks to be the generation where the product has finally hit its potential. Only remaining question is which one to get... 16 or 32GB Wi-fi only is probably sufficient, tethering to my my iPhone 4S for data on the go.


March 8, 2012, 3:11 pm

If your currently using the 2x feature on your iPad, then going 4x with this will look identical to that, so it's not going to be any less usable.

One of the advantages of Apple going for multiples of 2x 4x etc, is that there is no scaling artefacts to worry about, and backwards compatibly is in the bag.

But for the best usability it's always best to get the App that's iPad optimized anyway.


March 8, 2012, 3:22 pm

Now we're making panels at 264ppi can someone sell me a 30 inch one!

Nick 2

March 8, 2012, 3:55 pm

Still seems to be that damned annoyed separation of the GPS functions in with the 4G iPad only. I really wish the full GPS was available in the WiFi models.


March 8, 2012, 4:15 pm

Whilst I once worried that the iPad lacked in-built an SD card-reader and HDMI - the dongles are not that bad at all (and the camera kit also allows all kinds of other gadgets to be attached - including pretty serious Microphones, MIDI keyboards / e-Drums / etc).

But in all honesty - the excellent support for DropBox in 3rd-party apps on the iPad / iPhone makes physical connectivity a non-issue for me. And not just in the official DropBox app, but in loads of other apps (many of which can also cache/store cloud-based docs for offline viewing & editing for those times you have no cloud connectivity).

A Bluetooth keyboard, and streaming of audio via Bluetooth as well as video/audio over Airplay take away the need for the physical wires that clutter up my PCs.

In short, I bought an iPad 2 as a toy, but have integrated it into my working life very nicely - as something I can be productive on, particularly for reading, research and especially planning & writing (and wherever the mood takes me).


March 9, 2012, 1:54 pm

Am I the only one that thinks that this resolution craze is going over the top? Yes, it looks qute a bit clearer, if you look at it through magnifying glass. Othervise gain in clarity and details is not that impresive to warrant the performance and battery hit this resolution presents.

Truth to be said, if anyone in this day can pull it off, it's Apple. But still, for me at least, advantages are higly questionable considering the cons.

Hubert Richard

March 9, 2012, 9:35 pm

Apple has once again pulled it off. In other pages they were complaining about TIM COOK and Schiller not living up to the image of Steve Jobs (May his soul rest in peace), but they were missing the point, that Tim & Johny Ive combined came out smelling of roses with the latest offering. I personally hate it, just because I already own one, and now I have to change it for the latest iPad, or live without the best display and apps, and always go "J" when someone struts into my office showing off their new "babe"...! Naw, I am not going to allow that.... if there is a will there's a way..... lol


March 9, 2012, 11:36 pm

" . . . if you weren't a fan before, there might not be enough to this latest model to change your mind."

I beg your pardon? If Retina Display plus 4G are not enough, then I don't know what is. This is the other shoe that many of us were waiting to drop. When I saw these two, I immediately went to the Apple store and pre-ordered. The site needed to be throttled because of the traffic, so obviously I'm not alone in regarding this upgrade as the tipping point, in my case not to upgrade but to return to Apple for the first time in over a decade.


March 10, 2012, 10:58 pm

I hate Apple, and will never trust them again as long as I live. You think £399 is cheap but £260 of that is pure pure profit fopr Apple, they could sell it £150 cheaper and still be making a 100% markup on it. They are ripping you off and all you get for it is something shiny and cool, while they laugh all the way to the bank. And God forbid anything goes wrong with it, because Apple's tech support is basically nonexistant (a forum that is barely monitored) unless you want to call the £1 a minute rate phone line and wait for a few hours.

They are insulting you every year with a new iteration and everyone sells their last one and buys another, essentially resulting in millions of people all giving apple £400 plus accessories once a year (then again for their stupid phones). It's really one of the most pathetic tragedies of the 21st Century.


March 10, 2012, 11:41 pm

Wow, that's got to one of the more misinformed comments I've ever read. The iPad is one of the least profitable devices for Apple and the starting price is very competitive. Also Apple has among the best support in the industry. Sure the best of it is available in the Apple Stores but in terms of reliably and quickly being able to get faulty or broken hardware replaced/fixed they are among the most best.


March 11, 2012, 3:33 am

Agreed with Ed's reply above, what a totally ridiculously statement.

