I was not about to rush out and get the newest latest and greatest without a through review… SO… Here are three that helped me make up my mind… I hope they are helpful to you as well !
The First review:
I was able to secure the new iPad at our local Apple store this morning, as ours wasn’t too busy, but I also got to spend a little time with a review model beforehand. In any case, I’ll take you hands-on with the new model, plus I’ll share my experience from my past two years of iPad ownership altogether, especially for those who haven’t yet had an iPad to call their own. I’ll also reveal a treasure trove of info on how you can legitimately download tons of quality apps and games for free, in hopes of making this the most helpful iPad review on Amazon!
My review tends to run long, so I’ve organized information by section, with headings, to make it more helpful for those just looking for specific info. For example, see the heading “Downloading Apps and Games” for the info on obtaining free apps and games!
First, let’s quickly cover what’s new, and what each means for you:
+ Retina Display – twice the resolution of the iPad 2, at 2048 x 1536 pixels (264px/in)
+ 5 megapixel rear-facing camera – take photos with over 8x higher resolution and quality than the iPad 2 (but still no flash)
+ Dual-core 1GHz A5X processor with quad-core graphics – better multitasking and flawless high-res graphics performance
+ 4G LTE capable – faster mobile connections on AT&T and Verizon when in 4G-LTE-covered network area
If you’re considering the now-cheaper iPad 2, here’s a quick recap of what was new last year:
+ Dual-core 1GHz A5 Processor – better multitasking, 9-times faster graphics
+ 3-Axis Gyroscope – allows for higher precision and more motion gestures
+ Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound pass-through with Apple Digital AV Adapter (sold separately)
+ Rear-facing camera – supports 960 x 720 sized photos (0.6 megapixels), plus 720p HD videos
+ Front-facing VGA-quality camera – VGA-quality is a resolution of 640 x 480 (0.3 megapixels)
+ Verizon 3G model now available – no longer limited to just AT&T for the WiFi+3G model
+ Thinner, lighter and smoother with contoured back – feels more comfortable in your hands
The iPad 2 brought a lot more new features to the iPad lineup, but the 3rd generation iPad still brings us some welcome new features. First, it sports the new A5X processor. Don’t be confused though, it’s not really that much better than the iPad 2’s, and it’s not technically a quad-core processor. The CPU itself remains dual-core, but the graphics processor built-into the CPU chip can compute 4 streams of graphics information, thus making the graphics aspect of the A5X processor quad-core. It’s confusing, I know. To be honest, there was no noticeable improvement in performance over the iPad 2, except maybe behind the scenes where it handles 4x more pixels. In general, everything on the new iPad runs just as smooth as it always has, which is as to be expected from Apple! But I imagine the new processor has particularly been used to speed up image processing for the new 5 megapixel camera, making photography just about as snappy as it is on the iPhone 4S, which I own as well. 4G support was also a nice surprise that had been rumored.
On the other hand, other rumors didn’t exactly pan-out, including an SD card slot for photos and file storage, nor the possibility of a smaller, more manageable 7″ iPad model, but I’m still holding out hope for one in the future. Thankfully, the price stays the same for these new models, but that is as to be expected. As a boon for those who don’t really plan to use the new high-res camera nor need the Retina display or 4G speed, the iPad 2 is going to stick around for a while longer, with a new lower price for those in the market!
===== My Background =====
I’m a website and mobile app developer who’s created a few apps and games for iOS devices, including the iPad. I also develop websites, so I like to ensure that those sites look and perform well on the device too, since it’s continually growing in popularity for surfing the Web with over the past two years. I’ve spent lots of time with both the iPad and various Android-based tablets, and I have to be honest… apps are what make the iPad (and other iDevices) so great. Android tablets have the benefit of price and size, but Android apps available for tablets are terribly mediocre! They’re also not as responsive as the iPad, at least not after you load them up with apps, games and other junk.
I’m no Apple fanboy, but I can recognize quality hardware and software when I see it, and as far as 10″ tablets are concerned, the new iPad simply can’t be beat, but that’s mostly due to Apple’s knack for high-end hardware, plus the ridiculously huge following of quality app developers that Apple can boast about. With over 200,000 apps just for the iPad alone, there’s more than enough to keep you busy!
