Apple iPad (2012) Review

For the first time, the new iPad feels like the device Steve Jobs promised two years ago. This is a capable post-PC device and should usher in another great year for tablets.
For the first time, the new iPad feels like the device Steve Jobs promised two years ago. This is a capable post-PC device and should usher in another great year for tablets.
For the first time, the new iPad feels like the device Steve Jobs promised two years ago. This is a capable post-PC device and should usher in another great year for tablets.

Highs

  • Screen actually is 'Resolutionary'
  • Great battery life
  • Powerful graphics processor
  • Responsive screen
  • 200,000+ optimized tablet apps
  • Excellent rear camera
  • 4G LTE capability rocks

Lows

  • iOS showing some age
  • 4G models split (AT&T or Verizon)
  • Front-facing camera still VGA
  • Slightly thicker and heavier than iPad 2
  • No Siri

The iPad 2 corrected some of the biggest problems and omissions of the first iPad, but with the third model, Apple is done fixing holes. Instead, it’s beefing up all of the internals of its signature tablet to attempt to deliver on the experience Steve Jobs laid out two years ago. Does it live up to the hype? Find out below.

Video overview

Design and feel

The new iPad is almost identical to the iPad 2. It has the same flat-back, brushed aluminum frame as its predecessor, the same button placement, and the same size and look to its screen/bezel (at least, until you turn it on). While it’s always fun to have a completely new look to each device, the iPad 2 is still probably the best-looking tablet on the market. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

apple-ipad-2012-review-bottom
apple-ipad-2012-review-right-side   apple-ipad-2012-review-back-bottom   apple-ipad-2012-review-back-right-side   apple-ipad-2012-review-left-side   apple-ipad-2012-back-top

Apple has made a few necessary modifications to the design, though they’re almost unnoticeable to the untrained eye. The new iPad is a bit thicker (9.4mm) than the iPad 2 (8.8mm) and a bit heavier (1.44lbs) as well (the last version was 1.33lbs). Both of these changes are due to the larger battery Apple had to install to help the new device, with its 4G LTE connection, super HD screen, and quad-core graphics processor retain a respectable battery life.

Overall, the iPad is on the large size, but feels more petite than most of the 10.1-inch Android tablets that have come out to compete with it. It’s hard to say exactly why Apple’s tablet still feels more comfortable than most tablets, but it does. Perhaps it’s the 3:4 aspect ratio, which better mimics a sheet of paper (about 1.5 inches shorter and 1 inch thinner). In any case, it’s easy to make your way to most of the buttons and functions on the new iPad, and I cannot say that for most tablets.

The ‘Resolutionary’ screen

The third-generation iPad has a number of improvements, but the new screen is, naturally, the most noticeable. Apple also invented the cheesiest name ever (Resolutionary) to describe it. But hey, as much as we want to poke fun at the post-Jobs marketing, the screen is pretty damn impressive. It’s 9.7-inch screen has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels, or exactly double that of the iPad 2’s 1024 x 768 pixel screen. As you’d expect, that also doubles the pixels per inch (ppi) from 132 to 264 ppi. The iPhone 4 is still the benchmark for a high-resolution screen at 326ppi, but hey, the new iPad has a resolution greater than 1080p. For our money, that’s pretty damn good.

apple-ipad-2012-review-ios-world-atlas

The jump from the iPad 2 (or any other tablet) to the new display is quite dramatic. The higher resolution hasn’t changed how we use the tablet much (at least not yet), but it has made it a far prettier and more pleasant experience. Future jumps in pixel count will not be as grand, but this is a leap and it makes sense that Apple is calling this a Retina display. We don’t think we’ve seen a display any prettier on a handheld device, or possibly any device. Kudos to the Cupertino engineers who helped devise this.

Operating system

It’s always been a bit strange that Apple doesn’t seem interested in fully optimizing iOS for the tablet form factor, and iOS 5.1 hasn’t changed things. The unlock screen, small buttons, and icon grid are all extremely similar to the iPhone. Apple has created some nice apps that take advantage of the large screen size, but not as much as you’d think. Smartly, it requires developers to create a completely new version of their apps for the iPad, which has resulted in more than 200,000 completely optimized apps made for Apple’s tablet. In that sense, it’s difficult to complain. Android and Windows 8 appear to be built in a more custom way for tablets, but iOS has far better app support than either of these platforms will have for quite some time.

apple-ipad-2012-review-ios-home

iOS 5.1 adds a notification tray and iCloud support, among other things, but the experience is mostly familiar. Hopefully Apple will release a more noteworthy update soon. And maybe some Siri support? The iPad now supports Voice Dictation for typing, but Siri is absent.

Specs

Apple is notoriously mum about system specs, unless those specs are beneficial to them. In its unveiling, the only spec given was that the new iPad runs on a dual-core A5X processor instead of the A5 on the iPad 2. What does this mean? Well, it’s certainly faster, despite having to pump out graphics on a screen with a huge 2048×1536 pixel resolution. Apple claims that the quad-core PowerVR graphics processor in it and is much more powerful than Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip that will be running in a lot of Android smartphones and tablets in the near future. We can’t verify this, but we do know that the iPad 2 definitely seems much more capable than its predecessor. From a spec perspective, it also doubles the RAM at 1GB. Internal storage is still limited to 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models.

