You’ve got to hand it to them, when it comes down to aesthetics and design, Apple doesn’t pull any punches. Take the New iPad out of the box and you’re immediately greeted by a cool slab of sheer loveliness. True – it looks remarkably like the iPad 2 on the outside, but the iPad 3 has some distinct even evolutionary or rather ‘Resolutionary’ improvements on the inside (more about that later). This third generation new iPad, aka the iPad 3, is also faster, more powerful, and possesses one of the best screens we’ve ever seen on a tablet. This new iPad review takes a closer look at some of the key features of the new iPad.
. You’ve got to hand it to them, when it comes down to aesthetics and design, Apple doesn’t pull any punches. In a nutshell, if you’re happy with your current tablet, or aren’t bothered about the visuals, then stick with what you’ve got or go for the now cheaper iPad2. For goodness sake don’t even be tempted to take a gawp at the new iPad. Once you’ve gazed at the sheer loveliness of the intensified retina display and how this elevates the experience of any feature or function you care to try, we can guarantee you’ll be only be saying one thing – iWant one, iWant one, iWant one!Rating:9 out of 10
Overall: 9 out of 10
- Amazing retina screen
- Super-fast processor
- Slick, intuitive interface
- Improved camera
- No expandable storage
- Long battery charge time
- Camera awkward to use
- No Siri
The new iPad design and build
What instantly grabs your attention is the improvement in the retina display. It’s immense, stunningly obvious, and by far the most lauded feature of the new iPad. Apple has packed in four times more pixels into its 9.7 inch display than the iPad 2, or 2048 x 1536 to be precise! Images are crisper, text is razor sharp, and you could almost sink into the deep, rich, vibrant colour palette. As Apple claims, the screen is indeed ‘resolutionary’. With its improved pixel density, even if you really scrunched up your eyes and squinted, you’d struggle to make out any pixels. Of course this means that the user experience of many other features is also greatly enhanced. The screen looks amazing and isn’t too reflective, just gliding your finger over the display is a really gratifying sensation. Internet browsing, photo viewing and film watching are all massively improved from the iPad 2. We know it’s just an aesthetic enhancement but the improvement is truly outstanding. These are the things that push the desirability stakes to new levels, and make Apple products stand out from the crowd – and Apple knows it!
The new iPad does have a slightly more premium feel to it as it weighs in 60g heavier than its predecessor. It’s also a marginal 0.6mm thicker which makes it feel a little more substantial in your hands. Everything else about the design is premium too, from the sublime curved edges and scuff-proof Gorilla glass screen, to the sleek matt aluminium body. And so it should be, when you’re paying between £400 and £700 for one depending on the model, it needs to feel like a justifiable investment – and it so does that! The iconic home button has remained and is easily accessible within the thin bezel frame of the body. There are only three extra buttons, the volume up/down key, the mute switch and the power/lock key, all of which sit neatly together in the top left hand corner of chassis. However, one nifty new feature is ‘Instant On’, the iPad instantly comes to life the second you touch the home key. Open the cover and it automatically springs to life – now that’s instant!
New iPad interface
The new iPad and the iOS 5.1 have brought some small but significant changes. With its easy to use interface, superb features and solid stability, using the new iPad is a pure doddle. The home screen has a very similar layout to the iPhone except that the icons are much larger – of course! As well as the built in apps, there are over 200,000 other games and apps available from the App store. It’s so intuitive to use, that with just a swipe of your finger you can increase the size of any app and fill as many home screens as you like. Got some favourites? Easy – you can choose up to 6 of your most used, and they’ll appear at the bottom of all your home screens. Need help organising your apps? No problem – to create folders of your favourite apps, just drag the icon and plop on top of another. The iPad will even name the folder for you.
The Retina display makes your fave papers and magazines look that much slicker, especially for showing off those with multimedia. In fact the Retina display pretty much does that for all its apps like iBooks, Safari, Newstand and iMessage making some of your favourite pastimes even better. Apple has also been a bit crafty and taken a leaf out of Androids book and integrated Notification Centre, which discreetly adds any new notifications to the top of your screen from e-mails, calendar invitations and more.
iPad 3 music
As far as sound quality is concerned you‘d have to be tone deaf not to appreciate the outstanding clarity and sheer gorgeousness of the sound emitted by the new iPad, whether it be from a music video or one of the many browse featured music apps. If you want to create music, or just sing along to your favourite tunes, there’s an app for that! Swipe right into the multi-tasking tray and it will bring up the music player. View which tunes are about to play, or adjust the volume or brightness. Double tap the home button and get the music player instantly to change tracks or to pause play, you don’t even need to open the iPad. If there was one minor niggle, I’d have to say it’s a shame that the controls are stuck so high up in the left hand corner of the app, and you can’t increase their size. Slightly larger icons would have improved usability, but like I said, it’s only a minor inconvenience.
