iPad 3 - Display, Camera and Specs

Score

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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.

New iPad 3

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.