My iPad2 is a 16GB WiFi model and the iPad3 is a 16GB WiFi+4G model.
Looks Like a Duck, Swims Like a Duck, Quacks Like a DuckThe first thing that hits you about the new iPad is it reminds you strongly of the iPad2. Nothing really strikes you as different about it as you open it, set it up, start using it. It feels extremely familiar. More than once I kept checking to see that it was in fact the new iPad I was using. The box doesn’t even say iPad3, just “iPad”.
If I didn’t have two different color covers, it would be hard to identify the iPad3 over the iPad2. They look nearly identical. The iPad3 is slightly wider, taller, and thicker—but only by a hair. Weight-wise, the iPad3 is just a little bit heavier but I believe that’s partly due to my having the 4G option on the iPad3 whereas my iPad2 is WiFi only. By far the easiest way to tell an iPad3 apart from other iPads is to look at the back, where there is a black area at top.
The iPad3 features a “retina display” with a stellar resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels (more than most desktop or laptop displays) whereas the iPad2 was 1024 x 768. This is its major feature. This should mean stunning images and video. But to be honest, absolutely nothing about the display jumped out at me when I first started using the device: sure, it looked great--but then again the iPad2 had always looked great too.
With some trepidation, I pulled up a variety of my web sites to see how they looked. We create adaptive web/mobile web sites using the principles of responsive web design, and I’d been worried about how things would render on the iPad3 with its greater resolution. Would it be seen as a desktop display and cause non-touch-friendly UI decisions to be made? Well, the majority of the sites came up just fine and looked like they always did. This puzzled me, and when I visited a web site that shows detected resolution I was surprised to see 1024 x 768 and not 2058 x 1536 reported. After double-checking I had in fact been sent an iPad3 and not an iPad2, I found confirmation online that the iPad3 reports its resolution as 1024 x 768 even though its true resolution is higher. I haven’t had enough time to decide if I really like that or not, but I can’t deny it makes a lot of existing web sites for prior-generation iPads just work correctly and that’s something of a relief. We web developers are still going to have to contend with that larger resolution when it comes to images and being careful not to over-consume bandwidth serving them up.I still hadn’t really seen the greater resolution in action, so I decided to pull up the same site on both the iPad2 and iPad3, capture screen shots, and compare them side-by-side. And this is where the difference becomes very clear. Below you see a portion of the screen captures side by side, slightly magnified. On the iPad2 (left) you clearly see pixels and on the iPad3 you don’t.
To give you an idea of the difference, a screen capture image on the iPad2 is 401KB and on the iPad3 it is 1.3MB. On the portion compared above, the iPad2 captured image is magnified to 400% and the iPad3 to 200%.
Overall score 47.11
Overall score 47.11
Overall score 48.64
Overall score 48.64
4G LTEI have the 4G option on the iPad3, and was curious to see what that would be like. After turning off my WiFi and enabling the 4G, I tried surfing the web for awhile and was quite pleased (astonished, really) at how fast the response was. It felt just like my broadband DSL.
DictationThe iPad3 has a nice dictation feature. When the keyboard is displayed, there’s a microphone butter for voice entry. It does a fairly good job of interpreting speech—it went from fair to excellent when I made a point of enunciating clearly.
However, the iPad3 performs its speech processing by going over the Internet to Apple’s back end from what I understand, and that seemed to get very slow at times—perhaps because lots of people were trying out the feature today.Conclusions
A first impression review is just that—a first impression. I’m sure I’ll notice lots of other things as I use the device more. If you haven’t had an iPad, or are using a first-generation iPad, you’ll be amazed and delighted with the iPad3. If you’re going from an iPad2 to an iPad3, you’ll find an awful lot of familiarity. You’ll certainly appreciate the display and (if you opt for it) 4G LTE—but it won’t feel like a major new generation to you. That’s not to say the iPad3 isn’t magical—it is—but much of the magic was also in the iPad2.