The new iPad is a game changer
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The new iPad is a game changer

My new iPad arrived around noon Friday via FedEx, so I've had the weekend to play around, er, test it out. So far I'm impressed. With its new display, Bluetooth 4, support and more, it's a game changer.

All the new features -- the Retina display, Apple’s new A5X chip with quad-core graphics, a 5-megapixel iSight camera that can capture 1080p HD video, and more -- were impressive. (Disclaimer: I bought the Wi-Fi only version, so can't report on the 4G LTE support.)

Apple says the new iPad’s Retina display delivers four times the number of pixels of its predecessor -- 3.1 million pixels at 2048 x 1536 resolution. I'll take their word for it. However, apps tweaked for the new display look incredible. Text is as crisp as I've ever seen on a mobile device. iBooks and digital magazines look fantastic. Photos are gorgeous. And the 1080p version of "The Adventures of TinTin" movie was sharp and saturated with color.

What's more, it looked incredible when I AirPlayed it from my iPad to my 42-inch HDTV via the new Apple TV. Once you've spent some time with this display, the screens of all other mobile devices -- well, except the iPhone 4S, which has its own Retina display -- will be ruined for you forever.

However, some apps and videos (including most from YouTube) looked a bit grainy on the new display compared to the iPad 2. That's to be expected with the quadrupled number of pixels. Many apps are being tweaked to accommodate the Retina display. All of Apple's apps were Retina ready at the launch of the new iPad -- and they look mahvelous. You should note that the aspect ratio remains unchanged: 4:30, though the new iPad can display 16:9 or cinema standard (2:39:1).

Research by the DisplaySearch (http://www.displaysearch.com) group indicates that the the new iPad has at least twice as many LEDs than the iPad 2, which had 36. The slightly larger and heavier case as compared to the previous Apple tablet (which is still available at a reduced price) suggests Apple is using a larger battery in order to accommodate the new A5X processor with its upgraded GPU, and the high resolution display without decreasing battery life.

DisplaySearch is on target. I found the new iPad to last around 10 hours, depending on how you use it. That's pretty much the same as that of my previous iPad 2.

The performance of Apple's new tablet was smooth and seamless whether watching the aforementioned movie or playing a variety of games on the new iPad (including a Retina display updated version of Infinity Blade). The performance is due mainly to the new A5X chip with quad-core graphics. Apple says they specifically built it to deliver a fast, responsive user experience while supporting the Retina display and to provide double the graphics performance of the A5 chip. They succeeded.

Most of us hoped the new iPad would incorporate Siri, the voice activated "personal assistant" that debuted with the iPhone 4S. That didn't happen, but the new dictation feature alleviates the disappointment a bit.There's a new microphone icon on the iPad's virtual keyboard that you can press to dictate emails, notes, messages and more. It worked reasonably well, though the dictation feature, as with Siri on my iPhone 4S, was sometimes befuddled by my Southern accent.

The new camera is a vast improvement over the dinky one in the iPad 2. The 5-megapixel iSight camera features optics for taking detailed pictures and recording full HD video. Backside illumination allows you to take good-looking photos in low-light conditions, while a new video image stabilization feature does a commendation job in removing bumps and shakes typically seen when filming with a hand-held device.

The backlight illumination helps, but doesn't completely compensate for, the lack of a flash. Then again, you're probably not going to be using a device this size for taking many videos and photos.

Speaking of size, the new iPad is a bit thicker and heavier than the iPad 2. However, you probably won't notice, and all the accessories I tried with the new tablet worked/fit just fine.

When it comes to which model to choose, I'd definitely go with the 64GB version if you can afford it. Files that take advantage of the Retina display are bigger (by a factor of two and more), so you should spring for all the storage space your budget will allow. Apple should have offered a 128GB version for those who want all the disc space possible.

Also, the new iPad is the first tablet to support Bluetooth 4.0. This is a very big deal. "Computerworld" explains why in depth at http://macte.ch/5jjGt .

The new iPad is a considerable leap beyond the iPad 2 -- and with prices remaining the same. If you haven't bought an iPad yet, now's the time to do so. If you have an iPad 2, do what I did: sell it and upgrade.

-- Rating: 9 out of 10

-- Dennis Sellers

 
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