Apple has pretty much kept the design the same, which should mean that most of the accessories will work on the new unit. This includes Apple’s magnetic Smart Covers and quite a few of the cases, provided they’re not form-hugging.
Size and weight are still roughly the same, with only 0.6mm and 50 grams added to the new model iPads, bringing the thickness to 9.4mm across the range and the weight to 652 grams (WiFi model) and 662 grams (WiFi/3G).
On the new iPad, you’ll still find the ports and singular button of the iPad2. From the single home button on the front face to the volume button, mute/lock switch, 3.5mm headphone jack, and 30 pin iPod connector, it’s all here. The same rear speaker is also present on the new iPad.
Like past generations, Apple is releasing the new iPad in six variations: 16/32/64GB WiFi, and 16/32/64GB WiFi/3G.
While Apple has updated the iPad, the feel, design, and usability hasn’t been changed whatsoever. In fact, it’s still one of the easiest tablets to use; you just pick it up, turn it on, and start tapping and swiping the screen. You might notice that when you pick it up for the first time there’s slightly more heft to this new one, but the extra 50 grams is hardly an issue.
The addition of a high resolution screen is easily noticed once you begin surfing web pages or reading books. Movies add to this, with Full 1080p HD content looking absolutely astonishing on the high resolution screen. There’s just so much visible detail that it’s almost surreal.
The only downside to this is that full HD movies display in letterbox format, meaning there are black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. This is because the new iPad’s screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than the 16:9 of many movies so it can’t fill up the entire display. However, you can still zoom into the movie to fill more of the screen, but this does crop a bit of detail from the left and right of the movie.
One of the key additions to the new iPad is the inclusion of 4G ‘LTE’ connectivity, a form of mobile broadband that can achieve very high upload and download speeds in excess of what most home wired broadband connections can manage.
For Australia, however, the new iPad uses 4G LTE only on specific spectrums, and none of these are currently on offer with Australia’s sole 4G offering provided by Telstra.
While this means there’s no 4G LTE connection available to the new iPad in Australia at the moment, the new tablet does feature dual-channel 3G (DC-HSDPA) connectivity, which is still an improvement over the 3G speeds the iPad 2 is capable of.
When we tested how fast the new iPad could transfer information from Telstra’s NextG network, we were very impressed with the 21Mbps maximum downlink speed achievable from our Woolloomooloo office – and this is actually faster than our office’s ADSL2+ wired connection. All we needed to do was take an existing Telstra 3G iPad micro-sim and plug it into the new iPad, and the new speeds were instantly achievable, with no need to contact Telstra and sign up for a different plan.
So while the new iPad doesn’t take advantage of current Australian 4G standards, performance is certainly not poor. Also, at some point, one or more of the Australian telcos may offer a 4G LTE service that is compatible with the new iPad.
The new iPad’s rear camera captures high-resolution still photos and 1080p Full HD video, which greatly improves on standards in the iPad 2. The optics have been notably ramped up here, with a wider lens capable of shots in lower light, a requirement no doubt thanks to Apple’s lack of an LED flash on the back of the iPad.
Photos taken on the new iPad demonstrate much higher quality than the previous model. The quality is closer to what a premium smartphone is capable of, and a real contrast to the lower quality images captured via the iPad 2’s rear-facing camera. Also, with the combination of its Retina display – and new or upgraded iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band and iWork applications – the new iPad is fast becoming an excellent device for creating content, not just viewing it.