Yeah, yeah. I tried to skip out on doing this. Ya caught me. I wanted to take advantage of some extra time to really think about how I use a tablet and exactly what the new features of Apple’s latest tablet would add to the experience. Let’s take a look at what Apple is offering up on this year’s iteration of the flagship of the tablet market: The iPad.
So what’s new?
- “Retina” display with a resolution of 2048x1536.
I must admit to thinking that the rumors of a “Retina Display” (Yeah, that’s not a real technical term) showing up on the new iPad were total B.S. The thought of such a high resolution screen in a 10” form factor at the existing price point… Well, I really didn’t think it could happen and Apple would be committing hara-kiri raising the price. This is a huge improvement over older iPad screens with a resolution of 1024x768. I have occasionally noticed some pixilation with black text on a white background. The new screen will certainly remove this issue. Overall, the screen should be a stunner although I would have liked to see an improved backlighting system to go with it
- A5X Processor
This is the same, still speedy, A5 dual-core CPU in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S paired up with a new quad-core graphics processor. Obviously, all those new pixels on the screen are going to require more horsepower to compute. I’m certainly not going to complain about getting a little extra graphics boost, although I’m not ready to buy Apple’s claims that this new system outperforms Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chipset (5 CPU cores, 12 GPU cores) used by Android tablets such as the Asus Transformer Prime until I see benchmarks from someone less biased.
- 5 Megspixel “iSight” Rear Camera with 1080p Video Recording
This was one of the features unveiled that really made me stop and think. I have used an iPad often for quick photography as well as video recording. The stills are awful (pic) while the 720 video is surprisingly good (vid. In fact, all of the live video on GUO’s YouTube channel has been filmed using the iPad 2. Trust me, it used to look nice before YouTube’s latest batch of video compression). The real problem is that the iPad itself is a bit too heavy and much to awkward for extended use as a camera. Most of my video experience with the iPad comes from using the FaceTime video conferencing abilities and using its front camera which was not improved at all from it's current, horribly antiquated, VGA resolution.
- 4G LTE Wireless Capabilities
Couldn’t care less. Yes, Apple is far, far too late in getting in on the “4G” cellular revolution and having a carrier contract on a tablet is just… well, dumb. If you find yourself using a tablet on a cellular connection, you should probably be looking at getting a better smartphone instead. On the up side, I guess we can all but confirm 4G connectivity for the next iPhone.
- Voice Dictation
A microphone button on the virtual keyboard allowing universal speech-to-text abilities? Love it. The fact that this, strictly software, feature is being withheld from other devices? Rage inducing. Congrats Apple, you just inspired a whole ‘nother generation of jailbreakers.
After the reveal of the iPad 2, I applauded Apple for delivering “a whole lot of machine for a reasonable price”. One year later, things have changed a bit. While there is little doubt in my mind that this 3rd generation iPad will continue to dominate the hearts and minds of technophiles everywhere, the price point and options available to prospective tablet owners have changed somewhat in the past year. The introduction of 7” tablets at half the price of of the iPad such as the Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, and upcoming Asus MeMo/Nexus Tablet makes “The New iPad” less easy to recommend compared to its forerunner. In addition, Apple still has not added features to the iPad that seem like no-brianers such as HDMI support and (for crying out loud!) stereo speakers sported by most other tablets.
If you’ve always dreamed of getting an iPad, this new version is the obvious choice. If you are currently and iPad owner, this is probably a good generation to skip. If you’re thinking about getting a tablet in general (and didn’t grab one last holiday season when it was practically raining discounted Android tabs), I would wait and see what Asus’ $250 Tegra 3 tab brings before making a final decision.