The ‘Resolutionary’ New iPad: to Buy or Not to Buy?

Right on the mark, Apple announced its latest iPad tablet computer earlier today (Wednesday, Cupertino, CA time), with much fanfare. It seems our sources got the March launch/announcement date right. With rumors that Apple has already been shipping iPad units to its distributor channels in major western markets, folks from the U.S., UK and other lucky regions are reportedly eligible to get their new iPads by next Friday.

Apple's new iPad is "resolutionary" due to its impressive screen resolution and pixel density, and the new quad-core graphics processing chip included in its system-on-chip design.

But is the new iPad a good buy? It doesn’t even have its own name! Earlier rumors speculated it to be called the iPad HD or iPad 3, but it seems Apple skipped the model nomenclature altogether and just called it the iPad, very much like how the iPod retained its name for more than five generations (with the sixth generation being called the iPod Classic, in deference to the iPod Touch).

In terms of outside appearance, nothing much has changed, except for a millimeter of added thickness and a few ounces of added weight. iPad 2 users might scoff at the thicker and heavier form factor, although some would swear that this is not so noticeable. However, what existing iPad users might appreciate are the highlighted feature improvements.

Reasons to buy the new iPad

To wit, the new iPad has the following upgrades over its predecessor.

  • Higher screen resolution, at 2048×1536 pixels, with a 246 ppi pixel density. This means finer-definition onscreen text and images. Apple says this update is “resolutionary” and is akin to the retina display technology of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Case in point: it’s better than the usual HD TV at 1920×1080.
  • Better rear-facing iSight camera, at 5-megapixels, which can likewise capture 1080P video with image stabilization. Front-facing camera remains the same resolution, though.
  • Faster A5X processor with quad-core graphics accelerator.
  • LTE connectivity, which is leagues faster than 3G or even HSPA technologies.

According to early previews and reviews, the new iPad’s screen is a stunner. The Verge‘s Joshua Topolsky says the screen is the highlight, but its’ the way that Apple makes it look so seamless that makes it impressive.

[T]he screen on the device is absolutely stunning. The retooled Apple-developed applications and icons really do pop on this screen. When you are looking at Web pages or books, text just looks smooth and clean — it’s almost a bit surreal how clear it is. Think of a glowing piece of paper, and you’re getting there.

Topolsky highlights how the hardware driving the display did not hesitate at all, even with new graphics-intensive gaming titles. “I didn’t see any lag or weirdness when zipping around in apps, and new gaming titles …”

… and Reasons Not to Buy

GeekSugar, though, gives five reasons why one might or might not want to buy the new iPad. The screen, indeed, is the highlight, but Kristy Korcz says that if you don’t consume a lot of media, then you might not really appreciate the improved screen of the new device. Same goes with the camera — not all iPad users shoot with their camera, anyway. Folks who already have the iPad 2 might not really be needing the upgrade, except to enjoy the new features.

There are also folks who are not “tablet people” and would prefer to work on notebooks or netbooks instead. For these people, the iPad would be a cool toy to have, but might not really be the best productivity tool. Buy if you have the extra money, then Korcz gives four reasons to buy, including the faster data connectivity and better imaging capabilities.

Pricing and Availability

The new iPad starts at US$ 499 for the WiFi-only 16GB variant, which is the same price point as the iPad 2. With the upgrade, Apple has reduced the price of the entry-level iPad 2 to US$ 399 (US$ 529 for the 3G-enabled variant), which makes it a more attractive item for budget-conscious buyers.

Apple will release the new iPad in black and white by March 16 in the U.S., as well as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, and the UK.

Apple will start rolling out the iPad in other countries by March 31: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Other regions can expect Apple to release the iPad within the second quarter of 2012.

Will you buy the new iPad, or will you wait until next year for a new generation altogether? Our take: if you’re planning to buy an iPad anyway, or if you absolutely need the faster connectivity (which still has limited support in Asia, anyway) now might be the right time. But if you’re still enjoying your iPad 2 or other tablet, then you might want to save the resources for the next big update.