The Retina display is amazing. Much like the iPhone 4/4S, you have to see it in person to appreciate it. And, much like the iPhone 4/4S, it makes using any other non-Retina display that much harder. The saturation is, as advertised, noticeably better–especially if you place the new iPad next to the iPad 2. I’ve heard a few people say they can see pixels if they get right up to the screen, but either they’re nuts or my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, because I can’t see any no matter how hard I try. While the new iPad’s screen isn’t quite as dense as the iPhone 4/4S, the common distance at which you hold the iPad makes the density difference negligible to my eyes. And because the screen is so much larger, it seems even better than the iPhone’s. Books, websites, photos–they look amazing. It’s a sight to behold.
(Side note: One nice thing about Apple releasing the iPhone 4 with a Retina display first–and nearly two years ago–is that most developers started planning for double-resolution iPad applications right away. And considering how many applications are Universal these days, the amount of work to create Retina graphics for most iPad apps seems to have been fairly minimal. This is great news for new iPad owners–the store is already rapidly filling with updated applications [about 80% of my daily apps are already updated].)
The rear camera is an improvement, but still pales in comparison to the 4S, which is a shame. It’s the 5 megapixel iPhone 4 camera and it blows the iPad 2’s camera away, but it’s not as great as I was hoping. Then again, I don’t ever see myself taking a photo with the iPad. I’m not sure I ever have in the past. Video is a different story, though, and the new iPad’s ability to shoot 1080p is a nice addition. I haven’t done enough testing in this regard yet, so I can’t comment on how well it does. The front camera is as awful as the iPad 2’s was. Facetime chats look just as noisy and crummy as they did before. I wonder if Apple doesn’t care much about this yet because the Facetime protocol doesn’t support higher resolution video? Either way, hopefully this is something they’ll address in future models.
The first iPad weighed 1.5 pounds for the Wi-Fi model and 1.6 pounds for the 3G model. It felt heavy. Holding it with one hand got tiring quickly. When the iPad 2 came out, Apple brought the weight down to 1.33 pounds for Wi-Fi, and 1.35/1.34 pounds for the 3G model. That’s a difference of nearly 15% for the Wi-Fi model. The iPad 2 felt drastically lighter in your hand than its predecessor. With the new iPad, Apple had to increase the battery size and width of the hardware, and weight has increased again. If you buy the Wi-Fi model, the difference is only an 8% increase to 1.44 pounds. But if you purchase the LTE model, you’ll get a 1.46 pound new iPad. If you, like me, purchased Wi-Fi models in the past but chose the LTE model this time around, you’ll be getting a new iPad which is only 3% lighter than the first-gen iPad. This paragraph is crammed with percentages and weights, but what it boils down to is that the new iPad, especially the LTE model, feels a lot heavier in my hands than the iPad 2. The new iPad is a bit thicker as well, but honestly, it doesn’t feel like it.
So should you buy a new iPad? People love to ask me this question. I don’t know the answer. It’s dependent on so many factors, most of which have nothing to do with the new iPad itself. Let’s break it down really simply: Do you have a first-gen iPad and like it a lot and have enough money to spare? Then yes, buy a new iPad. iPad 1 to iPad 3 is a huge upgrade. Do you have an iPad 2 and like it a lot and have enough money to spare? Then yes, buy a new iPad. iPad 2 to iPad 3 gives you a much better screen, a little more speed, and insanely fast LTE. Do you not own an iPad at all and want to buy one? Then yes, buy a new iPad. It’s an amazing device. Did none of those questions apply to you and/or you’re not interested in the iPad? Then no, don’t buy one.
Of course, the strange thing about being excited about and waiting for the new iPad is that once it arrived and I synced my content to it, it was just like my iPad 2, only with a gorgeous screen. But what makes the iPad the iPad is less about the screen and specific hardware alone and more about the whole experience. Lounging on the couch browsing the internet and responding to email, dropping the iPad into my favorite Bluetooth keyboard while working at an outdoor table in the sun, or reading until I fall asleep in bed–the iPad has become a large part of my life and the new model just makes the experience even better.