The new iPad A5X chip has increased the RAM to 1GB, which is twice that released with the iPad 2. OK, some of that power will be used to enhance the performance of the new pixel rich retina display. Even so, app hopping and the multi-touch gestures are seriously impressive, and the increased RAM should keep it going for that little bit longer. Now as we all know, Apples reputation with regards battery life has been a bit shaky over the years to say the least. Even though it has all that extra ‘vah vah voom’, the new Retina display does seem thirsty and sucks up a lot of juice. However, in testing I did manage to squeeze a good 10 hours out of it, which is pretty comparable with the iPad 2. Mind you – if I had one gripe, it’s that the new iPad takes bloomin’ ages to charge, and don’t plan on playing with it while you do! The charger lead isn’t much longer than the average shoe lace, so you’ve got to be sat right up to the socket if you want to use it while charging. OK – you could buy an extended power cable, but that seems a bit of a cheek when you’ve already spent £400 plus on your new super gadget!
New iPad – Keyboard
Touchscreen technology has come a long way since the awkward, glitchy screens of the past, and the new iPad is no exception. One feature that I particularly liked was the reassuring click of the keys as soon as you’ve touched them, so you know it’s registered properly. Switching between different screens for numbers, letters and caps is oh so swift, and personally, I found it just as easy to use in both portrait and landscape mode. The Smart keyboard aids spelling, gives suggestions and inserts punctuation. If you invest in a SmartCover, this gives a handy bit of elevation to the screen making it easy to watch, play or type. My last word on this is that there’s a huge temptation to keep wiping your fingerprint marks off its beautiful, vibrant screen. But that’s touchscreens for you!
iPad 3 Email
The new iPad email client is pretty awesome in my opinion and Apple is streets ahead in making e-mails easy and fun. There’s a whole host of popular email portals to choose from, and you get notified about new emails by an unobtrusive little drop down box in your notification bar. Messages and conversations are cleverly grouped together in threads, with the most recent message at the top. The interface allows you to pop from personal to work emails with its unified in box, which you can jump in and out of with the flick of a finger. This is where the new iPad has upped the email game on the iPhone, and again, the text is much more legible on the Retina display. Wandering through mail folders couldn’t be easier, and all are accessible with the minimum number of taps. Of course none of this is exactly new, but it you haven’t used an iPhone or iPad before, then this is a pretty key feature. Especially for those who remain dubious about the benefits of a tablet over a laptop.
Contacts are displayed in the normal address book format, with tabs down the side that you can scroll through, with your own contact info stored on the opening page. Unfortunately none of your contacts will have profile pics from the start. Unless you’ve synchronised from Google or Exchange, I’m afraid it’s manual job. It’s a bit irritating that profile pics still can’t be sucked in via Facebook or Twitter. On the plus side, it’s pretty nippy to download contacts from a previous iPhone or iPad list.
iPad 3 Dictation
Ever since Siri popped up on the iPhone 4S, expectation has been that it would feature on the new iPad. I’ve no idea why Apple hasn’t included Siri on the new iPad, but it does have a Siri flavour with the introduction of voice dictation software. You can do anything you like with dictation, search the web, write a note or send an email. Just tap the icon on the keyboard and speak. When you’ve finished, tap anywhere on the screen and your words will pop up. I tried this feature quite a few times, and found it to be surprisingly accurate – probably about 98% of the time. So for anyone who prefers not to use the keyboard, or finds it a bit tricky, Dictation is a very welcome addition. What’s more is that you can also use it on third-party apps, so you can speak your tweets and status updates and see them come to life on the new iPad.
