Hands-On With the New iPad (or the iPad 3)

We finally purchased the 3rd-generation iPad from Apple thru international shipping to check out if it’s really worth all that high definition hype we’ve been hearing about. Since there’s no commercial LTE service yet in the Philippines, we skipped that one in favor of the WiFi-only variant.

Right out of the box, there wasn’t really anything different or more appealing than what we’ve already seen on the iPad 2. In most respects, the new iPad (let’s just call it the iPad 3 from hereon, shall we?) looks and feels like its predecessor. In fact, you might not be able to distinguish the iPad 3 from the iPad 2 unless you scrutinize them both very closely.

On paper though, the iPad 3 is a bit thicker (9.4mm vs. 8.8mm) and heavier than the iPad 2 (652 grams vs. 601 grams). This is actually the first time Apple had to sacrifice the dimensions of its device to make room for a much bigger battery (42Wh or 11,666mAh). Given that the expected battery life is still the same at 10 hours, we can deduce that the high resolution screen and the quad-core graphics might be the likely culprits.

Apple also claims that the new A5x chip on this tablet is faster but based on experience, we can’t really feel or notice the improvements. Having said that, we looked at the second obvious feature — the full HD resolution. At 2048×1536 pixels, the iPad 3 has the highest pixel density of any tablet we’ve seen at 264ppi. The closest one would be the Huawei Mediapad at 217pi and the Galaxy Tab 7.7 at 196ppi. It may not be as high a pixel density as the iPhone 4S (326ppi) but considering this is has a 9.7-inch screen, that’s already impressive.

As such, you get really good image quality — crisp and sharp photos, full HD quality video playback, and much sharper text and graphics. Expect very noticeable differences when watching HD movies and even reading text on magazine apps or Kindle books.

The other more notable improvements with the iPad 3 is the rear camera. The 5MP shooter can now record HD videos at 1080p resolution. Apple claims it’s the same optics used in the iPhone 4 and based on initial sample shots, the claim holds water.

The sample photos looked good — they’re fairly sharp and crisp. The 5MP camera definitely can really take very good pictures under good lighting conditions. The same is true with recording HD videos. Using the iPad as a camera might look a bit clumsy because of its size but the output quality might justify that practice for most folks.

Aside from the ones mentioned above, there wasn’t anything more notable with the new iPad 3. Of course, if you opt for the LTE model and it’s supported by your network, that’s also another advantage.

For owners of the iPad 2, the HD screen and capable rear camera might not be reason enough to upgrade. In our case, we’re just too curious that we decided to dispose of the the old one to get the new iPad. Owner of the the first generation Apple tablet will certainly be glad once they swap it for this new one.