Review: Apple's new iPad

After months of speculation, Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook last week announced its third-generation iPad during a keynote speech in San Francisco.

After months of speculation, Apple's new CEO Tim Cook last week announced its third-generation iPad during a keynote speech in San Francisco.

SBS's Trevor Long was there, and for the past week he's been testing one of the few 2012 iPads currently in Australia – here are his thoughts.

The new iPad is called just that – the new iPad – dropping the number from the name is likely a sign toward simplicity in naming for the long term as well as possible future spin-off variations to the standard device.

One of the big selling points of Apple's 2012 iPad is its new “retina” display which features a higher pixel density on the screen, making for a better viewing experience as well as richer colours. The “retina” display first featured in the iPhone 4 in 2010.

I've been using the new iPad for a week now and there really is a stark difference in the screen when you compare it side by side with the iPad 2 or use one after the other.

The other key visual difference is the thickness and weight. The device is 0.6mm thicker (unnoticeable unless you sit them side by side and look really hard!) and weighs an additional 50 grams or so – the weight is something you can notice if you're a regular iPad 2 user.

Once switched on, the new quad-core processor will provide developers with the opportunity to boost the graphics performance of apps, in particular games with some full-featured action titles set to take full advantage of this power.

The 5 megapixel rear camera has been upgraded and includes some of the technology introduced to the iPhone 4S last year. This is nothing ground-breaking in the portable device market, however the still images it produces are a dramatic improvement on the iPad 2. The tablet's video recording capabilities have also been upgraded to record full HD at 1080p.

There were rumours the next iPad would feature Apple's heavily marketed 'personal assistant' Siri – however that did not eventuate. Instead, the device features a new dictation feature allowing one-tap dictation of any written field.

Australian English is supported, however, as with most voice recognition systems, the accuracy leaves a little to be desired unless you work hard to specifically talk to the device in a way it expects.

Finally, the device was unveiled with great fanfare as supporting “4G LTE” on the AT&T and Verizon networks in America.

In Australia, Telstra is currently the only telco with a 4G network, and tests have confirmed the device operates on a different spectrum to its system. This means that we're buying a 3G, rather than 4G, device when operating in Australian conditions.

The largely unwritten upside though is that the new iPad does support Dual Carrier HSPA+ - in layman's terms this effectively means double-speed 3G.
Telstra is the only network to support this technology, so if you have a new iPad on the Telstra network you can expect download speeds well into the 10-12Mbps range compared to 4-5Mbps with the iPad 2 on 3G.

My tests showed speeds up to 12Mbps and as low as 1-2Mbps, however each time a test was conducted the iPad 2 at the same time and location it getting half that speed.

Now for the pricing - for the second year in a row we've benefited from the strong Aussie dollar with the retail price of the iPad coming down once again.

The first iPad started at $649, while the iPad 2 started at $579. The new iPad will be available from $539 to $899, depending on specs.

Interestingly, Apple are also keeping the iPad 2 on sale for $429 ($150 less than its original RRP). This large range of tablets means a tough challenge for competing Android device manufacturers.

Overall, the third generation iPad takes the design and technology successes of the iPad 2 and improves them in some small and some very large ways.

At these price points, there's no foreseeable end to the domination of Apple in the Australian tablet market.

Trevor Long travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Apple.

Source: SBS