The iPad 3 was Apple's first Retina screen iPad. The quality of the screen is mesmerizing and still stands the test of time by looking great two years after launch. It's also well-designed and robust, with users happy with the way it looks.
One of the primary problems with the iPad 3 is its size and weight. Android tablets have been getting better and better and now compete with the iPad. Apple has rectified this with the iPad Air, which will match the iPad mini 2 in design.
Performance of the iPad 3 is solid and, happily the advent of iOS 7 hasn't caused the dreaded slowdown on the iPad 3, it still runs well.
If there's a couple of areas the iPad 3 suffers it's battery life and value for money. Battery life is reasonable solid but not outstanding. You'll get a full day's use out of it but if you're using 3g that will reduce significantly. It also takes a fair bit of time to recharge meaning you won't be able to blast it for half an hour before you leave the house.
A couple of other things to consider if you're looking to buy and iPad 3 second hand is that it uses the old style 21 pin Apple connector as opposed to the new Lightning one. That means that if you have an iPhone 5S, 5C or 5 you'll have to use different chargers.
Apple's iPad line is the best-selling tablet range of all time and when it came out the iPad 2 set some pretty high expectations for the market, so to say that most people were excited about the potential of the iPad 3 – officially called the “new iPad”, which is ridiculously confusing - is a bit of an understatement.
Looking for the best iPad 3 alternatives? Have a read of our Best Tablets
But does it live up to the hype? In most ways, the answer is a resounding yes. The iPad 3 sports the highest-resolution screen ever seen in a tablet; internals with more graphics power than most handheld consoles barring the PS Vita; seriously improved cameras; and it’s all still stuck into a relatively light and slim aluminium shell. Yet despite this the iPad 3 maintains the same 10-hour battery life and will cost you no more than its predecessor did.
However, if you weren’t a fan before, there might not be enough to this latest model to change your mind. There are even one or two minor downsides compared to the iPad 2, and it’s fair to say that in many ways the Android competition has caught up.
New iPad Wi-Fi: 16GB - £399, 32GB - £479, 64GB - £559
New iPad Wi-Fi 4G: 16GB - £499, 32GB - £579, 64GB - £659
From a design standpoint, Apple hasn’t fixed what wasn’t broken. If you didn’t have them side by side, the iPad 3 could easily be mistaken for its predecessor’s twin. It’s virtually identical in every regard, save that at 9.4mm it’s nearly a whole millimetre thicker and also weighs a little more at 652g for the Wi-Fi version or 662 with 4G.
That’s quite considerable, and it’s a bit of a shame that the iPad 3 has gotten heavier where tablets with slightly larger screens and better connectivity, like the 568g Asus EeePad Transformer Prime or 558g Toshiba AT200 (review coming soon), have managed to keep their weight below that of the iPad 2.
Of course there’s good reason for this extra weight. The new Retina Display requires beefier specs to push pixels onto it, which in turn meant that Apple had to up the battery capacity to maintain the new iPad’s nine-hour plus figure. However, the difference in the hand is telling, and while the AT200 feels like you could hold it in a single hand without strain for extended periods, the iPad 3 is definitely a tablet that’s more comfortably held with both.
So dimensions are very similar, and the iPad 3’s look hasn’t changed much either. It’s still an attractive slab of immaculately finished aluminium with a glass front, and it’s still available with black or white bezels. As is usually the case with Apple products, build is superb, with no signs of flex, creak, or poorly fitted seams. The smooth aluminium back still feels great, though it is perhaps a little less grippy than we might like. Of course, the same complaint can be leveled at many competing tablets.
Volume, screen lock and power controls on the Apple new iPad are still in the same locations as with its previous tablet, and they all feel just as secure or clicky as before. The screen orientation lock switch can also be set to mute volume. Our only annoyance is that their edges are a little sharp, which can be unpleasant when you’re running your finger along an edge trying to locate them.
The iconic central Home button at the front also makes a return, identical to the previous iteration. Especially in landscape mode, this button falls nicely under your thumb, and though you have to stretch a little when holding the iPad vertically, we still prefer it to the virtual home button on many recent Android slates – especially since it doesn’t eat up any of that precious screen.
Connectivity is where the iPad 3 falls down compared to nearly every other tablet out there. In terms of standard connections, a 3.5mm headphone jack is all you get. There’s still no video output like HDMI for hooking the iPad up directly to a TV or monitor; no SD card slot for getting your photos easily onto the tablet, swapping memory cards with your phone or, perhaps most crucially, expanding the tablet’s memory when you run out of space; and no USB for hooking up a memory stick or wired peripherals. Instead, you get the same old proprietary 30-pin docking port at the bottom of the tablet (when held in portrait mode) we all love to hate.
So what, you might say. After all, there are plenty of adapters available that let you do all of the above. Direct from Apple, the £35 Digital AV Adapter gives you a regular-size HDMI connector along with a 30-pin throughput, and the perhaps even more useful £25 Camera Connection Kit contains two adapters: one for full-size USB 2.0 and another providing a full-size SD card reader. However, aside from the added expense there’s a rather serious failing: many USB devices you plug in using the former adapter – including memory sticks - simply will not work.
Ever since Apple’s iOS 4.2.1 update, there have been (artificial software) restrictions on the amount of power the USB adapter is able to provide, and unfortunately this hasn’t changed for the new iPad. So not only can you not plug your memory stick with photos or videos directly into your Apple tablet, but even if you buy a £25 adapter - compared to the £5 cable an Android slate using microUSB might require - you still won’t be able to. You’ll just get a message saying “the connected usb device requires too much power”. So the adapter is only useful for attaching powered USB hubs, cameras (usually in PictBridge mode), and Apple-approved peripherals.
At least the SD card reader works somewhat as expected, though again there’s no native file manager for reading from different folders on a card. The iPad 3 – or rather, iOS 5 - just sticks with the default DCIM one and shows you the photos from there (as long as they’re in an accepted format, that is), if you don’t have one it may not even recognise the card. So again it’s difficult or impossible to get content onto the new iPad using physical media.
Though iCloud at least partially compensates for this limitation on the media end, we don’t find it very acceptable on a modern media consumption and productivity device, and it’s definitely a good reason to prefer an Android tablet.