Apple is making money on the iPad sure, but by all accounts it's reduced it's profit margin for the iPad a lot. Sure it's still making money, but then it is a commercial company so why would it not?

Also, you clearly are at a total loss for intelligence and incredibly I'll informed if you think their tech support is bad. Apple support is superb. Not only do they look after customers who have warranty (or have paid for extended warranty), but I've experienced times when they've replaced a device out of warranty. Worst case is that you get a no-quibbles exchange for a perfect identical device from Apple. They are a model that the rest of the industry should take note of.

I suggest you go back to reading Engadget with all the other people who blindly hate Apple without information or sense.

Greg Shewan

March 11, 2012, 9:59 am

Besides the all dominating screen, nothing really grabs me about this. Same design, just like the 4S... for a company that prides itself on design I almost see this as the laziest move by Apple in well over a decade.

Chipset is a stop-gap, 4G is almost useless unless you are very lucky enough to live in a region with a provider offering this service and the huge battery jump to achieve the same levels of performance raises eyebrows over many components efficiency under load... that backing may turn into a hotplate in some climates. I can see from the offset this is not a 'world' product, even though it covers almost every conceivable band, but incredibly American-centric.

I also have to agree with the previous comment on service, with my experience it is very poor (although this is region dependant again).

It really is such a shame as they had such am epic lead on all the competition and this is all they can come up with.


March 12, 2012, 1:58 pm

>> most pathetic tragedies of the 21st Century.

Wow!!, really. Ok, everybody stop buying Apple's tech, this will sort out all the problems of the world. No more wars & famine!! Hip Hip Hooray for @Calcifer our savour.


March 12, 2012, 2:17 pm

>> for a company that prides itself on design I almost see this as the laziest move by Apple in well over a decade.

Really, Apple usually sticks to the same design for a long time, especially when there's nothing wrong with it. eg, look at the macBook & Air variant.

If you want a product that's constantly changing it's design, for no apparent reason, then there's plenty of alternatives. eg. HTC & Samsung have hundreds of products to satisfy everyone's tastes in perfectly formed plastics, and within a couple of months they will have changed it again for you.

Greg Shewan

March 12, 2012, 3:00 pm

Those two products you mention have quite a few design flaws created straight from aesthetic choices. I am already in the alternative camp, use a SGS2 and an HP Envy, but have a iMac for work.

Don't change something for the sake of change but there are flaws with the original design that have not been addressed at all. Slippery back and lack of connectivity with expensive peripherals are two main ones. One whole year to address two important issues and it seems like Apple just worked in a clinical white box without any external stimuli... in other words customer feedback.

Again with the plastic jabs... ok lets drop something made of glass (aka and iPhone) and something made of plastic (aka an SGS2), the results are going to show why most manufacturers use plastic.


March 12, 2012, 4:18 pm

Yeah, slippery back, that's something super important for Apple to sort out, 7 people have been asking for a none-slippery backed iPad since the dawn of time. Why don't Apple listen!!, instead they installed a retina display that thousands wanted.

And connectivity, yeah, I'm really angry that there's thousands of peripherals available for said product. Wish I had some cheap plastic variant that has fewer if not none. Be much better that!!.

Oh, and yeah.. breakage, I've lost count of the number of times my iPhone has broken on me,. Oh, wait a minute, actually it's none, but if it was plastic, I'd be better off as I'd have -1 times my case had cracked.!! I remember the good old days were my plastic phones battery cover would fall off for no apparent reason, those were much better made products by far. And what I really hate, is if my iPhone did break, I'm sick and tied of how cheap the spare parts are, that's just no right I tell you.


March 12, 2012, 8:03 pm

All I meant was that the same limitations still apply, and no matter how awesome, the screen and 4G are still evolutions rather than revolutions. Also, do you live in the UK? Good luck finding a 4G network then...

I'll readily admit that the screen alone is a pretty huge upgrade and in fact (if an Android rival doesn't match or better it soon) it may just be enough to convince me too...


March 12, 2012, 8:19 pm

Actually, IF you think the iPad is slippery (we wouldn't go quite that far, but it could do with a little more grip) that IS pretty important. How good is your Retina display going to look if you dropped the tablet and it's shattered?

