The Complete iPad 3 Review: Retina Display, A5X, 4G LTE, And Camera

The New iPad: Making Life Hard For The Competition, Again

A new, more powerful graphics processor, the high-res Retina display, a better rear-facing camera, and 4G LTE mobile broadband networking beef up what The New iPad can do. Apple chose to more aggressively pile on features instead of chasing after something smaller, thinner, lighter, or faster.

Despite nit-picking aspects of design, criticizing certain functionality trade-offs, and admonishing the lack of Apple cleverness in video output, we have to acknowledge the iPad 3's impact. It once again alters expectations of all other tablets that emerge from here on out. Why? A fabulous high-resolution display facilitates the visual impact needed further the purpose of a touch-sensitive personal computing device. All other tablet vendors will unquestionably scramble, now, to catch up.

Typically, you're looking at a tablet from less than a foot away. At that distance, the iPad 3's improved color fidelity and higher resolution present a significant usability advantage. Its incredible detail and gamut performance simply blow away the competition. Rendering 66% of the AdobeRGB 1998 and 94% of the sRGB gamut, Apple's latest tablet unquestionably helps shape the future of tablets.

Manufacturers working on Android-based tablets need to reconsider their positions. Price and a flexible operating system are both still important differentiators. However, models geared toward the premium space need to put a more significant emphasis on image quality. Moving forward, we think that Samsung is the vendor to watch. Already a leader in creating innovative display technology, the company has the contract to manufacture Apple's Retina displays.

Last year, Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 debuted to much fanfare. However, only a few enthusiasts understood that Samsung’s SuperPLS panel played a key role in what came to be known as one of the best-looking tablets. Revisiting our benchmarks, SuperPLS is what enabled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to render 76% of the sRGB gamut (~63% of AdobeRGB 1998). The Galaxy Tab 10.1 was good enough to supplant the iPad 2 with a 10% lead in image quality—and Samsung didn't have to increase pixel density to do it. Even today, the Galaxy Tab's display remains the top competition for iPad 3. Although Samsung's tablet offers one-third as many pixels, it only falls behind 23% in sRGB performance (5% in AdobeRGB 1998). For now.

Does all of that make Apple's new iPad the world’s ultimate tablet? Yes—and no. The rear-facing camera upgrade yields great results, and 4G LTE is a clear benefit. But very few of us purchase tablets specifically for those features (though the Verizon-flavored iPad 3 comes highly recommended if you need wireless hotspot capabilities).

Our chief complaint about the iPad 3, if we had to pick one, is its weight, necessarily greater as a result of a larger battery that services more power-hungry hardware. Apple was forced to boost the iPad 3's battery pack capacity by 70%, making the finished product 10% heavier than its predecessor. By no means does the extra heft counteract the iPad 3's advances, but it does remind us a little of the first-gen iPad when we hold it in our hands.

In many ways, the iPad 3 is two steps forward and one back. Apple's image quality gains are impressive, as are the other feature additions. If you own an iPad or iPad 2, you have to decide if you want to pay the "Apple tax" yet again for an improved model that weighs more than its predecessor. If not, then the weight issue might not be an issue at all, and you can enjoy the most advanced tablet available without worrying about what came before.

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  • aicom
    Tomfreaklol FAIL hard when I see keyboard are displayed on TV as well despite being docked and to make thigns worst one still need to carry the adapter around to plug HDMI......

    +1 to the keyboard thing. But remember that most tablets (all?) don't have full size HDMI so you probably need a dongle 99% of the time anyway.
    13
  • alchemy69
    "Typically, you're looking at a tablet from less than a foot away"

    Really?
    11
  • confish21
    its cool if I lick my finger for page turning right?
    11
  • Other Comments
  • tomfreak
    lol FAIL hard when I see keyboard are displayed on TV as well despite being docked and to make thigns worst one still need to carry the adapter around to plug HDMI......
    -6
  • confish21
    Really a solid tablet. Just wish the adapter and outrageous bills could disappear... Great Review!

    100 degrees is damn hot but I think the results are justified.
    4
  • confish21
    its cool if I lick my finger for page turning right?
    11
  • hardcore_gamer
    I'm waiting for an x86- Windows 8 tablet.
    6
  • aicom
    Tomfreaklol FAIL hard when I see keyboard are displayed on TV as well despite being docked and to make thigns worst one still need to carry the adapter around to plug HDMI......

