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
Computing

If you have $5,200, Apple has 256GB of RAM for your iMac Pro

Professionals looking to run intensive applications will be able to push their work a bit further with Apple's latest iMac Pro, which holds 256GB of DD4 ECC RAM for $5,200. Here's why it costs so much to upgrade your iMac Pro to the top.
Mobile

Apple iPad Air vs. iPad (2018): Which Apple tablet is right for you?

The new iPad Air replaces the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, but it doesn't pack quite the same punch. It is a fair bit cheaper, starting at $500, but it's a lot more expensive than Apple's 9.7-inch iPad which starts at $330. If you're shopping for…
Mobile

iPad Air vs. iPad Mini: Which new tablet from Apple is best for you?

Apple has unveiled two new iPad models, including a new iPad Air and a new iPad Mini. Both devices have a lot to offer. But which iPad is right for your needs? We put the iPad Air and iPad Mini to the test to find out.
Mobile

How to choose an iPad in 2019: A practical guide to Apple’s tablets

Selecting an iPad from Apple's lineup can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Our comprehensive guide should put the numbers and specs in practical, easy-to-understand terms. Find your ideal iPad with the help of our guide.
Mobile

The Apple iPad Air is the power-packed tablet for everyone

The iPad Air is the less serious cousin to Apple's iPad Pro range, and it's the perfect addition to your coffee table. But it's no less powerful. Here's everything you need to know about the iPad Air.
Deals

The best Apple AirPods alternatives for Android, Windows, and iOS devices

Apple AirPods might be new and improved, but they aren't the only game in town. Other makers are offering their own truly wireless earbuds, with attractive features. These are the best AirPod alternatives on the market today.
Social Media

Facebook Messenger adds quoted replies to better organize group chats

Facebook is rolling out a feature that should help make group chats a whole lot more organized. The feature allows you to reply to specific messages within a group chat, so others will be able to tell what you're replying to.
Deals

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for March 2019

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.
Mobile

The 2018 iPad is often the best iPad for most people — and now it’s only $250

Apple may have recently taken the wraps off of a new iPad Air and iPad Mini, but it's still the standard iPad that is best for most people. Now, the standard iPad has gotten a pretty significant discount -- it's down from $330 to $250.
Photography

Looking to keep prying eyes at bay? Here's how to hide photos on your iPhone

People take tons of photos using their smartphones, but not all are meant to be shared or seen. Luckily, hiding photos on your iOS device is easy, whether you want to use built-in utilities or apps with added security.
Computing

Give your MacBook Air some added style 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 $10 to $130. Happy shopping!
Deals

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for March 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for March 2019.
Home Theater

There isn’t a single good reason to buy Apple’s new AirPods

After nearly a three-year wait, Apple has finally announced a new version of its popular true wireless headphones, the AirPods. We had high hopes for vast improvements, but that's not what we got.
Product Review

The new iPad Mini certainly isn’t a beauty, but it performs like a beast

Apple’s new iPad Mini has beastly performance, fluid iOS 12 software, and good battery life. It also looks like it came straight out of 2015, because the design hasn’t been changed. Here are our impressions of Apple’s new 7.9-inch…