Apple New iPad 3 Review: Hands-on

Cupertino boffins unveil hotly anticipated Apple iPad 3, or the 'new iPad'

What is a hands on review?
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New Apple iPad hands-on
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New Apple iPad hands-on

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The new Apple iPad 3 has finally been unveiled sporting plenty of new features to get excited about, not least the Retina display, as found on the Apple iPhone 4S, along with an improved camera, quad-core graphics, 4G and a new raft of apps.

As the Cupertino brand's latest tablet, the new iPad (which didn't get the Apple iPad 3 moniker that we were all expecting) is set to go head to head with top-tier Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. But is the new device worth trading in your Apple iPad 2 for? T3 went hands-on to find out...

Apple new iPad: Build

Apart from the new camera optics the new iPad feels identical in the hand when compared to the Apple iPad 2. It features the same dimensions, button placements and weight, with the only discernible difference being the bigger camera optics at the rear.

The solid, industrial finish still wipes the floor with most competitors, many of which suffer from a plastic complexion. If you've held the iPad 2, you should know what to expect.

Apple new iPad: Screen

Apple calls it 'resolutionary', we call the 9.7-inch screen that supports a 2048 x 1536-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi) the best screen we've seen on a tablet (perhaps bar the Samsung Tab 10.1).

The addition of the Retina Display really does boost colours and make text pin-sharp on web-pages and in iBooks. In fact, wherever you see text you can't discern the pixel. It's impressive. Apple says that the screen is higher resolution than some HD TVS and, while the maths seems to add up, the close-up experience goes some way to proving the claim.

When looking at 19-megapixel photos (the highest supported by the new iPhoto app), definition is superb. 1080P video captured by the device itself is also impressive, while downloaded HD video from iTunes looks stunning. A real improvement from the iPad 2.

We're not huge fans of Downton Abbey, but the demo given showed off the smoothness and detail that higher resolution video offers.

Games also look great. We tried Namco's new Sky Gamblers Air Supremacy and were impressed with the smoothness. Graphically, Apple says the new iPad is 'better than console', although we'd want to try out a greater range of titles. In essence, the improvement in screen quality from the iPad 2 to Apple's latest is akin to the jump from Apple iPhone 3GS to Apple iPhone 4.

Apple new iPad: Features

The main improvement here is the A5X chip, which provides a quad-core GPU but dual-core CPU – so not a true quad-core tablet. The interface looks slick, especially on the new Retina Display, but we didn't notice any speed increase when switching between apps.

The camera has been lifted straight from the iPhone 4 and offers 5-megapixel stills and 1080p video (with 30fps) recording. AirPlay Mirroring is supported up to 1080p on the new Apple TV (£99) with this third-gen iPad.

The optics on the back are noticeably bigger and, even in the dark surroundings of the demo area, we could see a greater amount of light being allowed into shot. Storage options range from 16Gb to 64Gb on both the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi 4G models.

However, we'll have to wait for a UK carrier to offer HC-HSDPA or LTE connectivity before being allowed to experience the super-fast internet speeds demoed at the launch.

Apps also got an overhaul with the brilliant iPhoto – replete with multi-gesturing – being added and GarageBand and KeyNote getting upgrades. iWork will cost £6.99 and iLife, £2.99. Both can be downloaded for free if you've already paid for them.

Apple new iPad: Battery

Apple claims a battery life of 10 hours in normal use and 9 hours when using 4G. We'll look forward to testing those claims when we get our own sample. Watch this space.

Apple new iPad: Verdict

The new iPad looks and feels almost identical to the Apple iPad 2 at first glance, but it brings a fair bit more to the table, not least the impressive Retina display with that massive screen resolution. The result is pin-sharp images and huge improvements in video playback from the Apple iPad 2.

The inclusion of 4G tech is also interesting, although not that useful to us UK dwellers just yet.

On first impression, the new iPad certainly offers enough compelling new features for you to consider an upgrade from the iPad 2, but we'll let you know more as soon as we get our hands on a full review sample.

Apple new iPad availability: 16 March 2012

Apple new iPad price: 16Gb Wi-Fi - £399, 32Gb Wi-Fi - £479, 64Gb Wi-Fi - £559. 16Gb Wi-Fi + 4G - £499, 32Gb Wi-Fi + 4G - £579, 64Gb Wi-Fi + 4G - £659

Check out our New iPad/Apple iPad 3 hands-on video from the launch:

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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.