The iPad 3 is no longer available to buy. Apple has released an updated version on the iPad, here's a link to our iPad 4 review.

PC Advisor's new iPad review is based on several days of benchmarked, lab-based testing of Apple's third-generation iPad, as well as the subjective opinions of editors. It's the only new iPad review you need.

When you invent the category and make the most desired product to define it, where do you go next? That's the question that Apple has answered simply enough with the third-generation iPad. The 'new iPad', or 'iPad 3'. See also iPhone 5 release date, specs and rumour round-up.

The new name is noteworthy. Just as Apple pulled the rug from below the feet of tech journals with the 'iPhone 5 launch' last autumn – which materialised as the iPhone 4S – so the much heralded ‘iPad 3' was unveiled with an unexpected name: the iPad.

This is certainly in keeping with Apple's avoidance of the techno-jargon names so beloved, for example, of Japanese corporations. The purveyors of consumer electronics that routinely inflict sadistic tongue-twisters such as KDL32CX523BU on innocent tech-loving civilians. So like the iMac before, that has seen dozens of updates in 15 years with nary a change of name, so we may be witnessing a new vogue of serial mono-naming for iPad.

See also: 10 hidden must-know tips for the new Apple iPad

New iPad review: Retina display

In outward form, there's little to distinguish the new iPad from last year's sequel, the iPad 2. The new 2012 iPad model is fractionally thicker, up from 8.8mm to 9.5mm by our measurements. And if you're used to handling the '2, you'll probably notice the extra weight too. This has risen from 601g to about 660g. We say about, as there are a few grammes difference between different storage capacities and Wi-Fi-only models versus those with 4G chipsets. Whichever model you look at, there's effectively two extra ounces to balance across your fingers.

The added mass is principally a byproduct of the new screen tech. Apple has uprated the new iPad screen's resolution fourfold, from the long-popular 1024 x 768 of PCs, to the HD-punishing resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels. While the display shows everything the same size as before, each element now has four pixels in place of one.

The result is breathtakingly sharp typography and cunningly crisp images. Anyone who is familiar with the iPhone 4 and 4S will recognise the effect of the so-called Retina display. Writ large across a 9.7in rather than 3.5in phone touchscreen, the upgrade in image quality is quite extraordinary on the new iPad.

See the new iPad 3 in action in PC Advisor's exclusive new iPad 3 video review. Click the image above or follow this link for our full-size new iPad video review.

Behind this screen, quite literally, is a revised display technology. It's believed to be a form of the Super High Aperture (SHA) process that allows incredibly tight packing of the thin-film transistors that comprise a display matrix. Apple as ever is tight-lipped about the minutiae of internal technologies, but we believe the first raft of new iPads are taking Samsung-made screens, with LG and Sharp mooted to contribute as production is ramped up.

The irony of Apple's Korean arch-enemy supplying Cupertino with the very component that will push the iPad to a new level beyond the Android copycats is difficult to miss.

Squeezing four times as many pixels into the same 9.7in display gives a density of 264ppi. That's lower than the iPhone's 326ppi, but when viewed on a new iPad at a typical reading distance (Apple quotes 15in, which we confirmed is our comfort zone) the Retina effect is restored. Mind you, we've peered closer, much closer, and still can't see any individual pixels. Viewing most content on-screen, it's like looking at a glossy magazine, not a computer screen.

New iPad review: bigger battery

To achieve this effect has taken bleeding-edge screen tech, more LED backlighting, and bigger batteries to drive it all.

Which is why the battery has been expanded by 70%, from 25Wh to 42.5Wh, to maintain Apple's class-leading battery life. The company quotes 10 hour lifespan again. For the iPad 2, we'd suggest that figure was slightly conservative, but maybe one that's closer to the case for the power-hungrier third-gen iPad.

