New iPad: Hands-On First Impressions

After spending several hours using the new iPad, it's evident that Apple's latest tablet is both evolutionary and revolutionary--which makes the upgrade decision a tougher one.
The display is ridiculously crisp. It has more pixels than my laptop screen or my desktop monitor. As the early reviews said, it's the best screen on any mobile device available at the moment. Nothing else comes close. Pixels are invisible, and images and text look razor sharp.

I downloaded a few apps that have been optimized for the iPad's so-called retina display, including Flipboard and Infinity Blade. These refreshed apps really put the screen to the test, and it shines. As more and more apps are optimized for the new iPad you'll become addicted to its amazing screen.

The operating system is the same version of iOS available to the iPad 2 and the original iPad. I didn't notice any change or improvement in the performance of the tablet at all compared to its predecessors. In the few simple tests I performed, all three versions of the iPad performed equally well, with none really standing out.

Perhaps the only appreciable improvement was within Apple's new iPhoto application. Opening the editing tools, using them, and saving changes all felt a bit zippier on the new iPad.

The one feature I was most eager to test is the new LTE 4G radio on board. Though LTE 4G isn't available in my house yet, it is available in the next town over. I drove over to a spot I know has good coverage and ran some tests. Wow. The LTE network performed flawlessly on the iPad and delivered some amazing download results. It averaged 15.8 Mbps and peaked at 18.23 Mbps. I also tested Verizon's older CDMA-based 3G network. As expected, download speeds were much slower, around 1 Mbps. Although that's good enough for snagging email and browsing the Web, it's not ideal for streaming audio and video or downloading apps.

I took just a few test shots with the camera. They look better, with far less grain than images captured with the original iPad, that's for sure.

Based on a few hours' use, the new iPad certainly pleases. Although it looks the same, acts the same, and feels the same as the iPad 2, the improvements to the screen and radio are more than enough to make the purchase worth it, in my opinion. For people who spend a lot of time with their iPads, the screen alone is worth the upgrade cost. Your eyes will thank you.

If have an iPad 2 that you're perfectly happy with, I say: get the new iPad anyway. The only people I'd recommend stay away? Those who don't like iOS. If you don't like iOS, there's nothing about the new iPad that will help. Stick with the operating system you prefer. If you have no OS preference, get the new iPad. Without a doubt it's the best tablet your money can buy right now.

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