===== First Impression =====
Unboxing any new device certainly has its appeal, but the iPad has an allure all its own, and the new model is just as touch-worthy as its older siblings, especially when it’s fresh out of the box and accompanied by that scent synonymous with new electronics. But when you turn it on for the first time it becomes clear: there’s something different about this new model, especially if you’ve been using the iPad 2 for a while. There’s a rich, vibrant crispness to the image that wasn’t there before. It’s almost like the screen isn’t there at all, as if the silky-smooth graphics are just floating there.
===== Interaction Experience =====
Thanks to the powerful processor, animations and transitions remain smooth on the new iPad, even on a Retina screen with 4-times more pixels! Plus, text on the new model is crisper than ever, even in apps that haven’t been retweeked for the new Retina display. Meanwhile, where the iPad really shines is with its continuation of a phenomenal multi-touch interface that is second to none, seriously. Android tablets and other devices may tout “multi-touch” support, but usually this just means they support 2-finger gestures like pinch-style zooming. The iPad touch-screen, on the other hand, supports up to ten simultaneous touches. Nothing new here, but still worth mentioning, especially for tablet newcomers. So if an iPad app ever needs to support that many touches, the iPad is ready. For example, the most common app supporting ten simultaneous touches is the piano app.
===== So What Can the iPad Actually Do? =====
Naturally, there are things you can do with the iPad right out of the box. You can browse the Web with Safari, set up your email, download your photos and videos to your iPad via iTunes, as well as shoot new photos and videos using either of the two built in cameras. You can also surf YouTube and watch your favorite videos via Apple’s built-in YouTube app. There’s also an iPod built in, so you can listen to your favorite tunes via the Music app, or download new music via the iTunes app. Another popular iPad app is iBooks, which lets you download and read e-books on your iPad. You can also jot notes, manage your calendar and contacts. You can even chat with other Apple-device users via FaceTime (over WiFi only). Of course, the fun and usefulness of the iPad doesn’t stop there. The App Store app is your portal to unending games and utilities. One thing Apple has been really good at is showing off just what you can do with the iPad. App developers have undoubtedly been busy creating unique experiences through their iPad apps, most of which have yet to be rivaled by (or ported to) Android and other tablets.
You can also download two additional Apple-made apps: iBooks, which lets you download and read ebooks easily on your device, and iWork, Apple’s office-document editing suite, a trilogy of apps which consists of: Pages (for editing word processing documents), Numbers (for editing spreadsheets) and Keynote (for editing PowerPoint-like slideshows); Each of the three apps can be downloaded separately for $9.99 each. Completely reworked for the iPad, the complete iWork suite will set you back a whole thirty bucks. So be aware of that before you go ahead and grab the iPad for use with work-related document editing, and so forth.
Also note that if you do intend to use the iPad for heavy writing or word-processing purposes, you’ll find that your ability to type quickly will be greatly inhibited by the virtual keyboard. Thus, you should snag the external keyboard as well, but I’ll explain a few typing techniques below. Either way, be prepared to pay more than merely the price for the iPad alone if you intend to transform the iPad into something a little more productive than it might be for you out of the box.
===== Downloading Apps and Games =====
Downloading apps on your iPad couldn’t be easier. Once you set up your iTunes account with a password and credit card, all you need to do is find the app you want from the App Store, tap the button at the top with the app’s price, then tap again to confirm. Enter your password (once per session), and voila, you just bought an app. Behind the scenes, Apple charges your card for the amount of the app plus tax, while you’re already off enjoying your new app. This ease of access is a blessing and a curse, because you can easily empty your wallet if you’re not carefully considering each purchase.
All apps in the App Store range in price from Free and 99 cents on up, always incrementing in whole dollar amounts (1.99, 2.99, 3.99, etc). The maximum price for an app is set to $999.99, of which there are only eight currently priced so outrageously. And don’t even think of toying with them. Apple does not allow refunds on apps you have purchased–all sales are final!
Now for the juicy money-saving secrets of the App Store!!
