Apple's anxiously-awaited third generation iPad was introduced in San Francisco today, with a host of upgrades and additions including a bright new Retina display driven by an A5X chip with quad-core graphics, a 5-megapixel iSight camera and now, full 1080p HD video capture capability. With both Wi-Fi-only and 4G models, the new iPad 3 can connect to numerous speedy networks such as the 4G LTEs offered by AT&T and Verizon, and it still offers up to 10 hours of battery life.
The iPad 3's new Retina display boasts 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution (four times the number offered by iPad 2 screens and more than a million greater than HD TV offers). At 264 pixels per inch (ppi), the density is so great our eyes are unable to discern individual pixels when viewed from a normal distance. The result? Video, images, web pages and text appear especially sharp and realistic. A 44 percent increase in color saturation also enhances the viewing experience - Apple says the display simply looks deeper, richer and more vivid than that offered by previous models. With its now full 1080p HD video resolution, viewing movies on the iPad 3 is also appreciably improved.
To augment the Retina display's functionality, Apple designed its new A5X chip with double the graphics performance of the previous A5. This welcome upgrade better balances performance and power efficiency to ensure a smoother response from the Multi-Touch interface, while improving immersive gameplay and still offering all-day battery life.
Grabbing great video and stills will be noticeably easier with the new image-stabilized 5-megapixel iSight camera. Its advanced optics, coupled with backside illumination, will allow decent imaging, even in low-light conditions. Budding photogs can also use the newly announced iPhoto for iPad app to edit, enhance and share still shots with others - which is likely to take a bite out of Adobe's sales of its recently released PhotoShop Touch app.
To make the iPad 3 more "world ready," its Wi-Fi + 4G with built-in next-gen 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) offers enhanced support for rapid networks globally, including HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) - however Australians should note that the iPad 3 isn't compatible with Telstra's 4G network. Additionally, both CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) iPad users now have access to international roaming.
Boosted upload and download speeds are designed to make short work of pulling down graphics-heavy websites and emails with large attachments. With an optional supporting data plan, a feature called Personal Hotspot can be used to connect up to 5 other devices with your iPad via fast network connections using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB.
With iOS 5.1, which Apple claims to be the "world's most advanced mobile operating system," the iPad 3 sports a number of new functions and improvements: a reconfigured Camera app with a video stabilizer; support for English, French, German and Japanese dictation; compatibility with numerous iCloud services e.g. iTunes in the Cloud, Photo Stream and Documents in the Cloud; and extensive updates to iMovie, GarageBand and iPhoto to name a few.
In iPhoto, Multi-Touch will allow the easy sorting of photos and image retouching using fingertip brushes and iCloud photo journal sharing. In iMovie, you'll now be able to generate Hollywood-style trailers while recording HD video, and GarageBand will now come with a feature called Jam Session, which will allow a group of friends to play instruments and record music live while wirelessly connected on their iOS devices. Additionally, the iPad 3 can run almost every one of the 585,000 apps sold by the App Store, which adds an incredible amount of functionality to its already appreciable capability.
The bigger internal battery in the new iPad also results in slightly different dimensions and weight compared to the previous models. The Wi-Fi model weighs 652 g (1.44 lb) and the Wi-Fi + 4G 662 g (1.46 lb), compared to the iPad 2's 601 g (1.33 lb) to 607 g (1.34 lb). Dimension-wise it is 9.4 mm (0.37 in) thick to the iPad 2's 8.8 mm (0.34 in) - meaning anyone upgrading might also have to shell out for a new case, which is sure to please the hordes of third party case manufacturers. However, the width and height of the device are the same as the iPad 2, so Apple's Smart Cover and many slide in folio-style cases will also work fine with the iPad 3.
In all, there appears to be quite a lot to like in this new iteration of what, to some folks, in only two years, has already become an essential device for connected living. It's safe to assume that Apple will continue to grab a major share of the tablet market with their stylish and capable new iPad 3.
For Wi-Fi + 4G equipped models (either AT+T or Verizon), suggested retail is $629 (16GB), $729 (32GB) and $829 for the 64GB model. The iPad 3 will also be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, UK and the US Virgin Islands on Friday, March 16.
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning