tablets

Apple iPad (Gen-3) Review

The now discontinued 3rd gen. iPad features a particularly incredible screen.

March 16, 2012
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Introduction

Here it is: the new iPad. After much hype about the new Apple product, we’re here to go over just how this hunk of metal and plastic fared in our labs. While the screen is certainly the best we’ve ever seen, the battery isn’t, and it lacks the type of performance points like screen brightness to excuse that. Still, this is one of the most polished tablets on the market.

Design & Usability

Retina display, here we come.

While not as physically large as some of the other tablet screens out there, the screen on the new iPad is 7.5625 × 5.875 with an enormous resolution of 2046 × 1536 pixels. What does this mean for you? Well, aside from its net DPI (dots per inch) of 264 pixels, its resolution makes it very close to a true retina display, meaning that the human eye can not distinguish the pixels in the screen if viewed by a person with 20/20 vision at a distance of over a foot.

Because most of the controls for the Apple iPad are accessed through the capacitive touchscreen, there are very few physical controls at all. Only the home button, power button, and volume buttons are physical controls. So far, not much has changed from the iPad 2 with iOS 5, as the software is virtually identical.

One of the biggest shortcomings of tablets with LCD screens in general is that they not only are highly reflective, but also cannot function well outdoors by the very nature of how they work. Because they rely on a backlight to overpower the ambient light and display their image, bright sunlight will make the image look washed-out and difficult to see, so don’t plan on taking your tablet to the beach. Still, if you keep your iPad out of direct sunlight, you should have some degree of success.

The new iPad has some serious wireless capabilities Tweet It

The new iPad has some serious wireless capabilities that merit a second look. Even the Wi-Fi “only” version has an 802.11n wireless card, as well as Bluetooth 4.0, allowing high-speed data transfer and peripheral use. While it has no IR blaster, or anything fancy like that, you can control your TV via an AirPlay device if you’re willing to shell out for it.

If you are willing to shell out a little extra cash, you can also get a 4G LTE version of the new iPad, allowing you to roam free from Wi-Fi hotspots. While we don't do speed tests on networks, much of the downloadable content isn’t huge, so you should be fine if you have a good connection.

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Performance

Apple is still the King of Apps.

The Apple App store is the reigning king of the app market. With over 200,000 apps and countless partnerships and the leading market share, Apple is currently the King of Apps. Long famed for having an app for just about anything, the same perception still holds true, despite the competition from Google and Amazon.

The Apple App store is the reigning king of the app market. Tweet It

The Safari browser on the iPad is startlingly similar to what you’d find on a computer. The aesthetics are virtually identical to the computer-based browser, and the functionality is very much the same. This is a very good browser to cut your teeth on if you’re making the jump from computer to tablet.

It should come as no surprise that a screen with a resolution that has just under double the DPI of other tablets is incredible from a legibility standpoint. If you look super-closely, you can see that each pixel is roughly 1/4th the size of the competitors’ pixels. Impressive, no? Held at more than 1 foot away from your face, an adult with normal vision will not be able to see the lines of pixels.

Because the screen resolution is so large, a lot of the content will still look like it’s pixellated because it was made with a smaller resolution in mind. Despite the fact that text looks incredible, it has stair-stepping and resolution issues because the source material is not optimized for the iPad. You will run into this problem over and over again until new content is either shot in a higher resolution, or content is released in a format that makes the best use of the screen.

Much like every other tablet with an LCD screen, however, there is the huge downside of a highly reflective screen. Despite the ferociously-named gorilla glass coating, it doesn’t do much to maul light that hits the screen.

Conclusion

Now that we’ve finished testing the 3rd gen. iPad, what we’ve seen so far is very impressive.

Its screen is amazing for a tablet, it has the same established operating system that other iOS devices have, and it doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel. Many of the features on the new iPad are things that exist on the old ones, but they’ve been improved to compete with 2012’s crop of tablet contenders. It’s a smart release for Apple.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a couple areas of concern, as the device itself is still a bit on the heavy side and it doesn’t have some of the features that set some of the better Android tablets apart from the pack. On top of this, there are the issues of the unit overheating rather quickly and a battery life that fails to compete with other high-end tablets. While the screen is impressive, the hardware itself doesn’t do much to make a name for itself, especially considering Apple stuck with a dual-core CPU.

Where the iPad does shine is its software: With Apple’s great interface—and a stunningly-crisp screen—the iPad is probably the most polished machine we’ve seen. While there are fans and detractors of everything Apple, the performance points stand on their own, and if you believe that this is the tablet for you, we feel that we’ve given you the best picture possible before buying it.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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