The new iPad, first impressions

iBrothers today grabbed a couple of new iPads to replace an iPad2 and an original iPad. While specifications are all good and fine, we thought it would be worth sharing our own impressions for people considering an upgrade to the new iPad.

Physical characteristics

The new iPad is almost the same as the iPad2 although it is fractionally larger and heavier (iPad 2 3G – depth 8.8mm, weight 613gms – new iPad 3G/LTE Depth 9.4mm, weight 662gms). More noticeable is when you are stepping away from the original iPad which weighs in a hefty (by comparison) 730gms (Wi-Fi + 3G model) and a depth of 13.4mm.

While it doesn’t seem all that much, holding the devices for a prolonged amount of time does highlight the differences between the iPad2/ new iPad and the original iPad.

With perhaps some exceptions, existing peripherals and cases that work with the iPad2 should also work with the new iPad.

Speed

Coming from the original iPad, the speed is just astounding. Apps load incredibly fast and there is no sign of the sluggishness that had been becoming more apparent as our iPad had aged. Jumping between apps is just a delight with the new iPad giving the feeling that the device is well ahead of what you are trying to do as opposed to having to wait while the original had to catch up.

When comparing to the iPad2 however, the speed increase isn’t all that apparent. There is a definite feel of it being spritelier but nowhere near the extreme increase you can see from the original iPad.

One of the unannounced upgrades is the increase to 1GB of RAM (up from 512mb on the iPad2 and a paltry 256mb on the original iPad). While we have heard mention that this memory increase is mainly due to dealing with the increased graphics, we have noticed that flicking through multiple opened tabs in safari for example, doesn’t invoke the normal refresh seen in both the iPad2 and original iPad. Clearly some of this increase in memory is finding it’s way for system use which again, makes for a more responsive feel than what the improved processor would have provided on it’s own.

Graphics and display

The difference in clarity was not immediately noticeable in a significant way; that is to say, looking at the home screen did look better but hardly worth upgrading for. After doing some side-by-side comparisons though, the difference between the two becomes definitely noticeable making it difficult to go back to the original iPad/ iPad2.

After restoring the backup from our original iPad, we opened some photos taken on a DSLR camera and were blown away with the differences. Not only are images on the new iPad sharper with more detail noticeable, the colours stand out more and pictures look brighter and more vibrant.

Updates for apps now taking advantage of the retina display have also been coming in thick and fast. One of our favourites is Reeder, which allows you to read RSS feeds. The definition of text is very noticeable and we can see where this would also be a welcome update across other optimised apps.

Firing up some games, which have gone through the upgrade process for the retina display, you can definitely notice the increase in detail. Loading Infinity Blade 2 on the original iPad (when it finally loads) demonstrates the differences quite clearly. Not only are elements rendered with much higher clarity, the speed of the game is also much more fluid and responsive on the new iPad.

Camera

Obviously there is no camera on the original iPad but the upgrade to the camera on the new iPad vs the iPad2 is welcome. We shot a quick test in the low light conditions of our office and noticed less grain in the shot. We also took a photo of the same subject with an iPhone 4S. There is little doubt that the iPhone’s camera still produces a better photo than the new iPad.

As you can see below, the physical size of the photos taken on each device differs too. The comparison shots have been obviously scaled down to fit within your browser however, the ratio within the first set of images is spot on to give you an idea of the size of the images respective to the device they were taken on.

Ratio: From left to right; iPad2, new iPad, iPhone 4S

Photos scaled to the size of the iPad2: From left to right; iPad2, new iPad, iPhone 4S

3G

One of the biggest disappointments was to discover that the new iPad was not going to be compatible with Telstra’s 4G network, although it is compatible with Telstra’s DC network. As our office is located in a DC area, we fired up each of the iPads with the same Telstra sim to see what differences could be noticed between the three models.

It should be noted that trying to achieve a consistant speedtest with the original iPad was problematic. In some instances we would see download speeds recorded at over 4Mbps only to have the next test barely rate 1Mbps. The aggregated test results used were taken at it’s most consistant.

Modem

Connection Type

Download (Mbps)

Upload (Mbps)

Ping (ms)

iPad (original)

3G

2.64

.23

269

iPad2

3G

3.17

1.66

75

new iPad

DC

21.92

3.33

65

The difference in speeds on Telstra’s DC network is noticeable. While the download speed is great, the upload speed, when sending larger photos for instance, would be well received.

Conclusion

It’s been this way for a while now with iOS devices. While each iteration of device does improve from the last, a two year upgrade cycle will actually give you a bigger payoff. That is not to say an owner of an iPad2 shouldn’t upgrade but for those still hanging onto their original iPads, the new iPad offers huge improvements to the entire experience and if you spend any serious time with your original iPad, it would be highly recommended to consider taking the plunge. Owners of the iPad2 however would most likely be just as happy to hang onto it for another year.

Saying that, if you do a lot of reading or photo work on your iPad2, the retina display on the new iPad could be a compelling enough reason to upgrade.

As far as we are concerned, for price, performance and ecosystem, right now the new iPad still blows every other tablet out of the water and Apple have done a great job building on the success of the iPad line with the new model.

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