Internet and connectivity
Most people want a tablet for two reasons, internet browsing and media consumption. In terms of technical spec and ultra-fast speeds, the new iPad is certainly no also-ran. I tried the new iPad on Vodafone and found the signal to be strong, and saw a significant improvement when loaded via Wi-fi and 3G connectivity. Every now and again the new iPad wouldn’t connect up to mobile data, despite a good signal- but it was intermittent. You can even use the new iPad as your personal hotspot, and use its high speed connection with up to five compatible devices, over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB where supported. True – Apple hasn’t integrated Flash into the web browser, but maybe not having web video on some sites isn’t the end of the world. However, I do wish they’d increased the icon sizes to make functions like reloading or shutting down just that little bit easier.
In a nutshell, the internet browser on the new iPad is pretty amazing, and it definitely rivals the experience you get with a desktop browser. Tabbed browsing makes it very easy to jump between pages, and getting fast, accurate answers from your web search is excellent. Of course – just remember the new iPad takes a Micro-SIM if you want a non-contract data plan. Even though you can choose between 16GB, 32GB or 64GB models, there are a lot of hefty media packages out there at the moment. But with no expandable memory, Apple may well have shot themselves in the foot with that one.
New iPad Camera
One of the most significant upgrades on the new iPad has got to be the camera – however we are talking a move from 0.7MP (which was pretty poor TBH) to a 5MP rear fixed version, so Apple didn’t really have to do too much to impress here. Having a quick snap around at the weekend quickly revealed that the iPads photographic abilities are plainly decent. To be fair though, I hardly took any photos with the iPad 2, and not because of the lame camera, it’s just that you feel a bit of a wally taking photos with any iPad (think Dom Jolly and his giant handset and you get the picture), but then it’s primary function never was to be a photographic device. The rear camera (now called the “iSight” camera, vs. the front-facing “FaceTime” camera) not only sports a 5-megapixel rear illuminated sensor, this is quite similar to the iPhone 4S snapper, with a ƒ/2.4 aperture and a five-element lens, but offers up some pretty tasty specs for the amateur photographer who likes to take a quick snap now and again. It includes Auto exposure, Autofocus, Auto face detection, Auto white balance, 1080p HD video recording, and Video image stabilization. The ‘tap to autofocus’ mode is also worth a mention – it helps correct the sharpness and exposure levels of the image, and it works a treat!
You can take a photo using the volume key to make it easier to snap. However, it’s quite stiff and leads to some picture wobble, and doing it this way means it’s tricky not to put your finger over the lens. Unfortunately there’s no flash to speak of, which is a shame as it would come in handy when shooting videos. Overall, it performed well. But let’s be honest, it’s only an emergency camera and would never be your main weapon of choice. The new iPad also brought along another welcome enhancement in the form of iPhoto for iOS users. This photo editing software is so intuitive that even your granny could use it without being bamboozled by its functionality, and makes short shrift of storing, sharing and altering any images.
iPad 3 Video
The video camera on the new iPad 3 manages to now shoot in 1080p at up to 30 fps, with the front facing camera managing VGA quality at the same 30fps. The anti-wobble effects are excellent quality, and in-built image stabilisation is greatly impressive. A slightly wobbly video shoot of the kids in the garden should have made for deletable footage, but the iPad 3 pulled it off nicely. The larger improved Retina display produces seriously impressive playback with the best quality videos that we’ve ever seen on a tablet. The new iPad has taken video playback to a new level, and that’s just what we were waiting for. To be fair, like full HD TV, you only get the real WOW factor when viewing 1080p content. Even so, viewing other SD movies and TV is still pretty damn good.
Fortunately Apple have got a well-stocked iTunes portal to download videos from, but on the downside, you may find yourself a tad limited in making full use of it by a)the price and b)the file size. Currently you can pick up many DVD series’ in the UK for a lot less than iTunes, which seems crazy. OK it’s in HD, but it’s far too expensive to be a real alternative to watching it on a TV. Also, most HD movies are between 3-4GB, so if you’ve only got a 16GB version new iPad, you’re not going to be able to take much away with you. So it’s a story of two halves at the moment with the new iPad video feature, the screen and imagery is razor sharp with excellent full HD quality. However, it could cost you an arm and leg to get any content on it, not to mention the amount of internal storage you could use up. So if you only get a lower end version, the answer would be to only download little and often.