    +1 to the keyboard thing. But remember that most tablets (all?) don't have full size HDMI so you probably need a dongle 99% of the time anyway.
    13
  • tomfreak
    HDMI port is not very thick, I still wonder whats keeping them from putting in on tablet.
    2
  • Maziar
    Great article! very detailed.
    -1
  • aicom
    TomfreakHDMI port is not very thick, I still wonder whats keeping them from putting in on tablet.

    The port isn't all that's needed. There's also a bit of hardware around it for the socket that makes it a tad thicker and a stretch to fit in the chasis of tablets.
    1
  • alchemy69
    "Typically, you're looking at a tablet from less than a foot away"

    Really?
    11
  • tomfreak
    aicomThe port isn't all that's needed. There's also a bit of hardware around it for the socket that makes it a tad thicker and a stretch to fit in the chasis of tablets.
    looks like we gonna wait wide adoption for mini display port for TV then.
    2
  • bustapr
    more than 5hrs to charge. thats not to my liking. the transformer prime was the only battery life vs charge time tablet I saw.
    3
  • Augray37
    The display is 9.7", not 10.1".
    1
  • cknobman
    Alchemy69"Typically, you're looking at a tablet from less than a foot away"Really?


    Yeah I thought that comment was bunk too. Typically I use my tablet 1-2 feet away as less that 1 foot away would have the thing shoved up in my face too much and not give me any arm reach to operate the device properly.

    As for the display in the iPad3 I went to the apple store and looked at it side by side with the iPad2. The colors look great but the super high pixel density was not as big of a difference as these reviews made it out to be.

    The biggest things I noticed when comparing iPad2 and 3 side by side was the increased thickness and weight. Those 2 factors were enough for me to want to choose the iPad2, especially if I could get it a little cheaper than the iPad 3.
    3
  • mcd023
    I am curious, was it just a reduction in pixel size that made the higher gamut? that doesn't really make sense to me. Does anyone have more info?
    1
  • nycnut
    The data plan graphic is WRONG! Verizon offers 2GB vs ATTs 3GB for the same $30. Check your facts...
    -3
  • hoofhearted
    I am not a fanboy of either camp. I have a tf prime and just got the ipad 3. I just wish apple would put a friggin sd slot. Watching my dvd collection while at the gym on the eliptical machine is a must and I am not fond of jumping though hoops to swap content in and out.

    I also am curious about who will get the gaming win (more depends on where the devs go):
    android tegra3, ipad3, vita, 3ds, or maybe microsoft will pull a rabbit out of their hat with win8.
    1
  • badtaylorx
    damn....i dont come here for apple news.....
    -5
  • jamesjones_det
    I'm not supporting and/or dissing the iPad or Tom's hardware but technically there is a "wireless" option with AirPlay and an Apple TV or Mac.

    I'm just saying if we are supposed to be a technology site we should be sure the facts are correct.
    0
  • CaedenV
    give me a 16:9 or 16:10 tablet capable running an independant 1080 or 1200 capable external display with a native miniHDMI connector for easy setup for presentations and video watching (does not need 3D support on external display). I also want removable storage for SD cards as an option, and a USB port or 2 if it is not too much to ask so I can hook up my video camera, or keyboard, or credit card swiper without dealing with a dock. Lastly, I want a minimum 128GB of internal storage on it for $300-400. I will take a slower processor, or lowered graphics for the sake of a minimum 128GB of storage. Lastly, I want full MS office to run on it, none of this web-based office365 junk, especially if I am going to be out and about and not wanting to waste my 4G plan just to run office.

    If I am going to pay $830 for a limited use tablet with 64GB storage and 4G, then I think I would rather spend that money on a notebook or ultrabook. I can still get a touch screen, I still get good graphics, I get a real keyboard/mouse, can still get a 4G option, and I get real x86 programs, removable storage, better connectivity options (USB3, thunderbolt), and (most importantly) real storage space.

    Also, I would prefer win8 over iOS, but iOS is not a deal breaker if they would come out with something that would fit my use.
    1
  • acku
    nycnutThe data plan graphic is WRONG! Verizon offers 2GB vs ATTs 3GB for the same $30. Check your facts...

    My fault. Corrected.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    3