APPLE DIDN'T CALL the newest iPad the iPad 3 or the iPad HD—just the iPad. And that’s fitting, because while it’s a handsome upgrade to the best tablet on the market, it’s not a huge leap forward. If you’ve used any iPad for more than 10 minutes, this won’t blow you away—the revolution was two years ago. Now it’s time to iterate.
Yes, it’s a little bit thicker: 9.4mm, compared to the 8.8mm iPad 2. And it’s a skootch heavier: 1.44 pounds, or 1.46 pounds if you get Wi-Fi + 4G; the iPad 2 ranged from 1.33 pounds for Wi-Fi to 1.35 pounds for the AT&T version of the Wi-Fi + 3G. We bet you won’t notice. What you will notice is the 4G/LTE speed and the Retina display.
The bright 9.7-inch display’s dizzying resolution is now 2048x1536, or 264ppi. That’s four times the pixels on the 1024x768 iPads of yore, and the best screen we’ve ever seen on a hunk of electronics. It’s got a million more pixels than a 1920x1080 HDTV, plus better color saturation than the iPad 2.
The Apple filling really won’t burn your tongue.
And Apple’s offering 4G LTE models (which also add HSPA+) on both Verizon and AT&T. We recommend Verizon—it throws in Personal Hotspot for free with your data plan. But even the AT&T one is zippy: The best speed we saw in dozens of tests on the LTE network was 53Mb/s downlink, and the worst was a still-speedy 9Mb/s. LTE has a maximum theoretical throughput of 73Mb/s, but, of course, results will vary based on the strength of the network in your area. The new iPad’s Bluetooth 4.0 is also a step up from the previous model’s Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.
Battery life is awesome: Apple claims 10 hours on Wi-Fi or nine hours on 4G LTE, and we regularly got more than that, up to 14 hours of mixed use. Since the battery is larger (42.5 watt hours), it takes longer to charge. You pretty much have to charge it overnight to go from nearly empty to full.
Inside, the A5X chip is an Apple-designed, dual-core, 1GHz system-on-chip with 1GB of RAM and quad-core graphics. It runs fast, with a Geekbench score of 746, but it can get a little warm if you’re doing processor-heavy stuff—don’t believe the hype, you won’t be physically burned. It’s fast and responsive, with no noticeable lag and super-quick loading times.
The camera is pretty capable, if you’re confident enough in your own coolness to walk around snapping photos with a tablet. The rear “iSight” camera takes 5MP stills and 1080p video, with an infrared filter, face detection, tap-to-focus, and video stabilization. The front camera hasn’t improved, taking VGA-quality stills and video—it’s great for videochatting, but that’s about it.
The built-in voice dictation is super handy, but it’s not full Siri; that beta service is still limited to the iPhone 4S. Just as well—Siri requires a network connection, and even then it just stops working if the server is too busy. Adding a few million new users probably wouldn’t help.
So should you upgrade? If you have a tablet and you’re happy with it, don’t rush out and get the new iPad. But if you’re buying your first tablet, Apple’s is the king of the hill, with more than 200,000 iPad-specific apps, and the most polished mobile OS.