The new iPad review: first look
The tablet we’ve all been expecting was finally unveiled by Apple CEO Tim Cook today, ending a week of feverish speculation in the press. And “the new iPad” as it’s entirely uninspiringly named, is very much as expected.
The headline upgrade is the move to a higher resolution, ‘Retina’-style display at an astonishing 2,048 x 1,536. That’s higher even than the Asus Transformer Prime’s 1,920 x 1,200 screen, which we looked at last week in Barcelona, and leads to a total pixel count of 3.1 million.
Apple has retained the 9.7in display of its predecessors, too, and it looks as you’d expect: extremely crisp and sharp, and it’s impossible to make out the individual pixels.
The edges of icons on the desktop look sharp enough to cut your finger and high resolution photos look simply stunning on the new display. Apple claims it has better colour saturation, in addition to more pixels, and at first glance we certainly wouldn’t disagree.
There’s a little more to the new tablet than the screen, however. Inside is a faster processor – the dual-core Apple A5X and more powerful, quad-core graphics. Typically, Apple claims this is ‘way’ faster than anything else – five times quicker than Tegra 3. That’s impossible to gauge right now, and we find it highly unlikely to be that much quicker, but we’re keeping an open mind.
As with all previous iOS-based devices, however, the new iPad feels highly responsive, with no discernible interface lag.
And then there’s battery life. With a higher resolution display there’s always the danger that battery life will suffer. Suffice it to say, Apple is claiming the same battery life for the new device as the iPad 2: ten hours for Wi-Fi use and nine hours with 3G/4G.
Given that the company has more than delivered on previous claims, we expect it will do so again, and with the new iPad addressing four times as many pixels as the old one that’s some achievement. We can’t wait to give it a thorough workout.
The new iPad also gets what Apple is calls an iSight camera, capable of shooting at a resolution of 5-megapixels and 1080p for video. A decent camera for the iPad is long overdue – the iPad 2’s snapper was woeful, and it would have been a travesty had it not been improved this time around.
In fact it uses the same optics as the iPhone 4S, and it shows. The sample images on the iPad looked great – crisp and colourful with plenty of detail – a world away from the grainy, noisy images produced by the iPad 2. This is a camera that actually looks usable; it’s such a shame that we weren’t allowed to snap any of our own photos in the demo room. Then again, the light wasn’t great, so that may not have been particularly instructive.
With the 1080p video, quality likewise looks very good, and the digital stabilisation particularly impressive. We look forward to putting that through its paces once we get hold of the device when it hits the shelves on 16 March.
In a word? Underwhelming. The iPad 2 was lovely indeed, but others have now matched it physically, and Apple really needed to up its game this time around. What we have here, just as with the iPhone 4S launched before Christmas, is a more powerful iPad, but in the same old chassis.
It’s available in white and black, so not even any new colours, an all the bits and pieces are in the same places. The lock switch is in the same place, the volume control is still in the top left corner, and there’s the same old speaker perforation detail at the rear, down in the bottom left corner.
If you don’t believe us, take a look at the photos: you’d be forgiven, at first glance, for thinking you were looking at an iPad 2. We could have used the photos from last year’s launch, in fact (even the tables in the demo room looked as if they’d been recycled from last year) but we took some new ones, just for the hell of it.
Aside from the screen, which is admittedly pretty amazing, we have to say we’re a little disappointed with the new iPad, not least with the name. We’re pretty sure that “the new iPad” would never have seen the light of day in Steve Jobs’ time.
The cameras should have been better to start with, the voice dictation feature, which allows users to speak into their iPads and have their words transcribed is hardly groundbreaking, and the improvements to the mobile data connectivity (in the US the new iPad will have 4G) won’t benefit UK customers until the next iPad (the ‘even newer iPad’ we presume) rolls around. There isn’t even a new style of case.
There was the obligatory roll call of new and improved apps, with the most impressive-looking being the improvements to Garage Band, with its new four-player collaborative Jam Session mode, and iPhoto, which brings responsive multitouch photo-editing to the iPad, putting Adobe’s recent launch of Photoshop Touch in the shade.
But we still can’t help feeling a touch deflated. We’re sure Apple’s new baby will sell by the bucketload, especially as it’s going to be the same price as the current iPad 2, but it could have offered so much more – more storage, more screen sizes, more innovation. It’s a significant upgrade – but is it significant enough?