Today we are looking at the Apple iPad 3, the latest version of the tablet computer that has been breaking worldwide sales records over the last two years. It has been impossible to escape the hype, everyone knows that the latest version has the new super high resolution Retina screen, a new camera and QUAD GPU processing power. Apple have even managed to maintain the same price point, but is it worth the upgrade?
The Apple iPad revolutionised the tablet industry when it was first released in April 2010. I was one of the first to buy the tablet computer, bypassing UK delays and ordering it directly from the States. Over the next two years, the success of the tablet has surprised not only the public, but industry experts. The latest reports indicate that Apple are on track to sell over 65 million iPad’s in 2012, which will generate the company billions of dollars in revenue.
The reason the iPad has been so successful is really simple. Apple have nailed the iOS interface. I have first hand experience with this after spending months using the Motorola Xoom. While this is a very capable Android powered tablet, it really does pale in comparison after using the iPad.
When the iPad 2 was released I spent some time using one that our news guy Carl bought in 2011. There was no doubting that the dual core A5 processor was more responsive and that the lighter mass helped on the move, but the first iPad did everything that I needed.
I have spent the last 24 hours using the iPad 3 and this time I decided to buy the 64GB model. With the enhanced graphics power and 2,048×1,536 panel you can be sure that games and newly developed applications will be hogging more storage space, so it seemed like a logical move.
It won’t be an indepth review today, but our team will be following up with other iPad 3 related articles shortly, so keep watching this space.
All Apple products are a message in understatement, even the box design. Those of you who know a little about Steve Jobs will be aware that even his house was sparsely furnished. ‘Less = more’ was his mindset.
Inside, three little storage sections with the power adapter and literature on the product.
The power adapter will be regional specific, in this case a United Kingdom 3 prong unit. It has to be ‘assembled’ as shown above. Its a simple 30 second process.
Apple include an overview of the iPad 3, showing the button operation and some white Apple stickers which you can use elsewhere.
The iPad 3 ships protected with a plastic cover on both sides. This can be removed easily, without leaving any residue on the panel.
I have always loved the Apple finish. Their aluminum enclosures look great and are resilient to everyday handling. My original iPad chassis is still in great condition even though it has been around the world with me. Apple also offer a free engraving service which is a great touch, especially if you are buying it for someone as a gift. There is no longer a delay for selecting this option either.
Along the bottom of the tablet is the speaker and the main connector which hooks into the USB port of a computer or the mains adapter for charging. Our machine arrived with an 81% charge and took an hour to get to 100%. We haven’t had enough time yet to properly analyse battery charging or drain, but in the space of a day, under heavy use our machine is down to 15% charge, after around 8 hours use.
Along the top of the machine is the rear facing camera, ‘silent’ mode button, volume control and power button.
Like before, the iPad 3 only has a single home button on the front of the chassis. I love this minimalist approach because it has proven that you really don’t need a vast array of buttons. The image above shows the differences in mass between the original iPad (right) and the new iPad 3 (left). The iPad 3 is a little bigger than the iPad 2, but it is still much smaller than the first.
The rear surface will be able to withstand handling over the years, but we would recommend a protective cover if you are using the iPad on the move. Apple are stocking these now, but you can buy many third party covers on eBay for a fraction of the price.
If you are moving from an older iPad (like me), then iCloud is a godsend. First you need to head into the ‘settings’ menu on the other iPad and perform a full iCloud backup. This will take a couple of minutes.
Using the same Apple account on the iPad 3 means you will be presented with a full list of all your iCloud backup data. Apple cleverly list the newest at the very top.
It will then download the data from iCloud, which took around 3 minutes. This will vary obviously from user account to user account.
When this is finished, you are presented with wireless networks in your vicinity. After entering the password you are immediately ‘online’.
The initial set up is completed. All our data was passed over via iCloud without a problem. As a security precaution however Apple don’t copy over email passwords, so you need to manually key that information into all of your accounts. We noticed that previously installed third party applications started to download directly from the Apple store on the iPad 3 after the initial set up phase. This is clearly to save time during the iCloud restore phase.
As a topic of conversation, the iPad 3 doesn’t offer SIRI support, but there is a new voice recognition system implemented.
The latest iPad 3 uses the dual core A5X processor which features quad core graphics capabilities. The new machine features a greatly enhanced Retina Display with a staggering 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution. This has 50 percent more pixels than a standard 1080p High definition screen.
There has been a lot of debate when it comes to discussing the new Retina iPad 3 screen and immediately I noticed the difference. The colours are richer, the text is crisper and images almost look three dimensional due to the improved saturation and black definition. The image above shows the pixel density improvements, courtesy of iFixIt.
