We got hands-on with the new iPad – yes, its official name – and were suitably glamoured.
As we said in our initial comments, its stand-out feature is the screen. But wait till you actually see it. The resolution is phenomenal, making everything look sharp, bright and superbly detailed. Play back high resolution photos and you can zoom in forever and still find more facets. Stare as hard as you like, if you hold the iPad at a reasonable length, you just can’t see the pixel construction. It’s pretty amazing.
While the first quad-core tablet and a few quad-core phones have already launched, Apple has allocated the new iPad a dual-core chipset as in the iPad 2. It's still pretty darn fast, with the extra heavy lifting it manages focused squarely on the beefed up A5X graphics chip.
The games demoed at the announcement were pretty spiffy – expect a slew of gorgeous titles to follow. Trying them out in the hands-on area after the presentation, it was evident that not only did this new graphics chip make the games look spectacular, it made them more immersive as well.
The new iPad looks very similar to the old one: even the improved camera looks pretty much the same from the outside.
It's been upgraded to iSight status, though, giving it the lens structure of the iPhone 4S, except with a five-megapixel sensor versus the 4S's eight-meg snapper. This is more than enough for a tablet which is not, after all, the sort of form factor you'll want to hold aloft for filming at length. For video recording resolution has also been increased, recording at 1080P instead of 720P on the iPad 2.
Despite these bumps in camera spec, the difference in thickness is tiny – under a millimetre – so with luck most cases should still fit. Certainly the Smart Cover range is still valid.
As for its number-free moniker, Apple is pulling the tablet in line with its naming procedure for its MacBooks and iPods – this ‘new iPad’ is simply understood to be the 2012 version of a product it is likely to update once a year.
Of course, our hands-on session couldn’t tell us if the battery lives up to the 10 hours Apple promised, but we’ll address that in a full review very soon.
The 4G capabilities of the iPad may be lost on us Brits, but we look forward to seeing if HSPA+ really delivers faster 3G speeds. Philip Schiller, VP of product marketing at Apple, eulogised about the effects users would find with Dual Channel HSPA+, which promises 42Mbps speeds. Which should be enough for surfing the web and writing emails at least!
First impressions of the tablet were highly favourable, especially for the amazing display. Apple is known for gradually increasing the power and capabilities of its machines, which can lead to disappointment – think of the reaction to the iPhone 4S, which still received almost-perfect reviews – but this new screen is a great leap forward. Will a slew of tablet announcements from other companies follow, now we know what Apple has done? Maybe, but they may struggle to match features like the display.
Especially for its £399 price tag, exactly the same as for the iPad 2, which is now going for a reduced price – from £329. But, frankly, once you’ve seen the Retina display, everything else looks a little bit drab.
The new iPad hits shelves on Friday 16 March, so ready those overnight bags for that vigil outside your local Apple store.