By Michael Sawh
New iPad 3 vs Apple iPad 2? Should you upgrade? Which one should you buy? T3 aims to solve your Apple tablet dilemma...
The new iPad has landed much to the delight of Apple fanboys around the world. While some will no doubt be salivating over a higher resolution display, quadcore graphics, an upgraded camera and voice dicatation amongst other new features, there is sure to be a few iPad 2 owners wondering if they really need to make another trip to the Apple Store.
Is there really enough to warrant making the new iPad upgrade? We put the two tablets up against each other to see who comes out on top of the tablet pile. It's head to head time….
Apple new iPad 3 vs Apple iPad 2 : Build
New iPad 3 - The new iPad 3 looks much the same as the Apple iPad 2. The Home button remains, despite the big tease of the launch invite's imagery, but where successive iThings of the past have been thinner, lighter and the proud owner of new monikers, Apple's latest tablet is thicker (by 6mm), heavier (by 50g) and has no identifying numbers or letters to its name.
iPad 2 - Lifting the iPad 2 out of the box, you almost feel like you're handling Grandma's fine china - such is the skinniness of the 8.8mm frame. Remarkably though, the tablet retains a very sturdy feel.
It's not the least bit fragile and there's zero flexibility. It's a piece of engineering that defies physics. The weight has also dropped from the original iPad. At 601g (for the WiFi version) the tablet has shed 15 per cent of its body mass.
Big deal, you say, but you will notice the difference. It's still not Kindle-light though, and we still found the one-handed grip uncomfortable. The design itself has evolved with the edges which are rounded like an Apple iPod Touch.
While it looks better and is less bulky, the thinner edges actually make it more difficult to keep a steady hand. You also have to adopt an awkward reach-around approach to access the volume and screen switches.
T3 Verdict: Tie
Apple new iPad 3 vs Apple iPad 2: Screen
New iPad 3 - Android aficionados will find 2048x1536 reasons not to buy, but a bitch of a screen ain't one. Some 3.1 million pixels at 264ppi are now crammed into the 9.7-inch display – the leading Android tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Asus Transformer Prime, come in at 1280x800.
Put the new iPad 3 side by side with the iPad 2 and the improvement is, quite visibly, clear. On the older iPad, apps in folders are just blobs of pixelated colour; on the new one you can almost make out text.
The Apple Retina Display smooths out edges and renders text pin-sharp so ebooks, websites and documents are so much easier on the eye.
There's better contrast, greater definition with still and moving images, and better colour saturation – an improvement of 44 per cent over the iPad 2, Apple reckons.
iPad 2 - While we were blown away by the original iPad's 9.7-inch 1024x768 LED-backlit display, we were hoping this would bring a version of its Apple Phone 4 Retina display.
Now it hasn't, we're a little disappointed. While indoor performance is still great and colours are truly vivid for gaming, photos and videos, in the post-Retina Screen world, text still isn't quite as crisp as we'd like and it's still pretty useless in sunlight. It also attracts a lot of finger marks.
T3 Verdict: Apple new iPad 3 wins
Apple new iPad 3 vs Apple Pad 2: Features
New iPad 3 - With a Retina display on board it also means HD video support for up to 1080p – yes, Apple is updating its iTunes movie catalogue to full HD – and stills up to 19 megapixels, though you'll have to import the latter as the onboard camera only boasts five.
Both look stunning in terms of reproduction clarity, mind.
A lesser upgrade is the rear-facing iSight cam. Its f/2.4 aperture optics are pinched from the iPhone 4S, but with a five-meg resolution rather than eight.
Images are better than the iPad 2's but tablet cams are still hardly the last word in convenience – one-handed tap-to-focus is mission impossible – and results remain a way off dedicated compacts, especially indoors or in overcast conditions.
Voice dictation is now supported wherever you see the virtual keyboard – tap the mic button, say your piece, tap it again and it'll jot down your babble.
It's not Siri, so you can't command it, or ask questions about the weather, or Thailand, but recognition is fairly accurate, though you will have to perform some manual editing, especially with longer messages.
iPad 2 - A quantifiable improvement comes with the new dualcore 1GHz Apple A5 processor, replacing the A4 by offering twice the power. If you thought this thing was nifty before, then wait until you get a hold of the iPad 2.
Of course the other change comes with the addition of cameras. FaceTime video calling is now available for iPad and while the quality won't blow you away it does the job.
