A No Holds Barred Review of the (3rd Gen) iPad (2012)

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Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: This may come as a blow to Android fanatics, but Apple's new iPad is the all-around fastest tablet on the market right now. Much of the credit goes to the upgraded PowerVR graphics engine with four GPU cores that Apple claims are the bees-knees. Put to the test, the new iPad ran circles around NVIDIA's Tegra 3 platform in 3D intensive tasks. It didn't consistently provide four times the performance as Apple's Tim Cook so gleefully pointed out during the iPad launch event, but it was never a close race either. What's more, it looked better courtesy of the vibrant Retina display. For competing tablets, it's like losing a foot race to a trash talking Anne Hathaway on your home turf. All you can do is scratch your head and wonder, 'What the hell just happened?'

By the numbers, the new iPad couldn't distance itself from other tablets in Web browsing benchmarks, usually scoring in the middle of the pack. But if you're pulling for Android, it's a moral victory at best. The browsing experience doesn't get much better than on the iPad, which has excellent pinch-to-zoom performance, crystal clear text, and silky smooth scrolling. It's markedly better than Sony's Tablet S or Amazon's Kindle Fire, though the Achilles' heel remains Flash support (Android's trump card), at least until it disappears from the Web.

When the iPad 2 came out, I felt strongly it was the best tablet on the market. There hadn't been an iPad killer, and really there weren't many high-end contenders at the time. To an extent, the same is true today. With the improvements Apple made to the new iPad, I'm comfortable calling it the best tablet experience money can buy, though Apple left plenty of room for argument (including here at HotHardware), especially as time goes on and more Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) tablets roll out.

Here's my issue with Apple. For all the talk of proprietary software, locked down hardware, and in some cases, price gouging (Apple Tax, if you will, which I don't feel applies to the new iPad), my biggest frustration is the company's planned obsolescence model. This doesn't get talked about a whole lot in the media, partly because Apple products are typically very good at what they do (as we've shown in this review) and you learn to live with their shortcomings. You know, like the lack of expandable storage, Flash support, and USB connectivity. The new iPad's FaceTime camera is sub par because Apple will sell millions of devices anyway, and it will probably be upgraded on the next model. The 5MP rear-facing camera is decent, not great, and the A5X processor is still a dual-core 1GHz chip at a time when quad-core processing is vogue. I'd bet my neighbor's yapping dog that next year's iPad sports a quad-core chip and higher quality FaceTime camera, and perhaps Siri, another feature that could have and should have been included here, but isn't. Why? Because Apple's going to sell millions of iPads regardless. It's slightly arrogant and brilliant at the same time.

My frustrations aside, the new iPad is a great upgrade if you're coming from a first generation iPad, an older Android tablet, or are a first time tablet buyer. For those of you who already own an iPad 2, continue enjoying one of the best tablets on the market. For everyone else, Apple's third generation iPad ups the ante with twice as much RAM as before, 4G LTE connectivity, a serviceable rear-facing camera, voice dictation (not Siri), and hands down the best mobile display on the market. Pictures and games look stunning, colors are vibrant, and text is as sharp as I've ever seen. It didn't knock my socks off at first, but the more I use it, the more I'm noticing subtle differences a 2048x1536 resolution provides.

Apple also deserves kudos for maintaining the same battery life and keeping the price the same. With a starting price of $499, the iPad is still in line with higher end tablets, at least for now. It could be a different story entirely if Android tablet makers come out with lower priced competitors, but so far they've been content to battle Apple at the same or similar price points.

The new iPad isn't quite the generational leap the iPad 2 was over the original, but it remains the all-around tablet to beat.

  • Stunningly gorgeous 2048x1536 Retina display
  • Quad-core graphics engine is really flipping fast
  • iOS is as slick as it ever was
  • Twice the amount of RAM (1GB) as before
  • Now supports 4G LTE (optional)
  • Much improved iSight camera (5MP)
  • Still no microSD card slot, HDMI output, or USB ports
  • FaceTime camera stinks
  • Slightly thicker and heavier (nitpicking here)

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