On the new iPad, making video calls with Facetime is a cinch. Although at the moment it’s only possible if the other person has a compatible iPhone/iPad and a Wi-Fi connection. The Facetime experience is ace, though you may want to make sure you’re looking good before facing a movie quality image yourself with the enhanced Retina screen. The front facing VGA camera does a good job, although I did find my eyes wandering a bit looking at both myself and my colleague at the same time on a small poster sized screen! I expect you get used to this over time though.
If you fancy having a go at making your home videos a bit more professional-like then the iMovies feature is a decent and fun addition to the functionality. It comes with 9 totally customisable movie trailer templates, and is ready to edit with customisable titles that flash across the screen as soon as you’ve filmed your video footage. You won’t be producing anything worthy of the Cannes film festival, but it will cut a decent film and add an extra dimension to your video memories.
iPad 3 Maps
Maps on the new iPad have been given a bit of an upgrade, and although still no whiff of an in-built sat-nav, there are still some options that make the new iPad a clever navigation device. Traffic mode enables you to see and avoid traffic hot spots in major cities. You can get directions to either walk, drive or use public transport for your trip. A Streetview mode is included, and zooms into any map you choose or a specific location you’ve dropped a pin on to have a look around. All in all it’s a decent mapping service, but hasn’t got quite the power of Google maps, which gives you free sat nav, up to the minute journey times, and 3D city graphics.
The gaming element of the new iPad has been greatly enhanced with the addition of the A5X chip and its quad-core graphical capabilities. I’m not much of a gamer myself, but no review would be complete without at least taking some Angry Birds out for a flutter. The HD version of the game is truly amazing to play with along the larger enhanced screen graphics. It’s difficult to find fault, flinging these feathered aviators towards little green pigs with that many pixels and Ooomph behind it. In all fairness, whatever game you chose to play on the iPad 3 will benefit from this super enhanced retina screen display and improved contrast ratio.
New iPad – Conclusion
As with most Apple products, the new iPad is a feat of both beauty and brilliance (and that’s before you’ve even turned it on!) This is why it’s so difficult when it comes to recommendations, as much of what drives an Apple purchase is that emotional, almost compulsive magnetism. Like most Apple products you will pay a premium price for the new iPad, but as we all know that has never represented a problem for Apple, and most people are happy to pay for the kudos that owning and flashing an Apple product brings.
The one feature that we just can’t stop banging on about is the sheer magnificence of the Retina Display, mainly because its’ brilliance spills over into, and massively enhances every feature and application you want to run. It’s impossible to exaggerate how lucid, vibrant and sharp the imagery really is. Basically it has stepped up a gear and introduced a new generation of ‘desktop quality display’ experience to the masses. Other manufacturers are really going to have to up the ante to compare well against the clarity of this screen.
Sure – the design is almost the same as the iPad 2, but the slightly more premium feel and build quality is second to none. It’s not for nothing that other manufacturers have tried to imitate it – after all it is the sincerest form of flattery. And then there’s the user interface, simple, slick and super intuitive – a winning combination indeed.
Whilst the Dictation function is great fun and appeared to be quite accurate, I still can’t understand the decision not to include Siri on this flagship device. After all, Apple has already developed the technology, so why not use it? It’s a bit of a disappointment really, and certainly one that had us scratching our heads.
Storage is possibly the biggest issue of all, and if you’re planning on intensive usage of apps and downloading lots of HD films, then we really couldn’t recommend the 16GB model. You’d find your storage gobbled up in next to no time, and could spend hours deleting different content just to make space for anything new. Annoying to say the least!
iPad 3 – Final Word
There are a few negative points to consider, but let’s make no mistake, the new iPad is again head and shoulders above the competition. Pulling together some killer new features and a sublime design along with the most intuitive iOS, is Apples forte and guaranteed to generate mass appeal. Ok – it’s expensive, but then there are plenty of other tablets in the price range these days, and evidently punters are more than happy to stump up the cost. The £700 price ticket for the 64GB version may be enough to make some people’s eyes water, but you will be guaranteed to squeeze maximum benefit out of the new iPads apps and downloads with that much storage.
In a nutshell, if you’re happy with your current tablet, or aren’t bothered about the visuals, then stick with what you’ve got or go for the now cheaper iPad2. For goodness sake don’t even be tempted to take a gawp at the new iPad. Once you’ve gazed at the sheer loveliness of the intensified retina display and how this elevates the experience of any feature or function you care to try, we can guarantee you’ll be only be saying one thing – iWant one, iWant one, iWant one!