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v13_technology_ipadI spent the first five years of my life unaware that my bedroom had what we used to proudly call in the ’80s a “popcorn ceiling” — a plaster spray treatment that could be quickly applied and hide all those cracks and blemishes.

When I was five I got my first pair of glasses and discovered that I’d been playing under a stippled canopy all those years. I remember the slightly unnerving yet magical feeling of lying on my bed looking up at the ceiling that had previously been a blur of white.

iPad Improved GraphicsThe new iPad 3 instantly reminded me of that moment. Images, movies and the general interface are suddenly so much clearer with the retina display. The new screen on what my daughter calls the “No Dots iPad” and what everyone else seems to be calling the iPad 3 (although Apple is sticking to its numberless “new iPad” nomenclature) is something special.

The additional clarity can work both ways of course. Apps, films and images that looked fine on the iPad 2 will now need improved art assets if they are going to sparkle on the new iPad. This, as Matt Blum posted recently, will also mean bigger download sizes, and more cost for developers. Such is progress.

 

iPad Improved Graphics

 

The screen is particularly impressive with the new iPhoto app that provides a host of Photoshop-like features to tweak, edit and share your pictures all without needing to leave the iPad. iMovie has also been updated in similar fashion to take advantage of the new iPad’s features and additional horsepower. It will be as more apps take advantage of the iPad’s new specs that I think we’ll see just how valuable that screen really is.

New iPad Easier ReadingThe new iPad comes with a host of other improvements. Most of these focus on getting the most out of the retina screen, which takes the resolution from 1024×768 to 2048×1536 pixels. Memory has been doubled from 512MB to 1GB.

The CPU is now a beefy 1 GHz Apple A5X as opposed to the iPad 2′s already respectable 1 GHz dual-core Apple A5. Although this isn’t as big a leap from the first iPad to the iPad 2, things all seem suitably snappy on the new model.

The same on board storage options are available (16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB), but other features like the front and rear cameras also get a boost. The back camera for instance is now 5 MP and can record 1080p video at 30 frames per second. Connectivity-wise, the 4G LTE model supports the faster LTE 4G mobile broadband service, where that is available, which offers a considerable bump in download speed.

To preserve the iPad’s battery life a meatier power source is included. I suspect it is mainly this that contributes to the slight increase in thickness (from 8.8mm to 9.4mm) and weight (from 600g to 650g). Although these figures seem pretty small the new iPad is noticeably heavier if held in the air playing a game or replying to emails.

In our household this cements it as something we use on our laps rather than moving around the place. This is no bad thing in my book as the kids have a habit of dropping things. Seeing them using it balanced on their knees in front of them seems like a more prudent way to go.

They have been less impressed by the new model than I have. Having both the iPad 2 and new iPad in the house (not for much longer) it’s interesting to see them happily jumping between the two without really noticing. The quality of the new screen or the faster graphics are slightly lost on them, but the fact that they can pick up and use a new device like this is a testament to Apple’s evolutionary approach to their technology.

 

New iPad Easier Reading

 

For me it has actually been simple reading where I’ve noticed the biggest difference. Although not hugely discernible without getting your nose close to the screen, reading documents and books (I like the Kindle app myself) seems to be a less taxing experience on the eyes.

I can read for longer without feeling overly strained and actually have noticed myself reading a little faster as well. Although this is rather intangible, it’s a small factor that will make a huge difference to my day.

Another nice little improvement is the inclusion of a dictation tool, much like Siri on the iPhone 4S. Although I was a little doubtful before using it, the quality of the voice detection and ability to include commands like “new line” make this a really practical addition to the iPad, and one that is already saving me time.

The new iPad supports the same magnetic covers as the previous model. Although there has been some talk online about old iPad 2 covers not working with the new iPad, tests with my covers didn’t cause any issues.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the new iPad. For me the screen isn’t the killer feature that some other reviews found it to be, but together with the other improvements (camera, dictation and performance) it does create a tempting proposition.

It’s certainly light and day ahead of the original iPad and a very tempting upgrade. iPad 2 owners who can’t live without that retina display, those working with a lot of video and images perhaps, will also get a lot of mileage out of it. However, it will only be as the new apps become available that really take advantage of the iPad 3′s features that it will really come into its own for families.

iPad 3 available from Amazon, 16GB Wifi model for $548, 64GB 4G model for $947.

Access to a new iPad was provided by Apple

 

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