Apple iPad (3rd gen) review
Faster graphics and a good camera at last, but the groundbreaking screen alone is reason to splash out – it’s a genuine leap forward
Review Date: 19 Mar 2012
Reviewed By: David Bayon
Price when reviewed: From £333 (£400 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
The most important part of any tablet, whatever the quad-core brigade may try to persuade you, is the screen. Unlike any internal component, the screen is what you’ll still be noticing a week after your purchase, the part upon which all of your attention is focused. Upgrading it is the most effective way to improve any tablet.
We’re sure all manufacturers understand this, yet few are in the position to make such bold strides as Apple. Following the iPhone 4’s leap with its “Retina” display, the new iPad (not, confusingly, the iPad 3) has a similarly groundbreaking 1,536 x 2,048 panel – that’s four times the iPad 2’s 768 x 1,024 resolution in exactly the same 9.7in diagonal, and it’s higher even than many 27in TFTs. Apple calls it “resolutionary”, a word that makes us queasy, but the sentiment is spot on.
Retina, take two
The quadrupled pixel count doesn’t quite give the same pixel density as the iPhone 4 – it’s 246ppi compared to the smaller screen’s 326ppi – but it puts it way ahead of any other tablet on the market. Asus will soon release its 10in Transformer Pad Infinity, with a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, but that’s as close as we’ve seen.
The biggest beneficiary is text, which is so sharp that you genuinely can’t see the pixels any more, and provided the originals are of suitable quality, the same applies to images as well. In fact, the new iPad acts like a magnifying glass on every medium-resolution logo or banner ad you may have hoped no-one would notice, which may have web developers scrambling to update their assets.
There were only a handful of Retina-optimised apps at launch. Apple has curated a section of the App Store to highlight them, and those we tested did a fine job of showing off the improvement. Flight Control Rocket and Real Racing HD 2 look superb, and the updated Kindle app shows the new iPad is a very capable ebook reader too.
Colour saturation is also superb, and our subjective opinions were backed up by the figures: we measured brightness at 426cd/m2, with an excellent contrast ratio of 906:1. Put simply, the new screen is a revelation, and if you find you’ve stopped actively marvelling at it after an hour or so, a trip back to an iPad 2 will be a shock to the system – it’s a lot like watching standard-definition video on a Full HD television.
Keeping its looks
Beyond the screen, you’d be hard-pressed to notice anything physically different from the iPad 2. The case is a millimetre or so thicker, and its 652g weight is 50g heavier than before – just about noticeable when you hold the two versions in each hand, but the extra weight is for a good reason, as we’ll see later. The new iPad also gets noticeably warmer in the hand than its predecessor did when running demanding 3D apps or video.
Everything else is in the same place, so the volume rocker and rotation lock are still on the right edge as you hold it in portrait mode, and the headphone socket and power button are on the top edge.
The bigger changes are inside, but they aren’t earth-shattering. The new Apple A5X chip remains dual-core and clocked at 1GHz, but it now features a quad-core GPU. Teardowns have revealed 1GB of DDR2 RAM, up from 512MB last time.
The question of if remains
I agree that for most people buying a tablet now, the iPad is the one to buy although some may find the Asus Transformer form factor appealing.
For me, the question remains on whether to buy a tablet at all. Many people are now at the time to upgrade their main computers as the laptops wear out. For most people if you had to choose between an ultrabook or a cheap new laptop and an iPad, to me the rational thing seems to plump for an ultrabook but the shininess of an iPad may get people to make that leap to have it as their primary computing device.
By TheBigM72 on 20 Mar 2012
Given that graphics aside there is no difference in battery life or preformance surely the ipad2 offers better value for money? There are unlikely to be that many application which need the higher resolution.
By JamesD29 on 20 Mar 2012
... You took the words right out of my mouth! :^)
I have an (old) quad-core PC running Windows 7 pretty snappily which I'm considering replacing. I did think about a laptop, but am still debating making the switch to an iMac for my main machine. I've been looking at the iPad for a while now, but knew a new one was due, so held off buying one to see if it had a better screen (which it does).