Connectivity: other tablets (even the "cheap plastic variant[s]") don't NEED adapters, because you can hook up things without them. It's a fair point and a serious failing of the iPad; want to hook it up to your TV? You need an adapter. Want to read photos off your SD card? An adapter it is, etc. So your sarcasm is at best misplaced...
Peripherals, of course, it has more than any other tablet. But we would still rather have the Transformer Prime's keyboard dock than a third-party solution.

Glass shatters easier than plastic, that's simply fact. The number of friends & acquaintances who have shattered iPhone 4/4s screens... And Apple hardly have a monopoly on well-made products (although they do offer consistent quality).


March 12, 2012, 9:28 pm

@Ardjuna: How good is your Retina display going to look if you dropped the tablet and it's shattered?

Good question, how good do you think a Transformer Prime would look with a shattered screen?. And good look finding a replacement if it does. btw ipad 2, replacement screen about £32.

@Ardjuna: don't NEED adapters, because you can hook up things without them.

Yes, that's correct. If your serious photographer, you can just plug your CF card into other tablets, or do you need an adapter? (oops). And built into other tablets there is a hdmi cable you can pull out to connect to your TV, (or do you still need a cable again, just a different type, mmm. let me think).

@Ardjuna: And Apple hardly have a monopoly on well-made products

Who said they did? And Apple don't have a monopoly on broken gadgets either. Just look on ebay for broken Samsung S2 etc.


March 13, 2012, 9:23 pm

Thanks for the reply.

Keithe6e: "Good question, how good do you think a Transformer Prime would look with a shattered screen?"

That's not the issue, I wasn't saying the iPad is inferior to anything here - in fact the Prime is a good example because it offers LESS grip. All I was saying was that it could still be improved, and that @Greg Shewan's point wasn't without merit.

Keithe6e: "If your serious photographer, you can just plug your CF card into other tablets, or do you need an adapter? (oops)"

Did I say if "you're" a serious photographer? Did I even say photographer? And how many cameras exclusively use CF these days? Quite aside from the fact that 90 percent of all cameras use SD, that was not my point; you can have photos on your phone's SD card and just stick it in your tablet, you can expand your tablet's memory (unless you own an iPad or new-gen Xoom) etc. THAT was my point.

Keithe6e: "or do you still need a cable again, just a different type, mmm"

Apple adapter = only from Apple £35
HDMI cable = any AV shop or online £3 (or £0 since it's occasionally included with the Android tablet).
That's the (significant) difference, please don't argue on obvious points like this.

Keithe6e: "I remember the good old days were my plastic phones battery cover would fall off for no apparent reason, those were much better made products by far."

That suggests non-Apple, or at least plastic, products were automatically inferior. If you didn't mean to suggest that, you should have phrased it differently.


March 13, 2012, 11:05 pm

@Ardjuna: And how many cameras exclusively use CF these days?

So what your saying, if your using a high end camera, that's your likely to use CF for size/speed, first you'll need to copy your photos to the another SD card on the camera, then plug the SD into the Android. I still think plugging the camera kit in seems easer, maybe that's just me. My point it there are certainly no lack of accessories for the iPad, check out eBay for camera kits for an example.

@Ardjuna: That's the (significant) difference,

Again look on eBay to see plenty of alternatives, it's certainly not (only from Apple).. And in any case if £30 is a massive stumbling block, then yes maybe an iPad is not for you anyway.

@Ardjuna: That suggests... automatically inferior

What, instead of glass automatically been inferior to plastic, try reading the context of the thread again, then you'll understand better.


March 14, 2012, 3:34 pm

Canon 1D series cameras come with dual cards - SD & CF that can be used in any order of use, recording whatever format to whatever medium in multiple ways. So you can record small JPEGS to the SD and RAW to the CF, as I often do. As for prosumer & consumer cameras - a vast majority use SD cards.

And yes, for some people value is a proposition that they take seriously. Yet another extra £30 add on required to get functionality from the iPad, that would otherwise be accessible for free on a competitor's tablet, makes a difference. Especially when you need to purchase an additional one to access each 'amazing' feature. We all know how much we love travelling with a bag full of silly, expensive adapters....sooooo convenient for the consumer. Especially when you're travelling and one breaks of gets lost, compromising the productivity of said gadget.

I find it amusing that you are accusing someone of not commenting within the context of a thread. You don't seem to be too hot on that yourself.

No need to continually attempt to be condescending in your posts. We get it. You're into Apple and love accessories. I'm happy that's working out for you!

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