When Apple announced its new iPad last week, there was a lot of hullabaloo going on in the mainstream media. The tech giant was receiving praise from all corners of the world for it’s “resolutionary” yet predictable addition to the iOS device collection. Now that it has been out for 24 hours, the reviews are live and the general consensus is that if you’re in the market for a new tablet, you shouldn’t look any further than the new iPad. I wholeheartedly agree – if you are looking to become a new tablet owner then you can’t really do much better than a new iPad. However, Apple’s iPad barely amounts to much of an upgrade if you’ve purchased a tablet in the past year. Amidst the praise of the new iPad, there are a few people who had expected much more… myself included.
In fact, I’m disappointed that a fellow Canadian tech blogger spent 8 whole days with the new tablet and tossed out a rather banal review. I’ve spent barely over 24 hours with the new device and I can find major flaws in its execution. The first being the glaring omission of Siri, a feature touted to be an iPhone 4S exclusive which was speculated due to the voice command system needing a faster processor which only the 4S had. This was eventually proven untrue though Apple still has kept mum about it. In its place we’re given a dictation system which allows you to convert your speech to text and I do have to say that it works rather well. In most cases, when your onscreen keyboard pops up, there’s a microphone button that you can press allowing you to verbalize your text. There are some cases where they deny you access to the dictation function such as when you’re entering a URL in Safari or filling out information windows such as for passwords and numbers, but I suppose that makes sense. Still, as an owner of the now old-tech iPhone 4, the absence of Siri in the new iPad is a bit of annoyance.
Let’s move on to the main feature of the new iPad: the retina display screen. The new retina display on the iPad comes in at 264 ppi (pixels per inch) which is a huge increase over the 132 ppi of the past two generations of iPads. For further comparison the iPhone 4, 4S and the newest iPod touch have a ppi of 326 which is higher than the new iPads pixels density, but Apple claims you won’t notice a difference between the devices because you’re meant to hold the iPad further away from your face than your smaller devices. Regardless, if you hold your iPad up to your nose, you still won’t see the pixels because the display is just that amazing. The new display also comes with a 40% higher colour saturation which you can see in the example I took – the blues on the Safari logo are more vibrant and have a pop to them. It truly does feel like you’re looking through a window on a bright and sunny day. The downside is that if you are already the owner of a retina display device, then the wow factor of the new screen won’t surprise you that much other than it covering a wider area.
The downside of owning a new high resolution iPad this early after launch is that there’s only a handful of titles that support the display leaving many titles looking quite pixelated. I can almost guarantee that many developers are going to have to put so much time into re-doing their visuals for the new screen that they may have to re-release their software as an HD version and charge users again just to cover the redevelopment costs. And while we’re on the topic, new remastered software also ends up taking a lot more space so I would opt for an iPad with more space if you plan on downloading a lot of apps. 16GB just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
To go along with the new high resolution display, Apple has also upgraded the back camera on the iPad with a 5 megapixel camera. It does a much better job than the iPad 2 but that’s not saying much since my decade old Nokia phone has a better camera than the sorry excuse of one that was put on last year’s iPad. The new iPad camera does a great job at taking low light photos, but still doesn’t do as good of a job as the iPhone 4S with handling noise in normal to bright light situations. Still, with such a strong social stigma from taking photos with a huge book sized device, I can’t help but wonder if we would have been better off with getting an upgrade to the front iSight camera instead?
The A5X is steadily showing to be nothing more than a rebranded A5 chip, but did we really need a faster chip just yet? Blowing the processor out of the water would have meant that iPad 2 and original iPad owners would have been out of luck on the new app front. At the same time, developers are less likely to create content that’s exclusive to the newest device because that would mean lower sales since you’re leaving out 2/3rds of the market. However, the processor does come with a quad-core GPU giving the device the ability to pump out graphics onto the higher resolution retina display. Although titles such as Infinity Blade II show off just how great the device is at handling higher end graphics on a retina display, the speed and load times are barely discernible between the new iPad and the iPad 2. On a side note, the new iPad gets a lot warmer faster than my iPad 2 while playing graphic intensive games. This could be a side effect of having the retina display.
The final feature of the new iPad is the capability to access LTE 4G networks around the world. Sadly, I can’t comment too much on this because I’ve been having great difficulty getting it setup on the device. This is hardly a fault of the iPad though and has to do with the sim card I requested from Telus. At this time, there’s no way to set up a prepaid plan with Telus on the new iPad and due to the demand during launch, Telus reps have had difficulty in setting up a flex plan for me and have told me to go to a Telus store. I think I may switch providers over the weekend.
The Retina Display is Gorgeous: It really is. And thanks to the A5X’s quad core GPU, the lag-free response on the screen will quite literally feel like you’re touching water.
Everything Good about the iPad 2 is All Here: The battery life, the amazing selection of apps, the fluid touch response – they’re all here.
LTE means Faster Download Speeds: Which I can’t really backup yet since I’ve been having problems with the network provider I chose.
The Camera Works Well: Finally! It works well in low light, takes great macro photos, and the new iPhoto ($4.99) let’s you do some simple touching up. The only downside is that photos have a bit more noise in them than the iPhone 4S.
Not much of an Upgrade from the iPad 2: If you own an iPad 2, all you’re really getting from this device is a nicer screen for $519+. You won’t ever really need LTE speeds over 3G, though it is a nice feature to have.
Seems to Get Hotter Faster Than the iPad 2: There are a few scattered reports slowly trickling out about this. Mine seems to only get warm when I’m playing a game like Modern Combat 3 for more than 10 minutes. It’s not unbearably hot, but warm enough to notice it. It’s possibly a combination of having a new quad-core GPU, the retina display, and twice the batteries. That said…
Takes Longer to Fully Charge: Using the Apple wall charger, it takes my iPad 2 about 5 hours to get a full 100% charge from less than 5%, my original iPad just under 3 hours but the new iPad was drained to 4% and after left charging for 8 hours, it was only still hovering on 99%. I know with the way iPad batteries work that they generally charge up to 99% quick, then spend the last few hours topping off the last bit of the battery, but the new iPad takes longer than usual mainly due to the fact that it has twice the battery power.
The iSight Camera is Still Awful: The iSight camera is the front facing camera that’s used for FaceTime and Skype. It’s still quite grainy and low res, but I suppose it’s functional.
The new iPad is the best tablet there is on the market. Apple has consistently proven that they’re the pioneers and kings of tablet devices and the new iPad further solidifies that title. Apple has also proven that they are the kings of marketing and have managed to convince millions of iPad 2 owners that they need an upgrade, even if it’s a minor one like the new iPad. If you have an iPad 2, don’t even bother with this. Much like the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 4, it’s hardly an upgrade worthy of your money. If you only have the original iPad or are looking to buy a tablet, then your choice is clear, go buy a new iPad now!
What the device lacks in new features, it makes up for in keeping solid standards to consumer technology. Being a fan of Apple, I feel like they’ve struck out at bat twice in a row now by re-releasing last year’s technology with only minor upgrades. Let’s hope they don’t strike out a third time. I’m really hoping their next big product announcement will have something that’s going to shake up the tech world like they did when the iPhone was announced over 5 years ago.
The New iPad 4G LTE
4.5 Gears out of 5