As a device when out and about, I think the iPad would suit my needs pretty well (it's for personal use, rather than for work) so something lighter/smaller than a laptop is always welcome.
I may in fact get the iPad now and stick with my trusty PC as it's absolutely fine for what I want it to do, although I'm curious to see what this year's technology refresh for the iMac gives...
By mrmmm on 20 Mar 2012
I think the big questions to ask, before jumping is: how do you use your notebook?
Do you view everything full screen and not "multi-task"?
Do you type a lot?
For me, I spend 99% of my time viewing multiple windows - I do a lot of translations and research, which means that having multiple windows on my 1920x1080 screen are the first priority - which is why a tablet is a pretty useless device for me.
If, on the other hand, you spend most of your time in a single, full-screen window, then a tablet might be a good move.
By big_D on 20 Mar 2012
I'm just back from setting up some ipads for a friend: 2 ipad2s & a 3rd gen ipad.
Yes, if you look closely the new machine is certainly sharper, but I really had to look close to see the difference. For most people, I doubt that the improved resolution will make much difference.
Some applications will no doubt make good use of the display (I'm thinking medical, design, photo) but for the majority of people who will buy this to sofa-surf I just don't see the point (no pun intended).
I'd suggest saving some money & go the ipad2.
By bronven on 20 Mar 2012
As soon as the iPad 3 (sorry, new iPad) was announced, I went out and bought a 32gb wifi iPad 2 from Tesco for £389. Bargain.
Why the iPad 2 and not the new one? Well, it's not my main PC that I do all my work on, it's a coffee table gadget for picking up and reading Zite, or newspapers, checking what's on TV or occasionally playing a game. I'm sure others use it to a fuller extent than I.
Do I really need better megapixels in the camera? Not really, I've got a proper camera for that, which is less cumbersome. I can't see me taking video with an iPad going down a ski slope.
More pixels on the screen? The screenshots above look really impressive, but looking at my iPad 2, the pixel density is more than enough for reading stuff and playing games. I've just had to hold it a couple of inches from my face to actually see the individual pixels, and I've got perfect interpretive eyesight (with my contacts in!).
So the gadget freaks will go for it, and possibly some people who use it for graphic design, but as Mr Bayon says, the new iPad needs more memory to support the additional memory footprint of apps. And I suppose, my iPad will now get gradually more useless because of that with, in my view, very little benefit.
By MCunliffe on 20 Mar 2012
Laptop makers take note
Why can't we get decent screens in laptops sold in the UK? PCPro should make a point of never recommending a laptop with an HD display again now that Apple has shown how cheap an excellent display is.
By tirons1 on 20 Mar 2012
Tablets for Laptops?
I think very few people would find a tablet an adequate replacement for a laptop. Tablets are entertainment devices like TVs and Bluray players.
The most surprising thing about the review was the battery test result which suggests that the iPad3 battery discharges 25% quicker than the iPad2. Thicker, heavier and shorter battery life- what is the (Apple) world coming to?
I think the iPad2 at £329 hits the sweet spot for many and it's the tablet I recommend to most people when asked. For me, being embedded in the Google world makes Android tablets much more useful- the next big revolution is likely to happen when/if Kindle Fire launches over here at around £150.
By KevPartner on 20 Mar 2012
A phrase that is indeed overused, and misused.
I fail to see what the big deal is - the resolution is far greater than any competitor's, but how does that change the game? The article sounds somewhat partisan.
A significant change is Apple making it much harder to crack open for DIY repairs. They hope, no doubt, to increase revenue from failure - by forcing buyers to use expensive official repairers, and as a result, making repairs of pre-owned ipad3s non-economical, thus driving new sales.
By dubiou on 20 Mar 2012
A lot of fuss over nothing....
A higher resolution screen is hardly a "game changer".
For those that genuinely use a tablet then they're of use. For those, like the vast majority of my colleagues, that bought one based on the hype without thinking about how they'd use it - they're coffee coasters.
