God darn the rumours! In the run up to the new iPad (2012) launch, most megabytes on cyberspace were dedicated to endless speculations about how awesome/ different/ revolutionary the new iPad was going to be. So, you could easily blame it on the hype (ironically, that would be an understatement in this case) over the new device that we couldn't help but feel let down when we saw the changes more intrinsic than aesthetic.

The new iPad doesn't look any different from it predecessor. The dimensions are the same with a 9.7-inch LED-backlit display. The iconic home button featured across iPads and iPhones is also retained, along with the physical buttons for Power/Lock and the volume rocker. Not only is the build undistinguishable from the iPad 2 but also comes in the same staid colours that the previous one did – white and black.

When it comes to the bulk, the new iPads are a tad bit heavier than the heaviest version (3G-model) of iPad 2. It's also marginally thicker by 0.6 mm, which is barely even perceptible when you handle the device.

These changes have been attributed to the fact that the new iPad needed to house a bigger battery. With the incorporation of Retina display and a quad-core GPU, the unit wouldn't deliver the kind of battery hours that the iPad 2 did. (In our review of the iPad 2, the battery life had stayed true to the company's claim of being close to 10 hours.)

Display

One of the best selling points of the new iPad is the Retina Display. The resolution, according to the company, offers four times more pixels than iPad 2 with a pixel count of 2048x1536. The 9.7-inch screen is ‘packed' with pixels, and as Apple like to point out “so close together, your eyes can't discern individual ones at a normal viewing distance”.

But what you can discern with the naked eye is that when you zoom in to a body of text (to the maximum, simultaneously on both iPads), you can easily see the slightly jagged pixelated edges on letters of the alphabet on the iPad2. The new iPad shows no such distortion to the naked eye – all characters are well-rounded and distinct even when zoomed to the max.

The company has also worked to improve the colour saturation by another 44 per cent over the older iPad. This is not immediately obvious but when you run two apps simultaneously on the two iPads you can see a difference between the colour hues and saturation on the two displays.

Powerful processing

There had been no complaints with the dual-core Apple A5 processor when we've reviewed the iPad 2. With games like Dead Space, Dungeon 2 HD and Asphalt 6, the graphics was rendered really well without any lags.

However, Apple has definitely upped its game with the new processor built in to the new iPad.

The dual-core Apple A5X chip takes care of all that potentially makes the iPad awesome – the display, the gaming and the videos. Its quad-core graphics processing delivers a better experience with simple things like manoeuvring the device with smoother swipes, scrolls, and pinches to handling software such as iPhoto, iMovie, and high-def games.

We're still not as happy with the quality of the pictures snapped with the new 5-megger cameras as we'd like to be. However, it's a huge improvement from the one that the iPad 2 came armed with. Pictures shot under similar lighting conditions resulted in disappointingly grainy images on the iPad 2 and much sharper images with much less noise on the new iPad.

With video recording as well, the new iPad fares better by adapting to ambient light more quickly and delivering sharper frames than its predecessor. The audio captured while you are recording a video is also louder in the new iPad.

The iSight camera itself however presents a couple of really nice functions. For example, when you are taking a group shot it can not only detect up to ten faces but also adjust focus and exposure across all of them accordingly. It also lets you access certain functions without digging too deep into the settings for example; you can tap to focus on a picture before you click it.

The new iPad is built to make the most of the ever-increasing internet connectivity speeds through 4G LTE abilities, which is of little use in a place like India. So, as of now you can only connect via a good ol' Wi-Fi connection or use your local 3G SIM to access internet on the new iPad.

The new iPad doesn't yet get to introduce you to the digital assistant, Siri. But it comes with a voice dictation software, which going by past experience with similar softwares, doesn't take to easily to the rather neutral ‘Indian' accent and names.

Should you upgrade?

Considering you spent a good chunk of money for what was probably your first iPad, we wouldn't think it's a good value proposition to immediately upgrade to the new iPad. Yes, the text is clearer and the processing is faster but even with the previous iPad, Apple had made sure you wouldn't have too much room for complaint when it came to these features. Hold on tight to your current one till you hear the rumour mills grinding again about the fourth iteration of the iPad.

Those of you who are still waiting to flag off your tablet experience and have finally made up the mind to try out Apple's offering, the new iPad will more than cater to your media consumption needs. If you are the kind who wants to invest in a tablet and mainly use it as an e-reader, the iPad's Retina display will deliver clear text, pics and infographs to you day in day out. If your focus is multimedia, then too, the display works in your favour.

mahananda@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on May 22, 2012)
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