Wednesday, March 21, 2012

iPad (3rd Gen) Review

I've been trying to conjure the right words for the new Apple iPad since I got mine last Friday. There are already a bunch of reviews out there raving about how awesome the screen is, so I'll try to make this review a little different.

I think it's a worrying trend that Apple's iPad 1, only two years old, can't run all the iLife apps. If you own an iPad 1, and you feel like you're the victim of planned obsolescence, you aren't alone. Feeling like you have to upgrade only two years later to get full functionality, and access to apps and features, is pretty discouraging.

Worried about being a future victim of planned obsolescence or artificial scarcity? The new iPad (3rd Generation) will probably have better longevity because it will runs all the iLife apps at release, and has the new retina display. It very well could be a device with a 3-5+ year lifespan like an iPod or a MacBook.

As a tool and content consumption device, the new iPad has some features that the iPad 1 doesn't.


I use this application all the time to read full color PDFs that have hundreds of pages. The original iPad was sluggy and displayed each page at a lower resolution that the document was probably scanned in at. Reading such documents on the new iPad is a joy and the performance far exceeds that of the iPad.

If I did print or design professionally and wanted to have something to show samples to clients, the new iPad would be a must have tool. The full color pages of my PDF format books look as good as the real thing, sometimes better depending on the light conditions. Page turns aren't instant, but quick enough that it doesn't test my not-so-considerable patience.

Pages, Numbers, & Keynote

I didn't think I would find the retina display that useful when using business or text generation apps. I was wrong. Using these apps with the new iPad is like going from an old CRT monitor to an Apple Cinema Display. When you have to stare at a screen for hours editing or generating text, there is something to be said about the display and how it affects your stamina.

The latency of the soft keyboard seems better too, allowing me to type a little more quickly onscreen than I did with the iPad 1. I can't really explain or quantify why I feel that way, it's just a better experience. Also, the text you create is crisp and very readable. When editing, I prefer my new iPad to anything else now because of how easy on the eyes the display is.


There are only a few retina optimized games out there. I've spent a couple of hours with Infinity Blade II and Mass Effect: Infiltrator. I think once more games come out, this will be the mobile gaming platform to own for power gamers. I still play Ultima Underworld 1 in a DOS box, so I wasn't as dazzled as some. However, if mobile gaming platforms are your thing, the new iPad is your device.

Some of my old games, purchased for the iPad 1, run a little wonky. Seriously, it made me all kinds of nostalgic, but it wasn't to be unexpected. I still have a 1997 laptop to play old games. It's just the price of doing business.

There's been some talk that the iPad generates a large amount of heat when running games for an extended period of time. I did my own tests, both on battery and AC power, and didn't find this to be the case. That's not to say that it stays perfectly cool, but the heat is negligible. User experience in this regard probably varies depending on a number of variables, and maybe I just lucked out.

Yet-to-be Retina Enabled Apps

Most of them aren't so garish to be rendered unusable, but a few are. I've had a mostly favorable experience so far. Microsoft's OneNote app, for instance, looks fine and works great. Their SkyDrive app needs a hug, but I'll save that for a different review.

The short term solution seems to be loading the iPhone retina display capable version, if available. If you are looking for a reason to wait, this could qualify. Waiting for developers to upgrade to the new retina display shouldn't take too long though.

LTE 4G vs. WiFi

I took my iPad around to a half dozen different places that had public WiFi and had no connectivity problems. Also, the new iPad seems to have a pretty good range, as good or better than the iPad 1. No complaints in that regard.

I bought WiFi because I didn't have any faith there will be decent 4G in my area in the near future, and I don't travel that much. Virtually everywhere I go has WiFi except my favorite Vietnamese Resteraunt. I'm generally too busy eating anyway.

There aren't a lot of cities with real 4G service. Do your research before buying an 4G version with any expectation you'll get LTE speeds. As I write this, I don't think AT&T is supporting the WiFi Hotspot functionality, and if that's part of the reason for your purchase, make sure you get the Verizon equipped device instead. AT&T only made their press release a week ago, and things might change in that regard. They always do.


If you're perfectly happy with your iPad 1 or 2, and use it primarily to consume content, I think you could easily wait another year to upgrade without missing out on much. It'll take the developer community some time to get their applications up to speed with the new retina display, and the next iPad will come into the field already good to go in that regard.

For those of us who use the iPad as part of their professional workflow and log more than 500+ hours a year on the device, the new iPad is a good buy for the perfomance increase and the display upgrade. For reference, I upgraded from an iPad 1, buying a new Wifi-only, 64GB iPad in Black.

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