updated 09:50 pm EDT, Wed March 14, 2012
iPad 2012 scores highly in early looks
The very first reviews have surfaced for the third-generation iPad and have provided an early look at the real-world experience of owning one. A look from Josh Topolsky at the The Verge showed that Apple was being honest with its claims of battery life while using LTE. While he got eight hours and 15 minutes, this was only after hiking the brightness above Apple's own tests, showing that the much larger battery capacity was working.
A check by seminal reviewer Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal showed that regular Wi-Fi battery life estimates may be conservative. Even with 75 percent brightness and 4G left on in the background, it only saw an 11-minute drop over the iPad 2. Charging can take much longer, though, at several hours for a complete revival.
Speed on 4G ranged between 17-40Mbps on Verizon's network, with uploads in some cases peaking at 20Mbps. AT&T was slightly slower, but also only tested once among the early group. The consensus was that it could often outpace an owner's landline connection, although the subject of low bandwidth caps wasn't mentioned.
Every review was consistently praising of the screen, with Mossberg saying you "have to see it" and Topolsky saying there was no hyperbole to saying it was the "most beautiful display" he had ever seen. A review coming from TechCrunch, admittedly from Apple proponent MG Siegler, warned that the new model might be dangerous for those hoping to save money with the $399 iPad 2. "It will ruin the iPad 2 for you," he said.
A slightly belated examination from the New York Times' David Pogue revealed that some existing apps may suffer unexpectedly, such as Amazon's Kindle app. A Retina Display-native Kindle app is known to be in development.
Performance was still good despite the much higher resolution. Apple's much faster PowerVR SGX543MP4 video, along with the 1GB of RAM, helped even games run well. The OS was still significantly more responsive than Android 4.0, even on a quad-core tablet like the ASUS Transformer Prime.
Camera shooting was, as anticipated, much better than before with the back sensor. The VGA front camera was disappointing by comparison and unchanged from the original. As a tablet, though, taking photos was always somewhat awkward relative to a smartphone.
iOS 5.1 on the new iPad isn't significantly different, although voice dictation works well.
Verdicts were largely positive, although grounded in the relatively conservative nature of the update in some areas. iPad 2 owners faced a "tough call," Siegler said, while it "isn't necessarily a slam dunk" for Topolsky. Those who were comfortable with the iPad 2 experience weren't going to get a complete revolution for their experiences. However, they, Pogue, and Mossberg noted that those who read often, who value cellular data, or who needed the better camera, had a clear incentive to trade up. First-generation iPad owners and those with older Android tablets were the clear targets.
Mossberg summarized by noting that the new iPad still largely had the market to itself. "The iPad has been the best tablet on the planet," he said. "with the new, third-generation model, it still holds that crown."