Much like the iPhone 4S was to the iPhone 4, Apple's new iPad is an evolutionary upgrade from the iPad 2. Featuring Apple's A5X dual-core CPU that offers quad-core graphics, a Retina Display that offers 2048x1536 pixels, an improved 5-megapixel camera with HD video recording, and 4G LTE connectivity on Verizon or AT&T, the new iPad continues to lead the tablet market with a very consistent experience that's surprisingly easy to use. Just like before, the iPad starts at $499.99 for a 16 GB Wi-Fi version, and goes to a hefty $829.99 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi and LTE version.
But unlike previous years, the tablet space is getting ready to heat up with the same intensity that we're seeing in the smartphone realm. Android tablets are gaining in popularity and Windows 8 is right around the corner, so I expect to see iOS face some stiff competition in 2012.
I've had the new iPad (a white one to be specific, which I call the iPad 3 just for kicks) for a day now, and here's what I've noticed:
- The design is largely the same (save for a slight bump in weight and thickness that's not really noticeable. Like the iPhone, the iPad exudes quality that I haven't seen any other tablet match just yet. The metal back compliments the all-glass front, and it feels nice in the hand. The downside? You drop it, and it's not going to be a pretty picture.
- The 9.7-inch display hasn't changed in size, but Apple has converted it into a Retina Display, and it's gorgeous. If you like the Retina Display on the iPhone 4/4S, you'll love the Retina Display on the new iPad. It makes browsing the web, reading, or doing anything that involves viewing a lot of text delightful. It's a noticeable difference from the pixelated mess on previous iPads.
- iPad ships with iOS 5.1, though sadly, there are no Siri capabilities to be found. Otherwise, the experience is largely similar to what you'd find on the iPhone.
- Apple has designated the 5-megapixel camera on the rear as an "iSight" camera, capable of shooting 1080p video (though, in a very annoying limitation, you can't upload 1080p directly from the iPad itself). Image quality appears to be decent, though editing options are few and far between. Video quality seems decent so far as well, with little audio distortion and a mostly clear picture. I haven't had the opportunity to test FaceTime yet.
- The new iPad offers 4G LTE connectivity on AT&T and Verizon (through two separate models), though my unit is a Wi-Fi-only device. With the iPad sporting LTE radios, I'd say it's all but guaranteed that the iPhone 5 will offer the same.
- The jury's still out on battery life, considering I've only had for a few hours. All I can say is that it was at 86 percent when I pulled it out of the box, and it's currently sitting at 67 percent as of 7:51 PM Eastern. Not bad by any means. Stay tuned for official numbers.
Apple's new iPad is a nice improvement from the previous build, though like the iPhone 4S, I have some reservations depending on where you stand with your existing technology. Is it worth upgrading to if you have the iPad 2 and are happy with it? Probably not. But if you're looking for a device with a gorgeous display that's incredibly easy to read, along with 4G LTE connectivity and an improved camera, the new iPad could be just the tablet for you.