The rear-facing camera is passable, offering decent snaps in good conditions, but drab colours and limited detail the rest of the time. It's nowhere near as good as the iPhone 4's excellent 5-megapixel offering.
There's 720p video recording on board, which comes in really handy for the brilliant iMovie app, but the iPad 2 has to be the most ridiculously shaped video camera of all time. Are you really going to use it in public?
T3 Verdict: Apple new iPad 3 wins
Apple new iPad 3 vs Apple iPad 2: Performance
New iPad 3 - To power this next-gen display the new iPad needs extra processing grunt, and it's provided by an improved dualcore chip, the A5X, with a quadcore GPU.
While HD video and menu swiping don't appear any smoother than before – they were already plenty smooth – gaming, as you'd anticipate, really benefits.
Playing the upcoming Infinity Blade: Dungeons, the polygonal-pushing experience is exceptional, with quality not far off what we've seen so far on the Sony PS Vita.
There are multiple layers, complex shading, frenetic action and minimal slow down. Asus and Toshiba may be rubbing their hands in glee, with both having announced “proper” quadcore tabs in recent months.
However, with the dedicated chip handling graphically intensive tasks, the dualcore A5X seems more than adequate, keeping the new iPad quick and slick, even when processing the likes of iPhoto and GarageBand.
iPad 2 - Such is the speed of response when you touch the screen that you'll think 'did I even touch that yet?' It almost pre-empts your commands. The T3 iPad Edition opens instantly, while images render much faster than before.
The heftier apps, like the new GarageBand (an essential download, the highlight of which is the different response from piano keys depending on the sensitivity of your touch - enabled by the accelerometer and a huge leap forward) still take a short while to open, but not noticeably so.
T3.com loads and renders quickly over Wi-Fi, while pinch-to-zoom re-formatting is definitely quicker. YouTube performance is great, while downloading music, movies and podcasts is rapid.
Apple also promised a nine-fold improvement in the graphics department. We tested this claim with EA's Dead Space, which specifically advertised an iPad 2 upgrade.
It looks phenomenal, almost PS3 and Xbox 360-esque, while the fast-paced monster-slaying action was slick and judder-free. You feel we've only just scratched the surface here.
T3 Verdict: Apple new iPad 3 wins
Apple new iPad 3 vs Apple iPad 2: Battery
New iPad 3 -With all its muscle enhancements, you'd expect compromised battery life. Now, Apple claims the same figures as iPad 2, with ten hours of Wi-Fi web surfing, nine hours on a mobile network and ten hours of video or music.
Although longevity is pretty good given the power and resolution boost you're getting, we found some differences compared to the previous 'Pad. In testing we noticed a quickening in battery drain with the new iPad when browsing, viewing and creating content when compared to iPad 2.
Watching a two-hour HD movie on both devices reduced 10 per cent more of the third-gen's battery, while overnight energy seepage clocked in at six per cent, compared to zero from iPad 2. General, non-intensive use reduced the battery by about 10 per cent per hour, which is bang on Apple's claimed drainage.
Our major gripe, though, is that the new iPad still takes an excessive amount of time to reach full charge. It's at least six hours using a mains charger and near double that via USB from a computer. Yes, the battery lasts a decent whack but if you're used to the speedy re-juicing of most mobile devices, this will irritate. It did us, anyway.
iPad 2 - In terms of battery life, we got around 6 hours of near-solid Wi-Fi surfing, downloading apps and playing games, which is very respectable. The extra processing power doesn't seem to be provide any supplemental drain on the battery.
T3 Verdict: Apple iPad 2 wins
Apple new iPad 3 vs Apple iPad 2: Verdict
So is it time to ditch the iPad 2? In T3's opinion, the new iPad is now the number one slate on the market and while Android (and maybe Windows) tablet rivals are likely to come packing similarly impressive screens and quadcore prowess, it still crucially has the App Store on its side.
The App Store platform already boasts an extensive catalogue of tablet optimized apps which of course applies to the iPad 2 as well, but if you want the best tablet on the market in terms of overall performance, the new iPad should be your choice.
Having said that, the jump in features from the iPad 2 is by no means earth-shattering, so if you are a relatively new owner of the second generation Apple tablet you might want to hold out for the fourth generation of the iPad before deciding to upgrade.