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New iPad: first look and preview

What we predicted, what we first thought

You can read PC Advisor's  new iPad review here. In this story we republish our initial first thoughts when the iPad launched, as well as our predictions for the launch before it happened.

If you’ve ever used or even just held the Apple iPad 2, there’s not a lot to distinguish the new iPad. Until you switch it on.

The most badly kept pre-launch secret is true: the new Apple iPad has a quad-resolution screen, twice the pixel count in each direction, to give you 2048 x 1536 vibrant pixels.

New iPad: Retina display

Which means, assuming you hold the new iPad at 15in distance rather than the 10in of a smartphone like the iPhone, that you get what Apple calls a Retina display. Pixels so tightly packed you simply cannot perceive that you’re looking at an LCD display composed of little pinpoint elements.

And the new iPad's screen truly is photographic in appearance. Perhaps not like nothing you’ve seen before, since iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S users already live with the illusion of dot-free images.

But to see photographs and high-definition video rendered large on the new iPad's 9.7in IPS screen with this kind of flawless quality is a new delight to the eyes.

Not just more pixels: iPad 2012 has better colour gamut too, we're told

We checked viewing angles of the new iPad's screen, and in the bustle of the press launch the image looked every bit as good from acute angles as it does on iPad 2.

Ours was only a brief hands-on with a live iPad 2012, for want of a better name. Yes, Apple has returned to its naming strategy that’s worked so well for products like the iMac, products that have resolutely not been given countless generational cues in the product name. So it’s goodbye iPad 2 (albeit still on sale at an even lower price now) and hello iPad (or 'new iPad', for the purposes of this review).

Read Apple launches new iPad: full details- and new iPad launch: as it happened.

New iPad: heavier, and thicker

Picking it up, there is actually a clue that you’re handling the new iPad: it’s fractionally heavier at 662g, where iPad 2 is 601g.

New iPad looks much the same as iPad 2 – minus the 2

And there’s a fraction of a mil extra thickness. That extra 0.6mm, you really won’t notice it; unless perhaps you have a super-skinny case from the last gen that you want to try with the new iPad. We’ll have to see if any such cases are affected enough to make them too tight to use now.

Apple iPad 2012 body: the new iPad is just like the iPad 2 but 0.6mm thicker

So the new iPad's screen is gorgeous. For anyone with last-gen iPad 2, that really would be good reason enough to upgrade. And there’s also a slew of other less tangible updates; the 4G modem being the least useful to any Brits for a long time to come yet. By which time Apple will probably have released a new model (called iPad) to replace iPad.

New iPad: camera

We saw the new iPad's rear-facing camera being put to use by panning around the room with the display acting as real-time monitor. Some real test work is required here to see how the new 1080p video recording, ah, pans out. But the combination of 2.1Mp video and 3.1Mp display is, as you might imagine, strangely surreal in its open window-like look into the world.

new iPad's window into the world with HD cam and even HDer screen

The uprated 5Mp still images from the same camera will also need some investigation. Not that this is a key element of a tablet, its photo-snapping abilities. We would have preferred a little love spared for the front-facing camera, as both FaceTime and Skype video conferencing can support HD.

Sadly, that particular camera is still fixed at 640 x 480 pixels. Which actually suits most people’s home broadband anyway, being highly assymetric (fast download, slow upload) and unable to support high-definition video chats reliably right now.

Mind you, a new iPhoto for iOS app may make us re-evaluate the possibilities of still photography from a tablet, as this powerful-looking new app could make the iPad a real one-stop solution for first snapping and then editing hi-res images.

New iPad: performance

The iPad 2 has a serious performance lead over the nVidia Tegra 2 used in many Android tablets. According to Apple, the iPad 2 is already 2x faster than these best Google-based tabs with newer Tegra 3. New Apple A5X processor with quad-core graphics is said to be 4x faster than Tegra 3.

At the London launch of the new iPad we didn't see any of the Retina-ready games previewed at the San Francisco launch, so we’ll have to wait to wait to find how Retina-level gaming graphics look in real life.

Updates to the iLife suite of apps for iOS include new orchestral strings in GarageBand

And the other key performance feature of the new iPad to evaluate is battery life. Apple – very conservatively, we’d contend – rates the iPad 2 at 10 hours of use on Wi-Fi, and 9 hours for 3G operation.

New iPad has the same rating, only this time with 9 hours of LTE use. That’s even more impressive, given the mooted drain of this upscale high-speed wireless tech.

We’ll be posting a full review of iPad-the-new just as soon as we’ve tried the real thing out properly. 

The verdict so far...

Our first impressions? If the iPad 2 had had any serious competition from even the big-name Android pretenders, iPad 2012 has just buried it. The new Retina screen is the eye-popping glimpse of our computing future, fixed within what has already become established as the most intuitive and reliable computing device you can find at any price, let alone one that still sells for less than 400 quid.

The Apple iPad launches on Friday 16th March 2012.

Return to this page then to read our full review.

NEXT PAGE: Our original round-up of rumoured specs. How did Apple do? >>

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