With the proper resources, you can legitimately download thousands of high quality apps for free. I do it all the time and it is perfectly legal. You see, Apple allows developers to temporarily put their apps on sale (and even drop the price to free). Usually they do this to get you to write some rave reviews for their apps. The secret to success is having the resources to help you spot these special app sales–so you know when and where to get them during these often extremely-limited-time promotions.
There are several resources you can use, both on the Web and on the iPad itself. I prefer to use an app called “AppShopper” that lists all apps that recently went on sale or dropped to free. You can filter just iPad apps, or show iPhone apps as well, and you can also filter just the free products or just the sale apps. But so many apps go on sale, making it hard to cut through the clutter, which is where AppShopper truly shines: the “popular” tab shows only the most popularly downloaded sale apps. If several other people aren’t downloading an app, you won’t see it listed there! AppShopper is a phenomenal little gem, and it has gotten me tons of apps FREE! It also has a companion website that lists the same apps. You can even create an account and track the apps you own, so you don’t end up trying to redownload them if they go on sale again! It also supports watch lists (via your account) with push notifications, and can alert you whenever an app you’re interested in goes on sale. It’s a real thing of beauty! There are other apps such as AppZappPush, AppSniper, AppAdvice, Apps Gone Free, and more, but none of them leverage the power of the masses to help you filter out the unwanted apps. Feel free to check them out if you like, though!
===== Typing on the iPad =====
Typing on the iPad can be annoying at times, but I mostly chalk that up to it being 10-inches. Being touted more as a Web browser and email device than an e-book reader, with the added potential that you’ll be using it to edit office documents, typing on the device can quickly become a concern. First, realize that the iPad’s no laptop–you won’t be speed-typing, so it may not be conducive for heavy usage like typing lengthy emails or blogging, let alone writing this review. With that in mind, there are a couple approaches you can try to determine what typing method is right for you. The ideal method might also change depending on where you are and how the iPad is oriented when using it.
Typing Method #1: Thumbs
The most flexible approach is to type with your thumbs, which can be done whether sitting or standing. In portrait mode: grasp the bottom of your iPad with your palms facing each other, and your pinky fingers towards you for the iPad to rest on. To stabilize the iPad and prevent it from flopping over and falling out of your hands, stretch both of your index fingers upwards towards the top of the iPad as much as is comfortable. Using your thumbs, hunt & peck the keys on the virtual keyboard to your heart’s content. Alternately, thanks to iOS 5, thumb-typing in landscape mode has now become painless. Normally, the keyboard is still docked to the bottom of the screen, and can be hard to reach the center of the keyboard with thumbs. However, if you press and hold the show/hide button on the bottom right corner of the keyboard. You can then choose to split the keyboard, with makes it easier for your thumbs to reach all keys, when the iPad is in landscape mode. You can also choose to undock the keyboard, which centers it vertically on the screen, instead of at the bottom.
Typing Method #2: Full Fingers
I’ve found this next method to be even more useful, though it requires you to be is best used while seated, with the iPad in resting in your lap, or on something soft, preferably with the iPad in landscape mode. With the iPad situated securely on your legs, you’ll find it becomes easier to type with your full range of digits (fingers), like you would on a full sized physical keyboard. I find it slightly awkward, though, to hit the spacebar frequently with the side of my thumbs as you typically would on a physical keyboard. Still, whether you use your thumbs for the spacebar, or decide to use your fingers instead, you’ll still find yourself typing slightly faster than with the thumbs-only hunt-and-peck method. Also, this typing method doesn’t work well with the iPad resting any anything hard and flat like a desk or table, as the rounded backside of the iPad causes it to wobble uncontrollably while trying to type. However, if placement on a hard surface is a must, you might try putting something soft under the iPad to stabilize it.
Typing Method #3: Speech to Text
Now, Apple has brought us an even more convenient way to type, thanks to Siri! Just hit the microphone icon on the lower-left side of the keyboard, and start speaking. In most cases, your words will be transcribed into the currently active text field, with potentially mis-interpreted words underlined in blue. Just select any such word, and a list of possible alternates will pop up for your choosing. You can also speak most punctuation, such as ‘period’, ‘open-paren’, ‘close-paren’, ‘hyphen’ and more. At times though, network congestion does hinder the ability for this feature to work properly, so hopefully that will improve over time.