Apple iPad Modern Combat 3

We haven’t played too many games just yet, but there are already a few apps that take advantage of the new super HD screen and graphics processing. Modern Combat 3 is our current favorite and looks about as good as a first-generation Xbox 360 game. If that doesn’t sound impressive, keep in mind that it has a resolution that’s much better than the 720p that an Xbox outputs, and the iPad’s screen is nicer than any HD television on the market.

Camera

The new 5-megapixel iSight camera on the iPad is the best we’ve used on a tablet. Granted, that isn’t saying much because most tablet cameras are terrible, but perhaps this will mean more: The new iPad’s rear camera appears to take slightly better photos and video than the iPhone 4S, which is widely considered to be one of, if not the, best smartphone camera on the market. We’ve included some comparison photos and video below, but generally, the iPad produces images with a bit more clarity in focus and slightly better color correction. Unfortunately, there isn’t a LED flash on the tablet, giving the iPhone an advantage there, but unless you’re shooting in the dark, you’re better off with an iPad.

apple-ipad-2012-review-camera

Whether any of you will actually use a giant tablet for photography is a question we don’t know the answer to, but for the first time, there is a good option out there for anyone who dares to look like a weirdo.

apple-ipad-2012-review-camera-vs-iphone-4s
  apple-ipad-2012-review-sample-photo-buildings   apple-ipad-2012-review-sample-photo-lens  

One thing you won’t be doing on the new iPad is taking pictures with its front camera. Apple hasn’t upgraded the lame VGA (640 x 480) front camera so don’t expect to be FaceTiming in HD this go round. Pictures with the front camera look pretty bad, as you’d expect.

4G LTE

Our in-house model is Wi-Fi only, but if you choose to go with a 4G model (and 4G LTE is almost worth the ridiculous price of data), we encourage you to buy the Verizon model. If you want reasons why, we wrote a comparison between AT&T and Verizon’s 4G iPad offerings. Check it out.

Battery life

We haven’t had the iPad here for a full day yet, so it’s impossible to say how the battery life will hold up. Apple is advertising 10 hours of battery on Wi-Fi and 9 hours if you buy the 4G LTE model. Today, we have been using the iPad pretty frequently for about five or six hours, and it is at about 75 percent battery capacity. So far, so good. We’ll report any bad or good news on battery life in the coming days and fill in this section a bit more. Typically, Apple products (minus the 4S) get fairly good battery life.

Conclusion

After personally sitting out for the first two iPads, Apple’s unveiling of the third iPad finally got me excited enough to consider shelling out $500 for a new tablet. After using it, it doesn’t feel like quite as huge a leap as we were hoping for, but it’s still a big step forward for tablets and Apple’s iPad line. It will be nice if Apple chooses to introduce an 8-inch tablet, but the iPad takes mobile computing one step closer to the desktop. Attach a keyboard and stand to this, and you have a very capable PC that can play some impressive games and software. And did we mention the screen? It doesn’t drop your jaw at first, but going back to anything less is already becoming difficult. For the first time, the new iPad feels like the device Steve Jobs promised two years ago. This is a capable post-PC device and should usher in another great year for tablets.

Highs:

  • Screen actually is ‘Resolutionary’
  • Great battery life
  • Powerful graphics processor
  • Responsive screen
  • 200,000+ optimized tablet apps
  • Excellent rear camera
  • 4G LTE capability rocks

Lows:

  • iOS showing some age
  • 4G models split (AT&T or Verizon)
  • Front-facing camera still VGA
  • Slightly thicker and heavier than iPad 2
  • No Siri
Product Review

The iPad Pro is the best tablet ever. But don't sell your laptop just yet

Apple has unveiled a big redesign for the iPad Pro, slimming down the bezels, adding Face ID, and the ability to attach and charge the Apple Pencil. All of this comes at a high cost however, as the iPad Pro starts at $799.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Computing

New rumors say the Pixelbook 2 could show up at CES 2019

What will the Pixelbook 2 be like? Google hasn't announced it, but thanks to rumors and leaks, we think we have a pretty good idea of what the potential new flagship Chromebook will be like.
Mobile

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Mobile

Leave the laptop at home, the iPad Pro is the travel buddy to take on vacay

The iPad Pro is a powerful tablet that's perfect for creatives and professionals. How does it fare when traveling with it as a laptop replacement? We took it on a two week trek in Japan to find out.
Computing

Costco members can cut up to $200 off MacBook and iMac price tags

Costco is discounting MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops by as much as $200 as part of a members-only sale. It also has deals on select MacBooks and iMacs, with optional Apple Care in most instances.
Mobile

Need to record calls on an iPhone? Check out our handy guide

Are you wondering how to record calls on your iPhone? It isn't as easy as you might think, but we'll walk you through the process of doing so with Google Voice, and identify several other apps and external voice recorders that can help.
Mobile

Apple is spending $1 billion to hire up to 15,000 new employees in Austin

Apple has announced a series of expansions across the U.S. -- including a massive expansion to the company's Austin campus that will see it spending $1 billion to accommodate for up to 15,000 new employees.
Computing

Style up your MacBook Air with one of these great cases or sleeves

Whether you’re looking for added protection or a stylish flourish, you’re in the right place for the best MacBook Air cases. We have form-hugging cases, luxurious covers and padded sleeves priced from $7 to $130. Happy shopping!
Mobile

Ditch your smartphone for a year and win $100k from Vitaminwater

Vitaminwater is willing to part with $100,000 if you're willing to part with your smartphone partner for a year. Could you last for a year armed with only a 1996-era phone? Here's your chance to find out.
Deals

The best Apple Watch deals for December 2018

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Deals

The best MacBook deals for December 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.