By CraigieDD on 20 Mar 2012
I take it you don't have kids. My iPad is a life saver. Watch movies in the car, apps for kids and easier to use. Skype for when I travel to talk to the family. I use mine for web surfing, reading emails (occasionally writing them) and entertainment. I have a 16Gb, no issues as I use my MacBook Pro to load what I need for the business trips. I use mine as a supplement to my main Macs (no I am not a "fanboy" and have been looking at Windows 8 for my next purchase - lets face it most of us outside of work use browsers more than specific programmes/apps) I have found mine to be a real bonus, no more lugging a laptop around on travels (don't need a laptop for work). I have said before I am a geek and Information is my business but for those that need to surf the web, manage photos and read emails - hell even know more people are dropping emails for in Facebook posting/messages or other IM's - tablets are perfect.
By roccoreid on 20 Mar 2012
I take it the review was for the wifi only version, as I didn't see any caveats about the fact that 4G on the new Ipad will not work in Europe.
By Duggie on 20 Mar 2012
HTTPS Proxy support Apple?
Coming from an Education point of view: I don't care about a better screen, what I'd like is HTTPS proxy support. Without it, using an iPad in school or business is a nightmare.
By altecsole on 20 Mar 2012
@dubiou/@CraigieDD: It's not just a higher resolution, it's so high it pushes the DPI well beyond the norms of images on the web. That means websites/apps/digital mags will need to improve the quality of their assets to match it. That's changing the game in my book. Not unlike the transition to HDTV a few years back.
@Duggie: It works as a normal 3G tablet over here, but that's not the huge let-down it might appear. Our 3G speeds are pretty fast in the grand scheme of things, so what the Americans are getting over 4G isn't actually much quicker. Why Apple didn't just call it 3G over here is another question entirely.
By DavidBayon on 20 Mar 2012
...Of course I mean theoretical 3G speeds. In reality we all know 3G can be painfully slow, no idea if 4G is the same over there.
By DavidBayon on 20 Mar 2012
Can I ask where you sourced your comparison photos? Are they from your own labs or supplied by Apple? The picture with the FA cup article looks ridiculous, I've never seen text like that on an ipad2!
By bronven on 20 Mar 2012
Tablet vs Laptop (There is room for both).
While the new screen does seem impressive, it is not enough to make me want to trade in my iPad 2. I've hit 40 and my eye sight is not what it was. I recently upgraded my iPhone 3GS to a 4S and did not find that the Retina screen suddenly made everything clearer.
On the subject of tablet vs laptop, I assume that most people on the PC Pro forums are computer professionals and therefore have more demanding uses for laptops than non-professionals. In that case a tablet is not a suitable replacement.
Most non-professionals that I know who own laptops use them to play on Facebook, send e-mails, watch videos, listen to music and browse the popular web sites. Those people may find that a tablet is a better option for them. It is certainly better for me because they are less likely to fill it with malware and expect me to fix it for them.
I use my iPad for the reasons stated above. It is more portable that a laptop, faster than a netbook and much easier to use on the sofa or in bed. When I need to do anything that is not good on a tablet, I switch to my laptop.
By ronwatson71 on 20 Mar 2012
I looked......then moved on
Been thinking about getting a tablet for a while (not iPad). Then i heard about the screen this interested me, would make a wonderful Photo viewer. So popped onto the Apple website. They want far to much for memory increases, no GPS on WiFi only version.
Still no memory card support etc etc etc. Oh Apple you want to rule the world, a couple of small changes and you could have it all.
By davidk1962 on 20 Mar 2012
Well I have the iPad 2 and after viewing the new iPad I decided that although the screen is 'nice' it wouldn't make a great difference to what I do on the iPad so I decided not to get one. I find it bizarre that you think it's a game changer
By TimoGunt on 20 Mar 2012
@TimoGunt: And as the review says, the core tablet experience remains similar so iPad 2 users can happily carry on as they were. If you're not tempted, that's fine.
It's not so much a game changer in what you'll do with the iPad; it's a game changer in what it forces content providers to do. The resolution of all apps will rise, but those on old iPads won't notice. That's fine. It's a personal preference. If it doesn't interest you now, one day down the line it will, you'll decide you want the better picture everyone else is seeing. It's HD TV all over again.
