Apple iPad 3 specs review

Apple iPad 3 specs review
It's time to leave aside the educated guesses and round up what Apple actually revealed today. Well, a 9.7" tablet with 2048x1356 pixels on the display, a 5 MP rear camera and a combo radio that has 4G LTE and HSPA+ connectivity, among numerous other bands.

The big deal here is undoubtedly the display. While some may argue it is not truly a Retina Display, since it sports a 264ppi pixel density, as opposed to the 326ppi on the last two iPhones, let's not forget that one variable to call it Retina is set to be the distance from your eyes, and your tablet is usually further away than your phone.

Anyway, with the new distance measurement it likely fits the name, but semantics walk when the resolution talks. It is no coincidence that Apple is calling the new iPad's display "Resolutionary". It is a nice wordplay which highlights that we have the highest screen resolution we've ever seen on a tablet, including the new Full HD slates that were just announced last week, like the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity 700 Series or the Huawei Media Pad 10 FHD.

Not only will text and images definition look much better than on the iPad 2 with 4x more pixels, but the display also has 40% better color saturation, which will make everything pop and look gorgeous. Now it will be interesting to see after the first disassembly operation on the iPad 3 which of the usual suspects LG, Samsung and Sharp has made the screen for the particular unit, but the uniform saturation also hints at a pretty coordinated effort between those companies and Apple for achieving the same quality across the board.

The screen makers introduced a new production technology for the tablet's Retina Display - with 3.1 million pixels crammed into the new iPad, a million more than in an HDTV, the signal wiring that tells the pixels when to light up or go down can get interference and deteriorate image quality. 

That's why the LCD screen engineers elevated only the pixels on a different plane, leaving the wiring below them, for the crispest image possible, which is apparently a major breakthrough in display making. Oh, and let's not forget that we have a regular RGB matrix here, no PenTile shenanigans, which makes the 2048x1536 resolution even more stunning.

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Now comes the A5X chip. The A5 silicon in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S is plenty powerful for any app you throw at it, with its dual-core CPU based on ARM's Cortex-A9 architecture. Cortex-A15 gadgets are yet to arrive at some point this year, but the "X" mark after A5 still must denote some sort of an improvement, right? The move from the A4 system-on-a-chip (SoC) in the iPhone 4 to the A5 SOC was denoted by a bump in the processor codes used by Apple. The A4 is S5L8930X, while the A5 is S5L8940X. Now the A5X label goes 5 digits further to S5L8945X, indicating only a partial upgrade over the A5.

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Well, those 3 million pixels are not going to light themselves if we don't have more graphics prowess in the chipset, so Apple has bumped the GPU to a quad-core one now. Before you smile condescendingly knowing that Tegra 3 has a 12-core GPU, and even Tegra 2 has an 8-core one, let's remember that we are talking PowerVR when it comes to the iPad.

The A5 has a dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics subsystem, which wipes the floor with the Tegras, so a quad-core in the A5X probably means a PowerVR SGX543/544 MP4 GPU, coming at about four times the Tegra 3 performance when graphics are concerned, if we look at the synthetic measurements. This will make gaming, image and video editing, drawing or any other graphics intensive task on the new iPad go with the PowerVR flow.

Next in line we have the new 5MP iSight rear camera module, just the resolution on the iPhone 4. It features a 5-elements lens, like the camera on the iPhone 4S, back-side illumination (BSI) for better low-light performance, and image stabilization. The jury is still out on the camera quality, but it should be on par with the iPhone 4 at least.

This time Apple is in possession of a dual-core chip to process all the 30 frames per second coming through the iSight's optics, so the new iPad is capable of capturing Full HD 1080p video, whether you need it on a tablet or not. 

It's nice to know the ability is there, though, and Apple has updated its iPhoto and iMovie apps with numerous editing capabilities made possible by the powerful graphics subsystem and the hi-res display.

And here comes the last hardware achievement of Apple's new iPad - the baseband radio. Considering we have both AT&T and Verizon's 4G LTE frequencies supported, the connectivity chip in the iPad 3 is probably of Qualcomm's newest Gobi variety. Apple claims no mobile device is supporting so many basebands as the new iPad, and it has a reason to do so. 

The fifth generation chip supports TD-SCDMA, TD-LTE, LTE on FDD and TDD networks worldwide and embedded GPS capability, plus 42Mbps DC-HSDPA, 21Mbps HSPA+ and EV-DO, thus providing the widest baseband radio support in the market yet

The new iPad is guaranteed to work on networks from Vancouver to Vladivostok, and Qualcomm has apparently managed to slim down its LTE radios significantly compared to the first generation, allowing Apple to still achieve a very thin, 9.4mm tablet. This connectivity radio we are probably going to see in this year's iPhone as well. 

The Wi-Fi + 4G model will come with different shell featuring a plastic strip at the top that helps signal penetration. Moreover, while you have to pick a version configured specifically for AT&T or Verizon's LTE networks, you can also sign up for service straight from the iPad, and buy data usage as you go, without the need for long-term commitments with a carrier.

Last but not least, a quick word about the battery - Apple equipped the iPad 3 with a 45 watt-hour battery, while we have a 25 watt-hour one in the iPad 2. The new iPad's Retina Display and the LTE connectivity apparently are a huge drain on the juicer, since they are quoted to provide around 10 hours of work and play with both iPads.

Now that you know more about the new hardware features in Apple's third generation iPad, what are your thoughts on them? Did they match all your expectations, or did you want to be "wowed" by even more breakthrough tech? You can also vote for your favorite iPad 3 feature in our ongoing poll here.

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