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Hands on with Apple's new iPad

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Apple's new iPad is set to go on sale in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Apple's new iPad is set to go on sale in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

The impression with some of my readers is that I rush out and buy every Apple device that ships, regardless of what it is and whether I need it, and roar out in my Porsche to do so.

I'm afraid that's not even near the truth. I drive an old Toyota and I only buy what I need. I have an iPad 1. I bought it so I at least knew about the phenomenon I was talking about, but I did not upgrade to iPad 2.

And Apple hardly showers its commentators with gifts. I knew a guy with a great job for a major telco, but he wrote about technology on the side. His pay for the secondary job was larcenous, but that hardly mattered. He had seven PCs, three stereo systems, several smartphones and cameras... the grateful tech world showered him with review units he could keep.

Sounds great, but that is very far from the life of anyone wise enough (or stupid enough?) to concentrate on Apple, the wealthiest company in the world.

So my everyday Mac is pre-Thunderbolt and my iPhone is still a 4. I get review units sometimes, for two weeks, although I must say new software is often supplied (thank goodness - two weeks isn't enough for something like Logic).

But if I really need to get to know something hardware-wise, I need to pay up.

When I got three days to look at an iPad before the official NZ release, I happily took the opportunity - and no, Apple didn't supply me with one ahead of time; iPhone NZ's Jono went to Australia and bought this one, and lent it to me.

So can I make a compelling case to buy an iPad 3?

Unboxing it was a revelation. I opened the box, and there was... OK, it looks just like any other iPad. But compared to my iPad 1, it feels pretty svelte. Taking it out of the box, it is slightly heavier and thicker than my mother-in-law's iPad 2.

But turning it on, you can't help be impressed by the sharpness of the display. Text looks finer than crisp print on perfect paper, and the screen is a slightly warmer tone than the only thing I can compare it directly too, my original iPad.

And I had no problem with my iPad 1's display... until I went back to it. Now it looks a little fuzzy.

And the 3 is pushing light and colour to an ungodly amount of pixels, let's face it: it has four times the pixels levered into the same physical space as the iPad 2's display (the pixels are teeny, which is why you can't see them).

In fact, Apple claims the new iPad's screen has a million more pixels than an HDTV; a 3.1 million total. A 1080p television is 1080x1920 pixels - in my case fitting between 81.28cm diagonally. iPad 3 has 1536x2048 pixels, but fitting into a display just 24.5cm diagonally. iPad 2 has 1024x768 in the same space.

Drag the magnifying glasses around on this Apple feature page and you'll see what I mean.

Of course, I watch my television from across the room, so it doesn't really matter, but that's a fairly extraordinary feat. Necessary? Not so sure. I mean, I'm old enough to need reading glasses already.

We don't have 4G in New Zealand, so the real kick-in-the-pants speeds people are reporting in the US for web browsing and stuff with a SIM card in, well ...Mossberg, predictably, loves the new iPad. Walt Mossberg used to hobnob with Jobs, and he's always so effusive about Apple. He reckons, over Verizon's network in Washington and in Austin, Texas, he averaged LTE download speeds of over 17 megabits per second.

I only average about 4.7Mbps on my wired home broadband! Gah! [So here's some advice: get the base WiFi model. You can use an iPhone and some other smartphones as wireless hotspots to get online anyway.]

Anyway, over my home wireless in turn hooked up to my disappointing broadband, I got 5.37mbps download and .84Mbps upload on the iPad 3. My iPhone 4 on wireless, that got 5.12 download, .13 up.

With wireless off and only on Vodafone's 3G, the iPhone 4 dropped to 2.96 down and .12 up ... so you can see why people get excited about 4G.

As far as the internals go, it's distinctly faster - the Google Earth app loads about three times faster, and the iPad 3 opened the NZ Herald app from scratch, loading all content (images and stories) in 3.4 seconds, while the iPad 1 took 6, both via WiFi. I'd put this down to pure processing power in the graphics, and while the critics like to lambast iPad as 'not really' having a great graphics processor, actually it's impressive.

Laptop Mag put the new iPad through its paces against the Tegra 3 powered ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Pride.

Apple may have slightly exaggerated that the graphics of the A5X were four-times better than the Tegra 3.

When GLBenchmark ran the Geometric test (vertex weighted), which measures low-level shader performance, the new iPad processed 7,530,524 frames at a rate of 57fps while the Tegra 3-based Transformer Prime processed just 3,523,926 at a rate of 27fps. So despite the slight exaggeration, iPad 3's performance from millions of tiny pixels is pretty impressive, you must admit.

And I just thought of another great thing about millions of tiny pixels - you won't even be able to see the occasional dead one.

Of course, there are other good things about the new 'Pad. The camera is now the same as the one in the iPhone 4 (so not the cool 4S one with the infrared filter 4S). But it's much better than the iPad 2's. It now has a 5MP backside-illuminated (settle!) sensor with auto white balance, and Apple claims it can record 1080p video.

The new iPad is the first tablet that supports Bluetooth 4.0, just as the iPhone 4S was the first major smartphone to support 4. According to Computerworld, Bluetooth 4.0 isn't just a little better than the version currently built into most mobile devices. It's massively better. But I don't have a 4S, either.

Dictation is another new feature, but it's kind of hidden: open Settings, choose General, press Keyboard and turn it on to get the mic icon to the left of the spacebar - but the data is sent to Apple and back for processing, so it's hardly Siri.

'I wander lonely as a cloud' came out as 'I wonder lonely as it', and that after ten seconds.

'I wonder lonely as a cloud wandering in a lonely way amongst the mountains' took 27 seconds and rendered 'I wondered lonely as a cloud wondering along the way amongst the mountains'.

Do Americans say 'wander' and 'wonder' differently? Anyway, hardly the solution for dictating your life's thoughts.

So, am I going to buy one? No. I agree wholeheartedly with Buster Heine on Cult of Mac: "Apple has never given us an overwhelming reason to buy the newest iPad, they've just added more reasons for us to get any iPad." Absolutely.

Anyway, my no-sale is hardly going to trouble Apple: the Inc sold three million of them in the weekend of the launch.

- Mark Webster mac-nz.com

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