By DavidBayon on 20 Mar 2012
Item one. I'm over 50 and wont be able to see the improvement on such a small screen. Younger people can. = instant street cred with young people.
Item two. If you have a high resolution 30 inch monitor you can imediately see why high resolution screens are fantastic. = street cred with high end users.
Item three. The rest of the market - especially laptops - are in a race to the bottom with crappy overhyped 720p video screen resolution screens which have useless vertical resolution for displaying A4 or letter sized documents. We have noticed in the business world and are completely pissed off with our low resoluton screens. = thank goodness Apple have respect for our need for a decent screen height rather than the con of making us use video screens to do our work on. Apple dont rip off their users.
To summarise, Apple are the future and make the terrible experience of windows 8 foisted on us in our work environment on big screens seem like the filthy marketing con that it is.
p.s. I refuse to buy and dont own any Apple products because they are the new walled garden monoply to loath. Having said that they are doing something very clever here and its great!
By acoastwalker on 20 Mar 2012
I think having an ipad would be pretty, put in terms of functionality... there`s a lot to be desired.
I use a lot of multibrowsing games, files, etc.
That`s why i will buy a padfone, becose it wont be my working machine, but i will be using my phone with a bigger screen
By Clemente97 on 21 Mar 2012
Hot Hot Hot
I am hearing stories that the new ipad gets very hot in use. Anyone else?
By simplefruit on 21 Mar 2012
I think your school IT department is slightly prehistoric. Proxy servers are a 10 year old solution, content filtering firewall appliances have provided a transparent solution for many years.
By milliganp on 21 Mar 2012
16GB not enough
Just bought it and have now seen this review. I should have gone to 32GB as the kids games and other apps have nearly filled 2/3rds of the memory. So not much room for pictures, videos, magazines and music etc.
I like it a lot and the screen is gorgeous but must admit, to my shame, that I'm not sure how useful it is...
By malmoy on 21 Mar 2012
"That means websites/apps/digital mags will need to improve the quality of their assets to match it."
Hi David, thanks for getting back to us on this point. While your argument appears solid to begin with it falls apart on a number of fronts.
ISP's aren't going to upgrade their throughput just because of the ipad3, so increasing the resolution of images on a website is a non-starter at the moment.
SEO-wise, the speed your web page loads is one of the factors that influences your search results position. So adding higher resolution images will have a negative impact.
Lastly, pad's only make up a small percentage of the web browsing market at the moment. However, high resolution monitors have been around for donkeys giving even higher resolutions than this device. Yet, I don't see website developers rushing to put websites out at these huge resolutions. At the moment it's just not practical.
So for it to be a game changer it requires faster download speeds and faster hosting environments. Otherwise all it does is slow the experience. Therefore, on it's own it changes nothing.
However, I would say, that at this stage, the iPad3 is ahead of it's time. But then, so was betamax - and I bought one of those too.. ;-)
By CraigieDD on 21 Mar 2012
Fair point on bandwidth limitations, but you're misunderstanding the issue. It's not about resolution, it's about dpi.
Some monitors have higher resolutions than this, but they're spread out over 27in or 30in. The iPad crams a high resolution into a tiny 9.7in diagonal, so the dpi is extremely high. You don't have to make your website run natively at 2,048 x 1,536, you just have to use images of a good enough quality to look sharp at 200dpi or more, which most sites currently don't do.
By DavidBayon on 21 Mar 2012
Too Hot To Handle
Whats the position with it overheating? Is Apple recalling them all or will they give out free rubber bumpers?
By barrada on 21 Mar 2012
Whether this is a game changer really depends on how you use it. I have so many uses for my iPad and wouldn't be without it, but when it comes to my favourite use, using Flickr and editing and viewing photos, the screen on my 3rd generation iPad most certainly is a game changer for me. It really does make a massive difference.
By mattcooper1 on 21 Mar 2012
I have to disagree with your comments and agree with David on this.
