Extralude: the iPad NOT-3

Why buy the iPad-3?

By Peter Hulm

In my case, because my partner wanted her iPad2 back. She has hardly had a minute with it since we bought the wondertoy ten months before. My excuse was that I needed to check out the Apps for her. Quickly it replaced most books, television, radio, newspapers and magazines in my life.

But why the new iPad? Look at its specifications and you can see why Apple baulked at calling it iPad3. The 4-times sharper screen and quad core don't really amount to a full overhaul, despite all the hollapaloola about 'retina display' and an upgrade to the much despised camera.

But going through London Airport on our way to the States on 17 March we had a couple of hours to spare and drifted by the electrical store. It had the New iPad on sale for CHF200 less than we paid for our iPad2 in Switzerland.

At £542 for 64MG it might have been more than the $680 we could have found in Miami but the airport is notoriously slow to process passengers. We couldn't expect to have time to ferret out a Miami airport retailer in our 2.5 hours after arrival — and we didn't. So we bought it, along with a leathery Belkin cover that also serves as a stand for the tablet, plus a worldwide insurance.

After my first week of playing with the new kid on the block, what was my verdict?

Maybe you don't need it, but you will probably want it.

And after six months it is still the same.

Some like it hot, some not

First, the heat issue. Yes, the new iPad is hotter at its lower extremities than iPad2, but no more than my netbook, which I perched on my knees to write this review, and a lot less than my scorching notebooks.

If that is all the heat the new iPad puts out, I don't think it will bother many, though I have read that overheating is a major life-shortener for portables.

The too-tight suit

The cover, though, quickly found a new home with the iPad2. The new iPad is just that bit thicker to make difficulties fitting the tablet into its home, like putting on a too-tight suit. I like my jackets to button. So it has been passed on to Ms iPad2.

In any event, the cover doesn't start up the iPad when you open it, and we rejected the Apple version since all it provides is a protection for the screen, not the back.

On the Belkin, the holes take some finagling to line up with the external connectors for the iPad, but you can do it, if you can waggle the tablet inside its case easily.

But what about the display?

Ah yes, the display. At first I didn't notice much difference. But as the day wore on and the light grew less towards dusk, I appreciated the higher-def, since text – even pre-retinal display texts – were still easy to read. Watching videos I was astonished by how much more detail I could see. And looking at iPad books (e.g. Richard Dawkins' magnificent The Magic of Reality), I marvelled at the improvement between iPad2 and the new iPad. But the old version is pretty good, too.

So is it a deal-maker? I can't imagine that. Most of the improvement is self-indulgence rather than a qualitative leap forward in the way you can use the iPad.

Don't forget the camera!

But then there's the 5Mp camera, with autofocus, face detection and real HD video recording. iPad2 notoriously had only 920 pixels. All the critics moaned about it, and Apple's cheap attempt to disguise the resolution, mentioning only that it had "VGA-quality[sic]". At least now your snapshots have a chance of coming out reasonably, but you are still stuck with the problems of sound for video, and the hilarious sight of you holding up the iPad like a sheet of paper and filming with it. I use my iPhone for photos rather than iPad.

Final thoughts

If you are buying the tablet as a present, however, and for a kid, I'd certainly go for iPad-3. The games might look definitely better, but so will the other apps.

The quad core doesn't seem to make the machine go faster. The battery life seems as good as on iPad2, so all praise to Apple for that. If you sign in with your old Apple id you can download all your apps to iPad-3 as well. But switch off automatic syncing in iTunes immediately after (it can take 14 hours or so), so that your partner can get rid of the apps she doesn't want, and you can keep all the geeky stuff.

Other reviewers

Try this review for a good, illustrated summary of the differences between iPad2 and iPad-3. It points out that iPad-3 drains over twice as fast as iPad2 on standby, but that is still pretty good, and iPad-3 is slow to charge (my experience, too).