Other methods of typing on the iPad include the external keyboard, as well as third party speech-to-text transcription apps, but with Siri’s voice transcription feature built in, the latter is no longer necessary.
===== Web Browsing =====
Alongside email, and spending money in the app store, Web browsing is one of Apple’s biggest suggestions for using the device. The iPad was born to surf the Web, but content on the Web is often best viewed vertically, and the new Retina display’s 2048×1536 resolution renders that content more crisply than ever, especially in portrait orientation (vertical). Working within the Safari Web-browsing app, the interface is swift and responsive.
However, not all your sites will work desirably on the iPad. Apple closed-mindedly refuses to support Adobe Flash on the iPad (as it has with the iPhone/iPod Touch). However, regardless of whether Apple likes it or not, Flash is being used around the Web, not only for advertising and video but for many other uses from graphs to product comparisons, but they don’t seem to care anyway. The same lack of support is true of Java, AIR, Silverlight and others though. So expect some of your sites to only be supported to a certain degree, if not entirely in some cases. This can be a bit of a bummer until Flash starts being replaced with other technologies like HTML5’s canvas technology, which is poised to take on some of Flash’s most familiar capabilities. Alternately, you can jailbreak your iPad (when a jailbreak is released for the new model), which would allow you to circumvent the Flash limitation.
Granted, I don’t often actually find myself surfing the web with the iPad for a few reasons. First of all, I prefer the display to be parallel with my face, but for the iPad that means craning my neck downwards and after a while that gets tiring. I also tend to do a lot of typing on the sites I use, and typing a lot on the iPad isn’t really an enjoyable experience. There are however some keyboard alternatives if you decide that on-screen typing isn’t for you. I just find it easier to work from a laptop when I’m on the go, and the 11″ MacBook Air fits that bill simply enough for me. Finally, when I browse the Web (on my computer), I typically have more than 9 tabs open at any given time. I say that because the iPad’s browser limits you to 9 tabs. If you rarely use more than 9 tabs when browsing the Web though, the iPad may be right for you.
===== Email, IM and Social Networking =====
Email on the iPad’s Mail app is best viewed in landscape mode, as it allows you to see both your list of messages on the left as well as the selected message itself on the right. It also makes managing emails easier, such as moving messages to other folders (or to the trash). Another reason for landscape mode is to make typing those lengthy emails easier (using typing-method #2 mentioned above).
You can have multiple email accounts, including Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, MobileMe, Microsoft Exchange and other custom POP3 and IMAP accounts.
Important Note: With the growing number of portable web connecting devices, there is one concern I want to express on your behalf. When you close the Mail app, it continues running in the background, even after disconnecting from one WiFi hotspot and reconnecting to another. My concern with this is that if haven’t set up your e-mail with a secure connection, and you connect to a public WiFi hotspot that a malicious user is monitoring, then the instant your mail app connects to the hotspot to check your e-mail, your e-mail credentials may be suddenly compromised. To avoid this you definitely want to be using some kind of secure connection for your e-mail if at all possible. Web-based email such as Gmail typically support this out of the box, and Gmail accounts are the easiest to setup on the iPad.
===== Media =====
If you own an iPhone or iPod Touch, it’s comforting to know that you audio/video experience will be similar on the iPad. You can watch videos via the YouTube app, which has been updated for the iPad to show YouTube HD videos beautifully. While the 1024×768 resolution of the iPad is a standard 4:3 ratio, not a widescreen 16:9 ratio, the HD videos as well as other video (including downloads from the iTunes store) display just fine, albeit with black bars. Some may not like that though, but I don’t see a wide-screen iPad coming to market for a while.
The Netflix and Hulu+ apps are great for members of those online video streaming services. Netflix videos stream quickly and even moving the play position back and forth in the timeline, the movie starts playing very quick without much time rebuffering the video. For those who want to watch live TV, I also recommend getting yourself a Slingbox and snagging the SlingPlayer app to stream live TV to your iPad. I do that, and it works quite well!
