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Should you upgrade to the iPad 3?

Derrick joined MyBroadband in 2011 as a junior journalist with a strong background in computer hardware and gaming – he lives for that new motherboard…

The iPad 3 is an improvement over previous generation models, but should you upgrade right away?

Apple’s recently launched iPad 3 tablet PC features a host of improvements over previous models. However, not all of the new features are groundbreaking and the question of whether current generation iPad users should upgrade doesn’t have a clear cut answer.

The changes between the iPad 2 and iPad 3 are mostly internal; apart from a slightly thicker casing and a different rear facing camera port, the two devices are nearly identical.

These changes may encourage people to upgrade, so knowing what the new model brings to the table is important.

To clarify what has been upgraded we have a table that compares the hardware specifications of all three generations of iPad tablet PC.

Below we discuss the standout improvements found on the iPad 3.

The Screen

The most obvious feature of the new iPad is undoubtedly the Retina display. It has been hailed by reviewers around the web as a vast improvement over previous generation screens.

According to M. G. Siegler at TechCrunch, “After using the new iPad for an extended period of time then switching back to an iPad 2 (or 1, for that matter), you’ll cringe at the pixelated cloud [that] appears to surround every app icon. Text will look murky. Colours will look muted.”

AllThingsD and The Verge were also quick to praise the new screen in their reviews.

LTE support

The iPad 3 comes branded as a 4G device which supports Long Term Evolution (LTE). The 73Mbps speeds are a vast improvement over previous models, though questions remain on whether South African users will be able to experience the LTE feature of the iPad 3.

The iPad 3 uses 700MHz and 2,100MHz spectrum for LTE data transfer, rather than the 800MHz and 2,600MHz set aside for LTE use in South Africa.

Vodacom have commented on the LTE issue, saying “At this point we will not support LTE on the 700MHz and 2,100MHz frequency bands.”

8ta meanwhile have said that the 700MHz band is currently used by television broadcasting services and they therefore can’t comment on 700MHz deployment at this time.

Regarding 2,100MHz, 8ta has spectrum allocation in this band; however, it is currently being used for 3G data services.

“Telkom Mobile has utilised this band to deploy 3G technologies and therefore Telkom Mobile cannot make any commitments in respect of possible LTE (3GPP Release 8 and beyond) deployment in the future,” 8ta boss Amith Maharaj was quoted as saying.

Apple iPad 3

Apple iPad 3

5 Megapixel Camera

A 5-megapixel camera features on the iPad 3, an improvement over the 0.7-megapixel camera found on the iPad 2, and the lack of any camera on the iPad 1.

Apple has said that the iPad 3’s camera makes use of some technology from the iPhone 4S despite using a 5-megapixel sensor rather than the 8-megapixel sensor found in the iPhone 4S.

Slashgear’s Vincent Nguyen spoke favourably of the new camera: “The 5-megapixel images the [iPad 3] is capable of do lag behind the 8-megapixel examples from the [iPhone 4S]. There’s more visible noise and chromatic aberrations at full zoom, though the quality is far, far better than any stills the iPad 2 can achieve.”

In addition to the new camera hardware, camera software has also been improved. The iPad 3 has touch focus, geo-tagging, HDR, and face detection, among other features.

Chipset improvements

There was a dramatic performance increase between the iPad 1 and iPad 2 when Apple moved from a single-core 1GHz Cortex A8 CPU to a 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9. The RAM also doubled from 256MB to 512MB, and the graphics chip was replaced with one more powerful.

The iPad 3 once again doubles the RAM to 1GB, and the graphics processor is now a quad-core version of that found in the iPad 2. However, the iPad 3 features the same dual-core 1GHz Cortex A9 CPU found in the iPad 2.

Because of this, iPad 3 doesn’t perform much faster than the iPad 2 in CPU tests. According to testing by MacWorld’s Jason Snell, “The A5X processor that powers the third-generation iPad doesn’t really offer more processing power than its predecessor. In all our processor-based tests, the [iPad 3] ran about as fast as the iPad 2.”

Despite this similar performance for CPU tasks, the iPad 3 did offer a performance advantage over the iPad 2 when it came to Shashgear’s video testing.

A 3D gaming performance increase is expected thanks to its improved GPU, though there hasn’t been much testing to confirm this.

iPad 3 touch screen

iPad 3 touch screen

Other improvements

Beyond the 4 major improvements outlined above, there are also minor features that are worth a mention.

The Siri voice control system is the most notable, present on the iPad 3 but not in previous generation devices.

Another is the improved Bluetooth connectivity, with v4.0 of the standard present, rather than v2.1 found in the iPad 1 and iPad 2.

Finally, the iPad 3 is 0.6mm thicker than the iPad 2, and 55g heavier. Despite this, it is substantially thinner and lighter than the iPad 1, something to consider if you still have the first generation tablet.

Should you upgrade?

The big question of whether or not you should upgrade will be answered by what you get out of an iPad.

The four main feature improvements discussed above are significantly better than the iPad 1, though they look less impressive when compared to the iPad 2.

For those with an iPad 1, the iPad 3 represents a significant performance upgrade and it should be considered.

However, for those with an iPad 2, the general consensus is that there is no necessity to upgrade.

David Pogue of the New York Times felt that the new model doesn’t quite overshadow the iPad 2, saying: “If you already have the iPad 2, here’s an even brighter side: at least this time around, you don’t have to feel quite as obsolete as usual.”

Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD agreed, saying: “If you already own an iPad 2, and like it, you shouldn’t feel like you have to rush out to buy the new one.”

Finally, MacWorld’s Jason Snell felt that iPad 2 owners shouldn’t feel the need to upgrade for another year. However, he does add: “Once you get a load of that Retina display, it’s hard to go back to anything else.”

Related links:

Apple iPad 3 launches; iPad 2 prices lower in SA

iPad 3 launch attracts huge crowds

Apple experiences record iPad pre-orders

iPad hailed by elite game developers

Dissected iPad reveals Samsung, Qualcomm parts

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of MyBroadband.

Tags: 8ta, Amith Maharaj, Apple, Headline, iPad 3, LTE, Retina, Vodacom

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