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The New iPad: The Best-Looking, With Caveats

Apple's iPad 3, Part 1: The Complete Retina Display And A5X Review
By , Alan Dang

Without question, the iPad 3’s Retina display is impressive. Improvements made to its subpixel structure produce better display detail and higher color fidelity, resulting in the first consumer tablet display able to satisfy most demanding technologists. In fact, the iPad 3’s image quality is so much better that it usurps our previous favorite, the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Even if you just go by the numbers (our color gamut benchmarks), the iPad 3 is the winner.

Apple effectively doubled iPad 3's graphics horsepower, a move that was necessary in order to handle a higher native resolution. In our initial assessment, playing games like Infinity Blade, Real Racing HD, and RipTide feel roughly similar on the iPad 3 as they did on the iPad 2, though.

Our one complaint, right off the bat, is that iOS' Web browser, Safari, does not display high-resolution pictures in their native format. There appears to be no way to disable forced downsampling, and this will disappoint—nay, infuriate—many serious photographers and graphic artists when they discover the iPad 3’s awesome screen is not so awesome when it comes to viewing online HD content. Fortunately, it's possible to view pictures in their native resolution by saving from Safari to iPhoto. Hopefully, this situation improves with Apple's next iOS upgrade.

Infinity Blade on iPad 3Infinity Blade on iPad 3

As you might expect, playing games that were designed to run on an iPad 2 happens smoothly on an iPad 3. What you shouldn't expect, however, is that existing titles will hit you with significantly more fidelity, aside from the increased pixel density attributable to the display itself. We need titles with higher-quality textures and more optimizations for the iPad 3's upgraded graphics capability. It'll likely take developers some time to figure out how to best balance the more powerful hardware, higher resolution, and detail settings on games written for Apple's latest and greatest.

In the meantime, the iPad 3 is your best (and only) choice if you want a tablet with an awesome high-resolution display. Tests continue in our lab, and our next story will cover battery life, 4G LTE mobile broadband performance, and a more comprehensive analysis of the iPad 3's gaming experience.

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