Apple's third-gen iPad: Analysis from Hiner and Detwiler

Here is TechRepublic's analysis of the newest iPad announced by Apple on Wednesday. Jason Hiner and Bill Detwiler provide the commentary.

Photo credit: Donald Bell/CNET

Apple unveiled the third-generation iPad on Wednesday in San Francisco. The updated Apple tablet packs a much higher resolution display, 4G LTE capability, a much better camera, and updated apps for creating content. Interestingly enough, Apple didn't give the new product a new product name. It's calling it "the new iPad," and so it looks like the company is going back to the simple iPad branding.

We have a summary of the new features and important details and then TechRepublic's Head Technology Editor Bill Detwiler and I provide our analysis of the latest iPad from an IT and business perspective.


Here are the details about the new iPad:

  • "Retina Display" with 2048x1536 resolution (264ppi)
  • 9.7-inch screen remains the same
  • A5X processor with quad-core graphics
  • 4G LTE (72Mbps), DC-HSDPA (42Mbps), and HSPA+ (21Mbps)
  • Both Verizon and AT&T LTE chips
  • New Personal Hotspot capability (if carrier supports it)
  • 5 megapixel camera with a 5-element lens
  • 1080p video recording
  • 10 hours of battery life (remains the same); 4G = 9 hours
  • Updated apps for iWork, iMovie, and Garageband; and, Apple launched iPhoto as a new app for iPad
  • Still 9.4mm thick and 1.5 pounds
  • Still offered in storage increments of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB
  • Price still starts at $499
  • 16GB iPad 2 will now be sold for $399 ($529 for 3G)
  • New iPad arrives March 16

Jason's four big takeaways

  • It's all incremental - This is a solidly incremental upgrade. Apple is in the pole position in the tablet market so it didn't have to do anything bold or drastic, and it didn't. The new iPad is faster, it has a much better display, and it now includes 4G, but the overall design and form factor remain the same. That means all of the great accessories that business users already love about the current iPad — such as the keyboard cases — will work right out of the box (instead of having to wait several months for updates). The bottom line is that the average user won't notice most of the changes that were announced today, except that the screen looks a little nicer and things seem to load a little faster.
  • 4G is huge - One of the more hotly-debated updates was whether the new iPad would include 4G LTE chips for Verizon and/or AT&T, and if that would affect the device's excellent battery life (one of the killer features for business travelers). In the end, Apple did load the new iPad with 4G LTE for both Verizon and AT&T (as well as HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA) and it claims that the battery life remains the same at 10 hours, and 9 hours on LTE. While LTE is mostly a U.S. phenomenon for now, it is a huge upgrade in Internet performance and will eventually become a worldwide standard. Having built-in 4G on the iPad will be a reason to choose the iPad over a laptop for some highly-mobile professionals.
  • Productivity software - Apple is trying hard to get us to see the iPad as more than just a consumption device. It clearly wants this to be a viable option for more and more users to consider instead of a laptop. As such, on Wednesday, Apple showed off major updates to its iWork, iMovie, and Garageband apps, and it launched the iPhoto app for iPad at $4.99 (undercutting the newly-launched $9.99 Photoshop Touch app). Apple is essentially holding these up as examples to show what the iPad can do as a creation machine. I still don't view the iPad as a device for doing a long succession of heavy creative work, but I think Apple is continuing to make it a great viewing device that can ably do creation work in short spurts. For executives and project managers and sales professionals — in other words, people who spend most of their days in meetings — I think the iPad keeps getting more attractive as an almost-full-time PC replacement.
  • No presentations via Apple TV - Apple also announced a new Apple TV on Wednesday, but it didn't include the one business feature that I've been championing: Integration with iPad (and iPhone) so that professionals can easily run a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation from an iPad and have it output to a big screen TV or projector connected to the Apple TV.

Bill's hardware analysis

  • A5X Processor - As I wrote last month, a photo posted to appeared to show the new iPad's motherboard with a processored labeled "A5X." The photo surprised many industry watchers as Apple was expected to use a quad-core A6 processor. At the time, I put forward several possibilities: the image was a fake; the motherboard wasn't from an iPad; the motherboard was from an early iPad prototype; or the the image was authentic. Apple put the mystery to rest during today's event. The new iPad will have an A5X processor. Unfortunately, Apple's Phil Schiller didn't provide many details about the new chip, other than to say that it offers "quad-core graphics," which according to Apple, translates into four times the graphics performance of the NVIDIA Tegra 3. Well have to wait until we get our hands on a new iPad before seeing how fast it really is.
  • Retina Display - Apple was more forthcoming about the new iPad's Retina Display. It will have a resolution of 2048 x1536 pixels and a total pixel count of 3.1 million. Given the screen's size (9.7" diagonally), this gives the iPad a pixel density of 264ppi. This is a lower density than the iPhone 4S (330ppi), but as the iPad is typically viewed a greater distance (15 inches) Apple said the new display crosses the retina threshold and the pixels won't be distinguishable at the average viewing distance.
  • iSight Camera - Given how poor the quality of the iPad 2's camera is, I'm glad Apple improved the camera on the new tablet. The new iPad's camera will have the same optics as the iPhone 4S. It will offer a 5MP sensor, backside illumination, 5-element lens, hybrid IR filter, and Apple-designed ISP. Those looking to shoot video on the new iPad should be pleased with the device's support for 1080p video recording, video stabilization, and temporal noise reduction.
  • Storage options - Unfortunately, Apple decided not to increase the iPad's storage capacity. Like the iPad 2, the new version will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models. This is a bit of a disappointment. I would liked to have seen the entry-level iPad come with 32GB of storage and the top-end model offer 128GB, but this was likely a cost/benefit decision on Apple's part.
  • 4G LTE support - Another "expected" feature, the new iPad will support AT&T and Verizon's 4G LTE networks. This will enable data transfer speeds up to 72Mbps. And if the carrier allows it, you'll also be able to use the new iPad as a personal hotspot. This upgrade helps the iPad compete with Android tablets that already support 4G, such as the Motorola Xyboard.

Photo credit: Donald Bell/CNET

Photo credit: Donald Bell/CNET

Photo credit: Donald Bell/CNET


Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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