April 11, 2012

868 words 5 mins read

(The New) iPad 3 Review – Solid unit, uninspiring upgrade

So the “The new iPad” or the “iPad 3” (depending on your preference, mine is for the latter) has been out for a couple weeks now. As is my custom, I got my hands on one (16 GB 4G Verizon) and took it for a test drive. Since the iPad 3 really has only a few features that are different from the iPad 2, I’m just going to talk about those features and my thoughts on the upgrades. The new upgrades are the processor (which I’m going to skip, yawn), screen, battery, 4G, and camera.

iPad 3 vs Droid 3

Screen

At first, the screen really doesn’t look that much different to me. I didn’t think the iPad 2 screen was bad or anything. Compare the iPad 3’s screen to other devices and you start to get a better feel for the quality. If I look closely at my Droid 3’s screen (which is not a bad screen either), you can make out the pixels in a piece of text. On the iPad 3, you have to look pretty darn close to see anything resembling a pixel and in most cases I get a headache first (from trying to focus my eyes so close and look for such tiny details). The really amusing thing about the screen is looking at different app icons. By the time I got the iPad 3, most of the icons had been updated — they look crisp and sexy. You will find a few apps though, like “Bamboo Paper” from Wacom or TweetDeck, that you can see pixelation on the icons.

So it’s sexy, but does it matter? Well if you’re doing something that needs really good screen quality, then certainly. If you’re a photographer using the iPad to review your photos — the iPad 3’s screen will make a huge difference. If you’re eyesight isn’t so great, or all you do is play a few simple games — you probably won’t notice the difference. I’ll be honest, I had to actively look for it.

Speedtest.net test of Verizon 4G LTE

4G LTE (Verizon)

It’s damn fast. I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area, but not in San Francisco itself (much). What that means is we’ve got a really sweet 4G network, and in my particular area — it’s not too horribly over burdened. I ran the Speedtest.net app to do a couple of random tests and in the East Bay I got between 30 and 35 mbps download. That’s faster than the AT&T U-Verse (FTTP) connection I have. The upload was anywhere between 4 and 17 mbps, again, much faster than the land line connection. When I did tests in San Mateo, which is a little more populated, I received speeds around 9 mbps download and 8 mbps upload. Basically, the 4G LTE chip in the iPad 3 combined with Verizon’s network is damn fast. Your speeds will vary based on network usage, but don’t be surprised to see speeds better than your home connection.

Test picture from iPad 3, indoor

Camera

The iPad 1 had no camera. The iPad 2’s camera was so bad that it shouldn’t have had a camera either. The iPad 3’s camera is only 5 megapixels, whereas the iPhone 4S has an 8 mpix camera. Even still, the iPad 3’s camera is decent. It’s a camera phone camera just like any other and while it won’t be winning any awards for Ansel Adams’ style work, it’ll get the job done. I’ve gone ahead and put together a Flickr gallery of photos taken from the iPad 3 along with a couple images I messed with in iPhoto. You can zoom in on any of them and they don’t look half bad, as exemplified by these lemons. But while the camera gets the job done, the color and contrast is very flat. Most of the images look washed out, especially when the camera gets a little bit of sun, as seen in the backyard shots. Of course, you look like a total idiot taking pictures with an iPad (or any tablet for that matter).

Test picture from iPad 3, Outdoor

Conclusion — Buy it?

I’m not going to say flat out that you should buy the iPad 3, it really depends on what your needs and budget are. Even though I’m a tech geek who always wants the latest and greatest shiny thing, I’d serious consider buying an iPad 2 (if I were buying one for myself). If you have a solid need for a high res screen (e.g. your a photographer reviewing your work) or the camera (or you want to look like an idiot) then you should go for the iPad 3. The device isn’t bad, and I don’t mean to imply that, but it is quite costly and only a marginal upgrade. The 4G alone isn’t worth the jump because you can get a nice 4G Mifi for real cheap. If you’re like my mother who wants an iPad, but won’t appreciate the high res screen and won’t get the 3G (let alone 4G), then get a refurbished/used iPad 2. You can save yourself at least $150, if not more, by sticking with the iPad 2.