===== Photography and Video =====
The new iPad brings a phenomenal new high-quality 5MP camera to market that picks up where the iPad 2’s half-megapixel camera left off. 5 lenses inside the aperture, and the more powerful processor, combine to create the sharpest iPad image yet. Even low-light pictures are better than ever, though there’s still room for improvement there. There’s also a new iPhoto app from Apple (for five bucks) that lets you organize, edit and share your photos right on the iPad!
As if that’s not enough, there’s built-in Picture Frame mode that lets you use the iPad’s gorgeous Retina display to showcase your favorite photos, using clever transition effects like “Dissolve” with “Zoom in on Faces”, or the nifty multi-photo “Origami” effect. In this review’s comments, I’ll include a helpful link to an article that shows you how to set up and use this mode.
Plus, you can now record full-HD (1080p) videos, instead of just the previous 720p videos. Though I must warn you, in you plan to shoot a lot of video with the iPad (or even the iPhone 4S), you’ll want to go with a 32GB or 64GB model! These incredibly high-quality videos take up an incredibly large amount of storage space!
===== Productivity =====
Productivity carries numerous definitions. Usually its “getting something done” though some people tend to believe that it’s the ability to focus without being distracted, which I see as one of the iPad’s strengths considering it currently does not support multitasking (yet). In the context of software though, applications that allow you to edit office documents are commonly referred to as productivity software. Apple’s own suite of productivity apps, collectively called “iWork”, has been re-created from the ground up just for the iPad. (Previously it was only available for Macs.) For work-minded individuals, it will probably one of the most popular uses of the iPad. There are three apps in all: Pages is a word processing app that allows you to create and edit word processing documents. Then there’s Numbers, which allows you to create and edit spreadsheets. Finally there’s Keynote, which lets you create or edit presentations and slideshows (including PowerPoint files). So far, I’ve found the latter to be pretty invaluable in giving personal presentations within small groups or one-on-one meetings.
However, there is a whole category of iPhone and iPad-specific apps dedicated to productivity, and are consequently located under the category titled “productivity” in the categories section of the app store. Remember, any app that works for the iPhone will run on the iPad, but do note that there are some exceptional productivity apps made or updated for the iPad specifically. Some notable iPad-specific productivity apps include Bento (personal organization/information management), Things (project management), iTeleport (remote desktop/VNC), Layers (drawing/painting), and GoodReader (best PDF+ reader around).
===== Gaming =====
If you’re like me, you probably don’t have time for games. Ultimately, I still see the iPad as a productivity device more than as a gaming console. Regardless, the iPhone and iPad changed the game on that. Millions of people use their computers for gaming, and with the iPhone and iPod Touch having taken on a clear role as a gaming console that has been as revolutionary for mobile gaming as the Wii was for living-room gaming, it goes without saying that the iPad is, and will continue to be, a decent platform for playing games. Most Android games look terrible on tablet-sized screens, but iPad game developers have taken care of us with good quality iPad versions of most iPhone games. Board games and lap-friendly games are also perfect for the iPad. Meanwhile, I suspect that games heavily dependent on device-rotation and other accelerometer-based interaction may quickly wear you out do to the weight of the iPad. I got tired of playing EA’s Need For Speed: Shift after about 5 minutes. Resting the iPad on my knee didn’t help much.
===== Printing =====
Printing with the iPad is really hit-or-miss. The ability to print documents right from your iPad came along last year, with the iOS 4 update, but there are some caveats. Your printer must support “AirPrint” or, if yours doesn’t, you might have some success working with some software called Printopia (if you have a Mac with a shared printer). Google AirPrint or Printopia for more info and device compatibility. From there, printing is easy. The iPad will walk you through the process of locating the printer and setting up the printing options the first time around. For more information about printing with your iPad, I’ll linked to some informative off-site pages in the first comment for this review.
===== Security =====
With portable devices, there should always be some level of concern regarding the safety and protection of your data. The iPad deliver surprisingly well in the area, providing several layers of security to protect your data. You can require complex passcodes to securely access important information, encrypt data whether stored or transferred over WiFi, and even remotely wipe everything from your iPad instantly in the event of theft or loss (with subscription to Apple’s MobileMe service).
