Now that the new iPad has been available for about eight hours (in the eastern US, anyway), reviews of Apple's latest magical tablet are starting to roll in, and they're largely very positive.
At present I don't have an iPad of my own to review - my trip to the Apple Store this morning was, alas, for information and not to make a purchase - but those who have gotten up close and personal with the new iPad seem to be pretty impressed. Read on to see what some of them are saying.
The Retina Display
Everybody loves the retina display. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. When the retina display debuted with the iPhone 4 in 2010, it wowed critics and users alike. Personally, I thought it couldn't really be that much of an improvement. Then I got my own iPhone 4 and yeah, it really was that much of an improvement. The same goes for the new iPad. Cult of Mac calls the retina display "something to behold," and says that the colors on the new iPad's screen are "beautiful without being lurid." The image below (courtesy of Cult of Mac) shows the two side-by-side:
David Pogue of The New York Times points out that the iPad's retina display is the "sharpest ever on a mobile device" (though technically the iPhone 4 and 4S have a slightly higher pixel density), and says that HD movies and retina display-optimized apps look "jaw-droppingly good."
We've already talked about the iPad's new, massively upgraded iSight camera. The iPad 2's camera set the bar almost painfully low, so the new iPad didn't have far to go to beat it.That being so, the new iPad's camera is not just a massive improvement over its predecessor, it appears to be a solid competitor to the cameras found in many mobile phones. At 5 megapixels it is roughly the equal of the camera in the iPhone 4, though it falls well short of the 8 megapixel camera in the iPhone 4S.
Jason Snell of Macworld tested the new iPad's camera and found it to be "the best camera of any tablet device," and similar in image quality to the iPhone 4S and Asus Transformer Prime. Additionally, it beat not only the iPad 2 (no great accomplishment), but also Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1. Check out the comparison below:
This is the other major feature of the new iPad. With the new iPad, Apple finally joins the 4G revolution. What's more, by launching a 4G iPad now, Apple has all but confirmed we'll be seeing a 4G iPhone later this year. Sprint, Verizon and AT&T both have 4G LTE networks, and are expanding them all the time. T-Mobile has announced a 4G network of their own, as well.
Unfortunately, 4G LTE technology in smartphones has tended to be a bit power-hungry. The trade-off for the blazing fast data speeds attainable over 4G is usually a shorter battery life. Except Apple has managed to get around that problem and give the new iPad a battery life equal to that of the iPad 2 (it's worth pointing out that people marveled at the iPad 2's battery life when it came out a year ago).
As David Pogue points out, the addition of 4G improves almost every aspect of the mobile internet experience. Improved video playback, faster app downloads, and better tethering (on Verizon's network only, for now). And yet that increase in speed doesn't translate to a loss in battery life. Pogue managed to get 9 hours of use out of his new iPad's battery.
What They Didn't Like
That being said, not everything about the iPad met with reviewers' approval. One of the big complaints deals with non-HD video and apps that haven't been updated for retina display yet. John Gruber of Daring Fireball calls these apps "passable, but annoying." Web sites and images in iBooks suffer a similar fate. When placed on the super-sharp display of the new iPad, they wind up looking "slightly blurry." He concludes that "the iPad display is so good that it shows, like no device before it, just how crummy most images on the web are."
Another problem is storage space. The images required to give an app retina display-quality graphics must, as you might expect, be extremely high-resolution. That means the image files have to be bigger, which means that apps optimized for retina display have to be larger than those that aren't. That, in turn, means that apps will take up more space on your iPad than they used to, even if you don't have a new iPad. As Jason Snell of Macworld points out, this increase in space is something that can come back to bite users who buy a 16 GB iPad thinking that they won't need more space.
FInally, as Cult of Mac points out, keeping the same battery life as the iPad 2 in the face of battery-killing technologies like 4G and the retina display comes with its own trade-off: the new iPad takes longer to charge than its predecessor.
The Bottom Line
Despite these few complaints, the reviews of the new iPad are overwhelmingly positive. Jason Snell says that "on nearly every front, the third-generation iPad is markedly better than its predecessor." David Pogue calls it "better-looking, better integrated and more consistently designed than any of its rivals." Cult of Mac calls it "the best iPad yet," and, more importantly, "the most futuristic iPad to date" (emphasis theirs).
All in all, it seems like Apple's new iPad is already a big hit. What do you think of it? Are there any pros or cons that we missed? Sound off in the comments.