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.