===== Praise =====
+ Apple continues its trend of creating the best multi-touch experience around. Android doesn’t even come close
+ The Retina Display – Phenomenal! Kudos for bringing it to the iPad as well as the iPhone and iPod touch
+ High performance 1GHz A5X processor – provides performance power for cutting-edge gaming and multitasking
+ Multitasks like a dream with iOS 5 and the powerful dual-core central processor
+ Rear camera – 5 megapixel photography goodness, plus it can do 1080p HD video (up from 720p)
+ 4G LTE option – It’s clearly the next big thing for improving connection speed when away from WiFi
===== Dissappointments =====
+ No 7″ model – the 10″ model is just too bulky sometimes
+ No true GPS – IP-based location just doesn’t cut it, and GPS has no subscription fee or contract to use like assisted (cellular) GPS does
+ No 128GB model – would have been useful for high-res videos that look great on the Retina display, or hold more of those huge 1080p videos
+ No USB or SD card slot – for storage expansion, or more importantly, importing pics from your external camera to the new iPhoto app
+ Front facing camera – great for FaceTime communication, but it only works over WiFi, Apple isn’t even letting it work over 4G!
===== The Bottom Line =====
If you already have an iPad 2, perhaps there isn’t enough new to warrant purchasing the new model, unless you really want the Retina display. If you have the original iPad, it’s probably worth getting though, seeing all the new additions that carried over from the iPad 2. If you’re considering
Overall, the iPad still sets the pace for most other tablets in its 10″ class, but I personally find all 10″ tablets to be a bit bulky and somewhat unwieldy. Particularly, I find it awkward to use the iPad where I want to use it most: lying in bed, or sitting on the couch with it in my lap. On the couch, where a laptop is comfortable resting on your lap, with the screen parallel to your face, whereas the iPad needs to be angled up, and your head angled downward. This can be a after a while. In bed, it’s just too heavy and bulky, and I’ve dropped the thing square on my face several times.
The solution? I’ve been begging Apple for a 7″ iPad for two years now. Jobs said no, but, with all due respect, he’s no longer calling the shots, so I say let’s see what Tim Cook can indeed cook up for us! If 10″ is comfortable for you, then it’s definitely worth 5 stars. Personally though, I can’t quite give it 5 until Apple releases a 7″ version. But I realize ratings are subjective, so call me a critic if you want. In all honesty, the iPad really is the best 10″ tablet around, and I would give no other tablet more than 3 stars. I’ll continue to keep mine around simply because it does have it’s uses, especially for Web and app development, but also for occasional gaming, and when not in use, it still makes a great digital picture frame with the aforementioned Picture Frame mode! (See the Photography and Video section)
I hope you’ve found this hands-on review helpful.
THE SECOND REVIEW I FOUND USEFUL
This review is for iPad 2 owners trying to decide whether to upgrade. It also might be helpful for people deciding between buying a “new iPad” and an iPad 2 (which is now just 399, 100 bucks cheaper than the cheapest “new iPad”).
I was perfectly happy with my iPad 2, a wifi-only model with 32gb. When Apple announced the new iPad, I typed up a long list of reasons why I shouldn’t buy it. And then I bought one anyway. (I’ll be giving my iPad 2 to my parents.)
You’ve probably already read up on the new iPad and know the list of new features it has, and how the specs compare to the iPad 2’s specs. But comparing specs on paper is different than comparing the actual experience of using the two products, and the experience matters more than the specs. I can tell you which of those features, at least to me, really makes the experience of using the new iPad better. And there’s only one: the display.
I do a lot of reading on the iPad, and this is where the retina display really matters. Text is very sharp, even for very small fonts, and this makes reading on iPad much more comfortable. I’ve been reading Steve Jobs on my iPad 2 (using the Kindle app); I read the next chapter on the retina iPad and then tried to read the following chapter on the iPad 2 again, and going back to the iPad 2 was unpleasant. I had similar results when I compared reading articles on websites using Safari and when reading a few pages of War and Peace in the iBooks app on the retina iPad vs. iPad 2. After reading on the new iPad, you just won’t want to go back to reading on iPad 2.
