Written by: Brian Finnegan, Austin, TX
I received my 3rd generation iPad in the mail on the 16th, the same day it was available in the store. After unboxing it, my initial reaction was, "Wow, look at that screen." You can really tell the difference in display quality from the previous version, although I only had my memory to go by since our previous one was stolen (grrrr… anger…). Although, it really doesn't take a side by side comparison to see the 'wow factor', it's just a gorgeous screen that looks as crisp as my iPhone 4S and on a larger scale.
The 2048 x 1536 'retina display' makes for 3.1 million pixels, 4 times that of the iPad 2. For those that don't know, the term 'retina display' was coined by Apple to describe a pixel density greater than the human eye can discern, meaning further increasing the resolution and pixel count would not make the picture appear any clearer because our eye can't tell the difference. That's good news for consumers, as touch screens should start to drop in price now that this human limit has been reached. Expect to see Android and Windows tablets (crap) at this density soon as well.
My wife and I have had a great time with our new iPad, it is just as smooth as the iPad 2 and definitely more visually stunning. It actually serves a role in our marriage as well, the experience is just more social when we pass the iPad back and forth for some funny or poignant stories, or cuddle together to enjoy a funny video on the net. This isn't really unique to the iPad, but for those thinking about getting their first tablet, I highly recommend it.
There have been some reports in the news about the new iPad generating more heat than its predecessors, Consumer reports ran an article that reported that at its hottest, the back of the iPad could hit 116 degrees. They used various iterations of the word hot and summarized, "When it was at its hottest it felt very warm but not especially uncomfortable if held for a brief period."
I duplicated their test with the same game, Infinity Blade 2 which I played for 2 hours straight to see how much it warmed up. I would say that the heat issue was barely worth mentioning. It got somewhat warm as I held it in my hands the entire time and was never near bothered enough to want shift my grip to avoid the warm spot. Of course, the higher graphics load is going to generate some extra heat and I really feel that this is a sensationalized non-story. Tech writer John Gruber went so far as to call the Consumer Reports article, "Embarassing". I don't know if I would go that far, but it did seem a bit like making a mountain out of a molehill. In short, the heat just isn't an issue at all in my tests. My wife agrees, simply saying, "It's not that noticeable."
The new iPad is .6mm thicker than the previous version according to Apple, and I worried that the smart cover companion back case that I ordered before knowing this fact wouldn't fit it, but it does. The fit is not as good as it would have been, still it's fine and doesn't come off. I only mention this to illustrate that the extra thickness just doesn't make much of a difference.
The newest iPad is also the first iPad to offer 4G LTE service in select areas. I tested speeds using the SpeedTest app solely operating on AT&T's 4G LTE network with WiFi turned off. The tests revealed a smoking fast 22.51 Mbps and 25.46 Mbps upload speeds outside with a clear view of the sky and 13.84 Mbps down and 11.94 Mbps up inside the house (with only 1 bar!) This is much faster than the national average of broadband internet in the nation according to SpeedTest's numbers. Not only is that really fast for a wireless connection, it's really fast period for a consumer class connection period.
In summary, I would highly recommend picking up the new iPad if you don't already have one or are dissatisfied with your current tablet. In fact, I wrote this review while sitting on the couch using our new iPad. I used a wireless keyboard and Google Docs via the Safari browser and found it much more comfortable than writing on a laptop or even at my desktop chair. The user experience remains incredibly polished and precise. In the week we have had it, we have immensely enjoyed it. It would be hard to go back to living without it, something I never thought I would say about a tablet.