Battery testing mobile devices remains an inexact science with too many variables to replicate a ‘typical' usage pattern. In three days of testing, we had to charge the unit twice, where an iPad 2 may have lasted on a single charge. But our usage of the new iPad was perhaps far from average – in essence caning the device with near-constant use.

New iPad bigger battery

Next page: the new iPad's connectivity >>

Our new iPad review has shown that Apple's third-generation iPad has an incredible screen, but what about the much-vaunted 4G connectivity? Continue reading our new iPad review to find out.

New iPad review: 4G connectivity

Another new feature for new iPad is 4G mobile broadband connectivity. Like other fledgling technologies, we hear reports that 4G mobile data will also hammer batteries. That's not an issue here in the UK of course for the simple reason that there is no commercial 4G service available, nor will there be for years.

While Orange/T-Mobile has promised to reassign some of its bountiful radio spectrum to ‘4G' this summer, this looks to be through 21Mbps HSPA+ technology – a capability available to the 4G version of the iPad, if not actually the 4G LTE breakthrough that will let mobile devices soar with 100Mbps downloads.

When OFCOM finally auctions off more radio airspace this year, we should be in a better position to know when, and what manner of, 4G will truly be available in the UK in the following years. If you're thinking should I get the 4G model? then bear this in mind: by the time 4G is something to take heed of in this country, the following generation of iPad will inevitably have landed.

Looking beyond the State-side excitement about 4G, it's worth remembering that parts of the UK already have very good 3G service. We tested the new iPad around London, where we saw furiously fast double-digit download speeds. Without diagnostic software, it's hard to see which particular technology was in use. But on the Three network we measured in excess of 11Mbps download and 4Mbps upload performance, well beyond the limits of many a home's fixed-line connection.

New iPad download speeds

4G? Who needs 4G when 3G can today outpace many homes' fixed-line speed

(Measurement made on 21/3/2012 at Kent House train station on Three network)

New iPad review: the camera

The third and final material difference in the new iPad is the revised rear-facing camera. For us, this camera is only really called upon for occasional webchat use, in order to show our caller what we're seeing, switching cameras from the FaceTime or Skype interface. But Apple at least is touting the new iPad's 5Mp iSight camera as something to film and snap the family with.

The new iPad's camera mechanism looks to be the same as fitted to previous-gen iPhone 4, only this time with full-HD video capability, and video stabilisation too. An infrared filter in the lens is said to help optimise images by removing degrading long-wavelength light.

In our tests, video from this camera was somewhat grainy in challenging low-light indoor night-time scenes, but clear and sharp under decent lighting. Holding up a magazine-sized slate to film or photograph still feels somehow wrong, yet there's no missing the through-the-window effect of seeing the world rendered by an HD camera on a Hi-DPI panel. It really is like peering through a pane of clean glass framed by the iPad's black or white bezel.

For regular webcam chats, the iPad 2's front-facing camera in the iPad 3 gives the same quality as iPad 2 – which is to say, superb, its VGA-res camera well at home with low-light night chats.

New iPad camera

Next page: the new iPad's components, and our final thoughts >>

Our new iPad review has covered Apple's third-generation iPad's screen, camera, connectivity and battery life. But what makes it work, is overheating a problem, and what are our final thoughts? Continue reading our new iPad review to find out.

New iPad review: CPU and GPU

In charge of the new iPad is a revised combo CPU/GPU chip, the A5X system on a chip (SoC). This has the same dual-core ARM processor on main duties, while its graphics component has been doubled-up to create a quad-core display driver. Apple upset nVidia by suggesting that its new processor was up to four times faster than the best the graphics specialist could muster for Google Android tablets, in the form of their brand-new nVidia Tegra 3 solution.

But independent benchmarks are now bearing out the claim for the PowerVR SGX543MP4 processor. In raw speed, it's about twice the power of the iPad 2, and four times a Tegra 3. But by the time it's tasked with pushing 3.1 million pixels around, it's back to the same over-achieving potential as an iPad 2.

