Apple's New iPad: A Hands-On Review

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-03-20

Apple's New iPad: A Hands-On Review

Once I got my new iPad into my hands on the day they went on sale, March 16, I was eager to take it back to the office and put it through its paces. After all, the brief experience at the Apple Store was hardly enough to get any appreciation for the Retina Display, the faster processor or, for that matter, the 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity.

However, there were a couple of high-priority tasks. For example, I had to charge the battery. The iPad was delivered with about a half charge.

So I took the iPad back to the lab and put it on the table where the charging hookups are located, and let it soak up electricity. After some time, the new tablet was fully charged.

The first thing I found when I started using the device was that the backup from Apple's iCloud wasn't really complete. Some of my apps, but not all, had been transferred. Some music, but not all, was transferred. None of my Amazon Kindle books made the transfer. Of the apps that did transfer, five had updates, mostly so they could maximize the use of the high-resolution display. So I had to sync the iPad with my Microsoft Windows 7 desktop computer so that all of the stuff that didn't make it from the iCloud backup would get transferred.

This took long enough that I waited until the next morning€”March 17€”to activate the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE account.

Despite the impression that activation on the Website would be easy, it wasn't. In fact, the person behind the "Chat" button told me that I couldn't activate the iPad on the site. I'd have to call a toll-free number and do it that way. By the time the process was done, I'd spent another hour getting the iPad fully functional.

Finally, I sat down with the new iPad to run it through its paces.

The first thing I checked was my collection of photos that I'd transferred to the original iPad some time ago. The pictures weren't there, so once again I had to head back to the computer€”this time to explicitly move the photos. For whatever reason, the preferences that told iTunes to transfer photos became unset for the new iPad.

One more sync, and that was done.

Breathtaking Display


Finally, I got to look through my collection of photos that I'd taken for artistic reasons. I didn't bother to transfer the thousands of news photos I'd taken over the years because I don't care if they're in high resolution or not. But for my personal photos, I always used the good Nikon digital SLR and the good Nikon lenses, and the image quality is very high.

On the new iPad the quality was breathtaking.

I had a photo of a luna moth that had landed on my office door a year or so ago, and it had stayed there long enough that I was able to set up the camera for a perfect, full-frame close-up. On the new iPad each of the nearly microscopic hairs was clearly visible; I could see the scales on the wings. The colors were vibrant.

Another photo was of an emerging fiddlehead fern freshly entering the sunlight on its first spring morning. Every detail was as clear as it had been when I viewed the photo on my production monitor. I went from one photo to another, and each showed clearly how exceptional the new display really was.

Then I tried to look at some ebooks, but found that the Kindle software hadn't found its books. Fortunately the iBooks software had, and the text was so clear and crisp that it seemed printed on the screen.

Even more notable, the aviation software I use could now be expanded to the limits of the device and remained crisp. With the original iPad, the largest magnifications would descend into fuzziness.

I tried video conferencing using Apple FaceTime and Skype. The iPad produced better results with Skype than any of my computers, although when the person on the other end had crummy equipment, it still looked crummy.

The faster A5X processor is surprisingly obvious. I'd expected only marginal improvements given the necessity of supporting the greater screen resolution, but that wasn't the case. Activities that were processor-dependent are noticeably faster. Things that depend on the Internet are not really affected.

Considering that the new version of the iPad costs exactly the same as previous iPads, there's no question that it's worth the cost. It's also worth the cost to upgrade from a first-generation iPad. If you have an iPad 2, on the other hand, the answer depends on what you actually use the device for. If you need the higher resolution or if you use apps that are processor-intensive, then it's probably worth it. If all you're going to do is browse the Internet, you're unlikely to notice any difference.


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