This is a technology that is driven by consumers. Some people will market the high resolution and people will want it, see the uptake with HDTV. There is plenty of bandwidth around at the moment to deal with the increased graphic detail. I think we are currently in a position where the day to day CPU power and day to day bandwidth is more than the average person needs for their day to day activities (ignoring mobile where this is clearly an issue).
Since the launch of the iPad 3, anecdotal evidence from my office and friends is that this reaffirms that there is only one tablet solution in town. This is particularly the case to the non-technical person, which, lets be frank, is most of the world market. Whilst I disagree with some of what Apple does (particularly over storage and its walled garden) there's no denying this is a great piece of kit. As a family man and a technically literate individual I have found this to be one of my best purchases and echo the comments of roccoreid and ronwatson 71.
The only dilemma it has now forced on me is whether to progress down the apple route for the rest of my home equipment or whether to continue to manage the 'doesn't play well with others' issues it presents to non-Apple hardware.
By Mistermcee on 21 Mar 2012
Transparent filtering at the gateway is great if you're happy for a 'one size fits all' approach. What if you want to have some kind of differential filtering based on user groups; such as pupils and teachers? If you know of a solution that allows this, and doesn't require a proxy setting on the iPad then please let me know? We're currently looking at our Internet filtering, so any pointers appreciated.
By altecsole on 21 Mar 2012
Not a game changer
The iPad3 is not a game changer, in any way you want to classify "the game". The original iPad was a game changer, it created a new market and forced PC manufacturers to develop their own challenge to it. The iPad2 and iPad3 are just technical refinemens of the concept. In fact, given that the iPad3 lasts for 60% of the time of the iPad2, takes longer to charge (and, in reality, must be done so from the mains, so requires the mains charger to be lugged around), runs hotter and still has no storage expansion, I would argue it is a backward step (I can only see the difference in screen quality if the iPad2 and iPad3 are side-by-side in the shop). As a concept, tablet computing doesn't have any real innovation left (unless someone comes up with a 3d screen.....)
By ianreid99 on 21 Mar 2012
I'm surprised at the value score. Apple are still relatively unbeaten in this area of the market in regards to value, they have double the battery capacity (though, canceled out by the extra additions, but in terms of cost of components..), doubled the screen resolution, a better GPU and double the memory, and it is still the same price.
I assume Apple's pricing advantage comes from the fact they know for a fact they will sell tens upon tens of millions of these things, and can order components in massive amounts, and thus get the components cheaper.
Something that other manufacturers cannot do, not anywhere near the extent that Apple do.
I had an iPad 2 and upgraded to the new iPad for two reasons, one my old one was a 16GB model and wanted a 32GB system, and 2, I just really like the screen. Plus, i sold my iPad 2 for £280 - meaning I only spent £200 on upgrading.
Sure, the core experience has not changed much at all. But I do a LOT of consumption on the device and reading on it is such a joy now.
By QassimF on 21 Mar 2012
16GB comment spot on
I don't have music or video stored on my iPad2 and yet it is close to have used up all (?) the 16GB through:-
a) a couple of useful off-line (it's the WifI only version) reference tools (for Off-line Wiki and a map of Europe than can be zoomed in to street level)each using a couple of GBs
b) subscriptions to several magazines (PcPro; T3 for instance with the latter crazily large) and newspapers (some of which - Metro! - insist on downloading all the (previous 30 days?) copies you haven't yet saved onto your iPad so you can't even delete them when you've read them)
c) a couple of strategy games (Ticket-To-Ride; Carcassone)
d) several Kindle books
None of b) c) or d apart from T3 issues are particularly large but as always a lot of small things add up to become a rather large amount and the 16GB limit is near.
I'm not complaining because I bought the cheapest model because I was not sure if it would get only the limited usage my Kindle had got until then, but the fact that the 16GB model of the new iPad might well prove tight on space is anyway a very valid point.
By MikeW2 on 22 Mar 2012
Damned if you don't....
People would have been moaning if Apple hadn't increased the screen resolution. Haven't seen one yet but I am interested to see how it compares to the iPad 2 screenwise. Disappointing Apple haven't increased the amount of storage though.
By russell_g on 22 Mar 2012
Apple's retail genius?
I went into the Covent Garden Apple Store today to see this for myself. There were 8 "new iPads" on 2 tables under a "The New iPad" sign. Each had an iPad 2 beside displaying information. About 8 other tables had iPad 2 with iPad 2 information displays showing information about "The New iPad"! Since the new iPad looks identical to the iPad 2, confusion reigns!
During the time I spent playing with "The New iPad" numerous people had a quick play on the iPad 2 information display mistaking it for the new model! And I also saw many people thinking the other tables had new iPads as well because that is what the adjacent information panel said!
Oh, and if you want to really annoy a "genius", refer to the iPad 2 as "The Old iPad"!
By JohnAHind on 22 Mar 2012
The overheating story turns out to be nonsense !
CNET in the USA have tested the new iPad and found that although it runs a little warmer than the iPad 2, it doesn't hot enough to be an issue. They also say it runs far cooler than a typical laptop.
I've looked at several of them in an Apple Store and despite them having been switched on all day, with many eager hands trying them out, there's nothing to note other than a mildly warm spot towards one corner on the back.
It is certainly nothing like my Wife's Windows 7 laptop, which will roast your knees if you keep it on your lap for more than 20 minutes or so.
By GoneWithTheWind on 23 Mar 2012
Reluctant convert gives in to monkey brain
Thanks to a month without bills I caved in this week and picked up an iPad3.
The rot initially set in when I gave up trying to make my mother comfortable with computers and bought her an iP2 a couple of months ago.
I immediately realised that (a) there is something incredibly seductive about about a touch interface on this scale and (b) Apple are a really annoying company who give with one hand and take with the other. I love the interface, but have to hold my nose to live within that restrictive ecosystem, and without the features you take for granted on normal devices (USB/SD/etc).
Having seen the new screen I am excited. Not for the iPad, because I think that while the resolution is immediately impressive in some ways, it's also somewhat wasted on a screen this size (though it does make a wonderful modern "slide" viewer). But imagine what a kick in the pants this might eventually be for the 1080p-fixated computer industry.
I can't wait for affordable panels which are twice 1080p resolution in the same way the iP3 is twice the iP2's.
I suspect I may have to wait though. For quite a while. But this is a start. :-)
PS I noticed a warm spot compared to the iP2 pretty quickly. It doesn't worry me now, but I wonder if there's potential for this to affect the battery's longevity? I think the chances of these batteries being cost effective to replace are as slim as my chances of convincing myself I did need this iPad really, and that it's not just a bit of sci-fi gadgetry for the perpetual schoolboy. ;-)
By Andrew_McP on 24 Mar 2012
PC Pro on new iPad
Oh, the irony. I read this review in the new edition on my new iPad. The new screen really shows up the poor quality of the scan! Do you guys have any plans to improve the quality?
By pauldonson on 16 Apr 2012
Ha, was wondering when someone would point that out! Just to let everyone know, we have submitted a high-res update to the App Store, just awaiting approval.
By DavidBayon on 16 Apr 2012
PC Pro on new iPad
Great news, thanks David. Will I get an update to the one I already purchased?
By pauldonson on 16 Apr 2012
To be completely honest, I don't know. The inner workings of Newsstand are a mystery to me so I wouldn't want to promise anything.
Guess we'll find out when the update goes live.
By DavidBayon on 16 Apr 2012
The Accessories Crowd--very helpful
You recommended the Tuff-Luv case/keyboard for iPad and I looked for it theaccessoriescrowd site. It is a US layout board and I could not recall how easy it is to change to UK--or not. Helpful chat box hovering so I typed in my query and got an IMMEDIATE response plus an e-mail follow up a few days later from James Bennett, with the title of managing director. It denotes a high level of commitment to customer service to have that chat box in the first place and to get help from the MD is another level entirely. Kudos to theaccessoriescrowd!!!
By declanfox on 15 Jun 2012
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