Review: Apple iPad (third-generation)
March 16, 2012
On March 7, 2012 Apple announced the third-generation iPad (advertised as "the new iPad"), which began shipping in mid March. This significant update occurs a little over a year after the release of the iPad 2 in March 2011.
Notable in what is not included in the third-generation iPad are GOBI multi-vendor WWAN capability or standard USB connectivity.
Design and Changes
The most significant change is a far higher resolution "Retina" display, a display four times the resolution of the original iPad and iPad 2. This display is a fully capacitive multitouch 9.7-inch (2048x1536) in-plane switching (IPS) LCD at 264 pixels per inch (ppi) - a resolution which approaches the pixel density of the iPhone 4/4S.
The availability of 4G LTE is another significant change. It's available in separate models for both AT&T and Verizon Wireless. All 4G iPads also will be able to communicate globally with 3G GSM networks.
The third-generation iPad weighs 1.4 pounds for the WiFi-only model and 1.5 pounds with 4G connectivity included. The new case is approximately 0.4 inches thick with other dimensions being 9.5 and 7.3 inches, so the overall volume is approximately 109% that of the iPad 2 and 72% that of the original iPad. The size change from the iPad 2 is in thickness and most but not all cases designed for the iPad 2 will fit the third-generation iPad.
Like the iPad 2, the third-generation iPad input/output includes a dock connector, 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack, built-in speaker, microphone, and a micro-SIM card tray in the 4G models. There's also updated front and higher resolution rear cameras resembling those of the iPhone 4S with the ability to record video in 1080p. Finally, the third-generation iPad adds reasonably capable voice recognition but not the iPhone 4S' Siri.
The third-generation iPad ships with iOS 5.1 and almost all current iPad applications should be compatible, though they will have to be updated to fully utilize the higher resolution display. In early testing, the third-generation iPad is compatible with University-centric services including AirPennNet, Exchange, and Zimbra.
A few considerations when ordering a third-generation iPad:
Third-generation iPad pricing remains the same as last year's iPad 2 pricing model. WiFi-only versions are $499 for the 16 GB version, $599 for the 32 GB, and $699 for the 64 GB. Adding 4G to any of the three storage configurations is an additional $130. Apple will continue to sell the three 16 GB iPad 2 configurations with a $100 price reduction.
The University's Computer Connection currently stocks several third-generation iPad configurations.
ISC sees the third-generation iPad as a solid update to the extremely successful iPad 2, with the Retina display being the primary differentiator. Currently, ISC does not see the third-generation iPad as a primary computing device for most users. Rather, ISC believes that the third-generation iPad is generally a complementary device to a more capable desktop or notebook.
The Retina display lives up to expectations and is comparable to the standard set by the iPhone 4 and 4S despite having slightly fewer ppi. In web browsing and using other built-in apps, text and images are exceptionally crisp and pixellation can only be seen at the most extreme levels of zoom. The rendering is equally impressive in third party apps designed to take advantage of the display, and HD streaming video is noticeably better than in previous iPad iterations. Some applications not optimized for the Retina display show significantly more pixelation in raster images and other display elements, though the level of pixelation varies from app to app.
The image quality of the rear-facing camera is improved with the jump to 5 MP, but still does not compare to the image quality of dedicated digital cameras with significantly larger sensors and lens apertures.
The third-generation iPad enters a different market than the original iPad or the iPad 2. Apple is now far from alone in the tablet market, with capable products from Motorola and Samsung shipping.
Third-generation iPad graphic courtesy of Apple
--Michael McLaughlin and John Mulhern III, ISC Technology Support Services (March 16, 2012)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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