If you read a lot on your iPad, this to me is a compelling reason to upgrade, and perhaps the only compelling reason.
What about photos? Videos? Games? Here, you can tell the difference, and the retina display is better. But in terms of how much the retina display increases my enjoyment of viewing pictures, video, and games, it is not enough to justify the cost of upgrading.
On both iPads, I compared hi-res pictures I took at the Chicago Botanic Gardens using a DSLR with a good lens. On iPad 2, your eye can indeed discern individual pixels if you look closely enough, whereas on the retina iPad, it’s like looking at a real print of the photo. But after looking at the pictures on the retina iPad, and even noticing the differences, it was still quite nice to view them again on the iPad 2. Similarly for video: I watched a scene from the Breaking Bad season 4 finale on both devices, and while it looked a bit better on the retina iPad, it still looked great on iPad 2. Streaming hi-res movie trailers looked better on the retina iPad, but still looked great on iPad 2. For streaming video from Netflix, I could not tell any difference, most likely because the resolution of the source material isn’t any higher than the iPad 2’s display.
I’m less of a gamer than most iPad users, but I did try Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy (a game supposedly optimized for the retina display) and Plants vs. Zombies HD (an older game). PvZ looks exactly the same on both, Sky Gamblers looks better on the retina iPad but it still looks very awesome on the iPad 2.
In short, you can notice the difference the retina display makes for photos, videos, and games. Yet, the experience of using the iPad 2 is still quite excellent. The fact is that, even at a lower resolution, the iPad 2’s IPS display is exceptional.
What about the other specs? Is it worth upgrading to get a newer processor, for example?
No. I really don’t notice a difference in performance. The retina iPad is super fast, but so is iPad 2. Some apps load a little faster, others I can’t tell. But the speed difference, if any, isn’t enough to make the retina iPad more enjoyable to use than iPad 2.
What about battery life? The retina display has 4x the pixels of the iPad 2 display and requires a lot more power, which would drain the battery faster. But the new iPad also comes with a much bigger battery inside (that’s why it’s 1/10 of an inch thicker and an ounce or so heavier than iPad 2). Apple says battery life is about the same, and that seems to be true in my experience in the four weeks since I bought it. (I bought it March 16 and I’m editing this paragraph on April 13.)
What about the improved camera? Sure, it takes better pictures than the joke of a camera on iPad 2. But do most people use their iPad for photography, anyway? If you have an iPhone 4 or 4S, your camera is just as good or better, and it’s more convenient for taking pictures than using the iPad. Ditto for most smartphones. And only the rear-facing camera was improved; the front-facing camera is just as crappy as before. And that’s a shame, because the front camera is the one I’d actually use (for skype and facetime).
What about dictation? I find it works about 80%, less in a noisy room. Sure, it is easier to dictate and then edit the few errors that result than to type something from scratch on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. But I don’t think most people will use the dictation feature enough for it to matter in the upgrade decision. People who write a lot on the iPad will already have an external keyboard (or should get one).
So, for me, the only new feature that matters enough to justify the upgrade is the retina display.
But there’s one other reason you might upgrade: If your iPad 2 is a wifi-only model and you think it would be handy to also have 3G/4G connectivity. (Or, if you bought an iPad 2 with 3G and you never use the 3G, now is your chance to buy an iPad without it and save $130.) I bought a new iPad with 4G so that I could use it when I’m traveling and away from a hotspot. Which isn’t very often, but I figured it would be handy to have.
What about 3G vs. 4G? If you have an iPad 2 with 3G, should you upgrade to enjoy the faster speed of 4G? The answer is only if you use it a lot.
4G on the new iPad is very fast. My iPad 2 doesn’t have 3G, so I can’t say how much faster. My verizon iphone 4S has 3G and it’s way slower than a wifi connection, but 4G on the new iPad is at least as fast as a good wifi connection.
That said, the cellular service is not cheap, so most people use it only when wifi is not available, which is not very often. You have wifi at home, at work perhaps, at most coffee shops and libraries and hotels. The exception would be people that have an expensive plan with a high data allowance; if that’s you and you use cellular connectivity a lot, then you have a good reason to upgrade. 4G is crazy fast.
