Reviewing a tablet as iconic as the iPad is a challenge no one wants to take on, especially not a recently converted Apple hater. Regardless, I will do my best to impartially and fairly review this beautiful and polarizing piece of hardware that screams Apple out of every orifice. Okay, so it may not be that easy to do.
The new iPad. Revolutionary or evolutionary? Many are split on this issue for various reasons. Upon first glance, the new iPad is incredibly similar to the iPad 2 and subsequently the original iPad. However, for me, this was extremely unsurprising as Apple has done this with every version of the iPhone. What was unexpected, however, are the minimal increases in weight and girth of this mother of a tablet. This newest version of the iPad has a 0.6mm (0.03 inch) increase in thickness and 51g (.11lb) increase in weight, which may seem somewhat backwards for Apple’s typical drive for thinner and lighter. In practice, this hardly matters and this brings me to what really makes the new iPad revolutionary (or “Resolutionary”), the screen.
First Impressions, Look, and Feel
Sitting in a hotel room in Chicago at 8:30 AM on a monumental Friday, it was all I could do to stop from opening the magical box that contained my new toy. Upon opening the iPad, I turned it on and couldn’t look away — the screen, that magical 2048 x 1536 Retina display is the most gorgeous screen I’ve ever seen in my life. You can’t see pixels — I dare you to try. No matter how closely you look at the screen, everything remains clear and vivid, like print. It makes a 1080p HDTV look positively medieval. Other than the stellar resolution that makes reading articles and browsing the web an absolute dream, the color reproduction is fantastic. As opposed to the overt oversaturation of Samsung’s original SuperAMOLED displays, the new iPad reproduces vivid, realistic colors that make me want to use it for every activity in my life, especially reading.
Upon finally tearing my eyes away from the screen, a difficult task, I assure you, my hand felt the cold metallic back of the iPad. Behind the white expanse of the front lies beautiful aluminum, which feels oh so amazing to the touch, especially after not being in use. The whole package feels put together with the best quality materials, everything balanced and proportional in terms of weight.
Buying Apple, you know what you’re going to get in terms of ports. A standard 3.5 mm headphone jack and the classic Apple 35 pin dock connector are all there is, folks. No USB port, no SD card slot, no fancy microHDMI. On the other hand, Apple has the best third-party accessory ecosystem of any OEM, so you can easily grab a variety of accessories to allow you to do anything. On the right side, you have a switch that toggles either mute/sound or orientation lock, as well as the volume control. The left side is completely empty. Up top, you have the headphone jack and lock switch and alone on the bottom is the dock connector. As usual with Apple, buying their products means buying into the ecosystem and luckily, most, though not all, accessories from previous products are compatible.
The iOS. Love it or hate it, it’s now the market leader in terms of mobile OS competition. Android may be on more phones, but where tablets are concerned, Apple has the market cornered, even with competitors like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. While iOS is certainly not as versatile or customizable as Android, it has its benefits. The multitude of iPad apps is simply spectacular, though there does seem to be a higher proportion of paid apps than on Android or even iPhone apps.
This iOS 5.1 also has some nice iPad-specific tweaks that make the whole experience better. Five finger pinch out from any app goes to the home screen and four-finger swipe right to left or left to right switches between open apps. These gestures make multitasking more palatable, as double pressing the home button gets really old really fast. You’re not really getting anything new over the iPad 2, but again, that’s not such a bad thing. The iPad’s iOS is simple yet feature-rich, packing in tons of functionality in a package even a grandmother or toddler can quickly get the hang of.
What I Like
Simplicity and apps are everything. It’s difficult to get confused within iOS. Everything is right at your fingertips, whether it be the browser, Netflix, YouTube, Twitter, or a multitude of other often-used programs. The icon-driven interface, lack of buttons, and clear paths for media consumption make the new iPad a perfect new toy for just about anyone.
I also appreciate Apple’s ecosystem while simultaneously despising it. Due to the locked-in nature, both of hardware and software, Apple has complete control of the apps and accessories available and compatible with the iPad. This provides a secure ecosystem and a wealth of accessories unparalleled within the tablet or even smartphone world. I plan to purchase a keyboard folio to go alongside my iPad, and the diversity available enables consumers to use their iPad for whatever they need.
The battery in this thing is also spectacular. It’s 70 percent larger than the iPad to support the new A5X processor and Retina display, but in practice, the battery is a monster. I easily get two days of very heavy usage, with around 12 hours of the screen remaining on throughout. I actually streamed around 16 hours of Pandora over the course of three days and still had 30 percent battery life left over at the end. At least on the battery front, Apple remains the king.