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.
iPad 2 on left, new iPad on right
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.