The bottom line:
Upgrading is a tough call, because it’s expensive. The difference between what you’ll get if you sell your iPad 2 and what you’ll spend for a similarly configured retina iPad is probably around $250, maybe a little more. And if you upgrade, you might want more memory since apps designed for the retina display take up more space than standard apps.
I recommend that most iPad 2 owners upgrade only if they really want or need the retina display, especially for people who do a lot of reading on iPad. Or, if they bought a wifi-only iPad 2 and always regretted not getting cellular internet, now’s their chance.
If neither of these is true for you, stick with your iPad 2. It is still an absolutely great device, and still a very worthy purchase for people who want an ipad but can’t afford or don’t need the retina display.
The THIRD Review I Found Useful
For the last 20 years, I have steadfastly refused anything apple — I think it was the cult-like mentality that turned me off. Also, the fact that the devices are so easy to use, to borrow a phrase, even a cavegirl could do it (as evidenced by my very non-technical sisters and friends.) Of course, being a UNIX geek, I was steadfastly against the Apple software/iTunes/iEverything model. You can do anything you want on UNIX — there is no one to save you from yourself. The UNIX motto: “We sell ROPE!” (Of course, I have hung myself numerous times on said rope including the time I accidentally erased the entire hard drive (including operating system) on a UNIX system at the now defunct Bear Stearns!
But then I was given a shiny new Macbook Pro for my new job and I started having… doubts. For example, the terminal application under Apple OS is hauntingly like my beloved UNIX — including having vi and grep and the “/” pointing the “RIGHT” way. I figure any system that allows me to use VI can’t be completely evil.
I have played with many tablets — all android. I started out with the Motorola Xoom and then settled on the Asus Transformer. The thing that won me over about the Transformer was that the display was better than any I had seen… until now.
I purchased my first iPad this weekend sight unseen because I read that with the new retinal display, reading now became nearly comparable to the original Kindle/eInk technology. Despite my love of gadgets, I’m growing weary of having a Kindle, a Tablet, a Laptop, an MP3 player — not to mention all the peripherals one needs to support them.
So the first thing I did with the iPad was installed the Kindle app. I also have my Asus transformer here at work. I downloaded the same book and COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES! I never expected there to be such a noticeable difference. On the Asus transformer, you can actually see the individual pixels. On the iPad, it looks as smooth as an eInk display.
The thing about the iPad (and Apple products in general) is that it is the little details that have won me over. For example, the scrolling on the iPad is SOOO much smoother than the Transformer. When you swipe on the transformer to scroll through the list of books, it lurches and jumps and trying to finally control where the scrolling starts and stops is frustrating.
Also, the apps just work and don’t need to be updated every day — which just gets really old.
There are 2 areas I have found where I prefer non-apple products:
1. Performance — though I don’t have this problem with the current iPad because it is brand-spanking new. However, I expect that soon the apps that have been written more “frugally” for the earlier generation processors will soon bloat to suck up the faster processors of the new iPad.
2. Apple’s “control freak” mentality — DON’T like is having to jump through some hoops to use my music library from Amazon (I try to use iTunes as little as humanly possible). I also miss the ability to have my own wall papers and control the layout of the screen a bit.
However, the downsides are much smaller since I don’t wind up having to act as a beta tester for the tablet or the apps. I’m a software quality assurance engineer and while I am more than capable of troubleshooting my systems and getting them to work, I guess at this point, when I’m just using the web and a computer for my own enjoyment, I don’t want to have to do that work anymore… I just want to focus on my music or my books or the web article.s
Upshot: I guess there is a reason certain technologies and products become defacto standards — it is because they are legitimately the best. The iPad 3 is no exception — it sets the bar over any android alternative. Microsoft is fighting back with their Windows 8 mobile phone (the Lumia) which ALSO uses a retinal display. But Microsoft has a long way to go to achieve the type of platform consistency that you get with Apple. I like only having to know how to use one interface. Apple allows that because the iPad acts like the iPhone which is a basic version of their computer OS.
I will still always love my UNIX… the fact that apple is actually reuniting me with my beloved vi and grep and still providing me with a beautiful pleasurable stable platform is a huge bonus!