The overall processor performance of the new iPad is in effect the same as the iPad 2, albeit spruced a little by the doubling of memory to 1GB.

New iPad review: Warm front. Or rear?

Compared to the always-cool iPad 2, the new iPad runs warmer to the touch. It's most evident when working the pad hard, such as when playing action games, and you may feel it approaching body heat on its rear aluminium case. We noted most of the warmth coming from the lower left corner, when held in portrait orientation, which roughly corresponds to the position of the Apple A5X SoC within.

New iPad: details

New iPad review: Welcome surprise and final thoughts

When the iPad launched just two years ago, most of the apps available were initially hand-me-downs from the iPhone, and would sit lonely in the centre of a black screen. You could scale them up using the handy 2x button, but this would simply render them as fuzzy magnifications of the 320 x 480 pixel original. With 2012's revision, the Retina-enabled iPad now shows them in a much more convincing way, driven through the quad-core graphics engine. They're not quite ‘retina' in detail but it does makes older iPhone-only apps on the new iPad almost indistinguishable from iPad native ones.

Much about iPad 3 is the same as iPad 2, including pricing across each of six models (twelve if you include black/white options). If you're wondering What size iPad should I get? do bear in mind that many apps have swelled in size with the Retina upgrade, and if you shot photos and HD video from its cameras, you'll need plenty of storage space.

We would suggest that 32GB is now the minimum size iPad that will comfortably allow you to store a useful set of apps, plus your photos and some video and music.

At just £399 for the entry model, Apple must have taken a hit on its profit margin, to the benefit of the consumer. If the iPad 2 had had any serious competition from even the big-name Android pretenders, iPad 2012 has just buried it.

New iPad display

Apple iPad: Specs

  • 1GHz Apple A5X dual-core processor (ARM Cortex A9 dual-core with SGX543MP4 quad-core graphics)
  • 9.7in (2048 x 1536 pixel) IPS display with capacitive multi-touch
  • 264dpi
  • 16GB, 32GB or 64GB NAND flash storage
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • option for 3G/4G LTE modem: LTE 700MHz and 200MHz, UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA 850MHz,900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz, microSIM card tray, assisted GPS
  • 5Mp iSight camera (rear-facing), capable of 1920 x 1080p video
  • 0.3Mp FaceTime camera (front-facing)
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • 30-pin dock connector
  • mono speaker
  • 10W USB power adaptor
  • 42.5Wh lithium-polymer battery
  • 241 x 186 x 9.5mm
  • 652g (667g inc 4G)
  • 1GHz Apple A5X dual-core processor (ARM Cortex A9 dual-core with SGX543MP4 quad-core graphics)
  • 9.7in (2048 x 1536 pixel) IPS display with capacitive multi-touch
  • 264dpi
  • 16GB, 32GB or 64GB NAND flash storage
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • option for 3G/4G LTE modem: LTE 700MHz and 200MHz, UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA 850MHz,900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz, microSIM card tray, assisted GPS
  • 5Mp iSight camera (rear-facing), capable of 1920 x 1080p video
  • 0.3Mp FaceTime camera (front-facing)
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • 30-pin dock connector
  • mono speaker
  • 10W USB power adaptor
  • 42.5Wh lithium-polymer battery
  • 241 x 186 x 9.5mm
  • 652g (667g inc 4G)

OUR VERDICT

Extra horsepower from the revised quad-core graphics processor has been funnelled into maintaining the iPad 2’s top-notch graphics performance when tasked with driving four times as many pixels. An improved rear camera is not universally essential, and nor is an uprated modem for next-gen cellular services that are unavailable in most parts of the world. But just a short time using the iPad with its entrancing Retina display gives ample reason alone to consider an upgrade, even if you have an iPad 2. Once you’ve tried a third-gen iPad, iPad 2’s text looks plain blurry. For a newcoming tablet buyer, Apple has just handed you, at an unassailable price, the device that unequivocally retains the iPad at the zenith of tablet computing.

Find the best price