It is difficult to show via a static image on a website just how much Apple have improved the display. One of the best ways is to show an application which was designed for the iPhone, above. This is set in to 2x zoom mode. You can notice the pixelisation on the text and even the thumbnail images at the far left.
Above, the same application running on the iPad 3. It is easy to see how the new panel has smoothed out the text and even the graphics in this application. It might be hard to tell from the images, but the colours are richer on the iPad 3, making everything appear much more lifelike.
Above, a high resolution image which you can download for closer inspection.
The iPad 3 camera has been improved although I found it to be nothing out of the ordinary. For people used to an SLR or high grade pocket camera it will pale by comparison, but in good light conditions it can produce decent images. There is also the potential for getting some great ‘candid’ shots of people in public locations. If you use the iPad3, people will immediately assume you are browsing the internet, or chatting with friends. You can easily snap some candid photos of people without them knowing.
We discussed the camera, and showed some samples over here, but I wanted to test the camera indoors, in less than perfect lightning conditions.
Above, an image taken indoors with heavy side lighting to confuse the light meter. The camera coped fairly well, but you can see that parts of the image have no detail at all.
Low light ISO performance is below average too.
That said, as a general tool for taking an image on the move, it will be perfectly adequate. We do think it will make a great tool for snapping pictures of people in a restaurant or cafe however. It is much sneakier than bringing an SLR with you !
On launch day, several companies have iPad 3 ‘Retina display’ grade games available – to make use of the 2,048×1,536 resolution. The biggest by far is the Mass Effect Infiltrator by Electronic Arts. This game already highlights the potential of the iPad 3 as a ‘full on’ gaming machine as shown above. I really did enjoy playing this for a few hours last night, and I am positive that gamers will find the iPad3 to be a very attractive platform. We can expect a plethora of quality games to be released over the next couple of months, not just ‘casual’ games, but AAA titles from leading publishing houses.
As I said earlier, it is difficult to deliver a full review of a product as diverse as the iPad 3 overnight, but I do feel as if Apple have pushed the tablet sector to a whole new level. The new Retina display is clearly a huge improvement over the older panel, delivering richer, more vivid colours and much smoother text and graphics, significantly enhancing legibility with specific applications.
We haven’t yet had the chance to thoroughly test out the battery life, but it seems to be similar to the previous iPad designs, around 9-10 hours. Playing very demanding games will likely reduce this a little more, but we used the tablet for 8 hours before starting the review and we still had 15% battery life left.
Performance is definitely improved upon the original iPad, but it felt fairly similar to the iPad 2 when browsing and performing general duties. The gaming experience however is dramatically improved and we can’t wait to see what the leading developers have in plan between now and the end of the year. Mass Effect Infiltrator is an exceptionally impressive game to play and is one of the better Electronic Arts titles we have played on the mobile platform. If you have just bought an iPad 3 we recommend you snag a copy as soon as possible.
The new camera is certainly a welcome improvement and it delivers a decent image with good light. The light sensor can get a little confused with strong side lighting … blasting out highlight detail, and it doesn’t perform great in low light environments either, adding ISO noise into the final image. To be fair, we would expect this anyway, so it wasn’t a shock.
Apple are under attack right now for their claims of 4G support in the United Kingdom and Europe. Due to the radio frequencies 4G won’t work in Europe. Americans and Canadians have 4G predominately in the 700 mhz and 2100mhz spectrum. Many parts of Europe, such as Germany are using 800mhz, 1800mhz and 2600mhz, meaning the iPad 3 simply won’t pick up the 4G networks. It looks as if we will need to wait for iPad V4 before we can use the 4G functionality in Europe. Not a big problem for me, but I would think that many people will find this a minor concern.
Technically, the iPad 3 is one of the most capable tablet computers on the market. The battery life is strong, and the processing performance reaches a whole new level, especially when it comes to powering high definition games. The new retina display is beautiful, we could finally stream 1080p content to the screen in native resolution via the incredible Air Video application. Compared with the older iPad computers, it is the difference between night and day.
Will this be enough to target PC centric users who have a loathing for all things Apple? We doubt it will win over this hard core ‘anti Apple’ audience, but in the right hands, the new iPad 3 is a diverse, and very powerful tool. Just be aware that we think the 16GB version may prove limiting long term, especially with the added storage space required now for native Retina capable applications. Apple should really have added a 128GB version to their portfolio.
We will be following this review up shortly with some video content, so keep watching the home page !
- Beautiful design.
- great processing power.
- strong battery life.
- iOS is the market leader.
- easy to migrate data from older iPad.
- The camera is still not going to impress purist photographers.
- 4G is broken in Europe.
- 16GB model will prove limiting.
- 128GB version should be added.
Kitguru says: It is the best tablet on the market.