Apple iPad full review

The iPad 3 is no longer available to buy. Apple has released an updated version on the iPad, here's a link to our iPad 4 review.

PC Advisor's new iPad review is based on several days of benchmarked, lab-based testing of Apple's third-generation iPad, as well as the subjective opinions of editors. It's the only new iPad review you need.

When you invent the category and make the most desired product to define it, where do you go next? That's the question that Apple has answered simply enough with the third-generation iPad. The 'new iPad', or 'iPad 3'. See also iPhone 5 release date, specs and rumour round-up.

The new name is noteworthy. Just as Apple pulled the rug from below the feet of tech journals with the 'iPhone 5 launch' last autumn – which materialised as the iPhone 4S – so the much heralded ‘iPad 3' was unveiled with an unexpected name: the iPad.

This is certainly in keeping with Apple's avoidance of the techno-jargon names so beloved, for example, of Japanese corporations. The purveyors of consumer electronics that routinely inflict sadistic tongue-twisters such as KDL32CX523BU on innocent tech-loving civilians. So like the iMac before, that has seen dozens of updates in 15 years with nary a change of name, so we may be witnessing a new vogue of serial mono-naming for iPad.

See also: 10 hidden must-know tips for the new Apple iPad

New iPad review: Retina display

In outward form, there's little to distinguish the new iPad from last year's sequel, the iPad 2. The new 2012 iPad model is fractionally thicker, up from 8.8mm to 9.5mm by our measurements. And if you're used to handling the '2, you'll probably notice the extra weight too. This has risen from 601g to about 660g. We say about, as there are a few grammes difference between different storage capacities and Wi-Fi-only models versus those with 4G chipsets. Whichever model you look at, there's effectively two extra ounces to balance across your fingers.

The added mass is principally a byproduct of the new screen tech. Apple has uprated the new iPad screen's resolution fourfold, from the long-popular 1024 x 768 of PCs, to the HD-punishing resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels. While the display shows everything the same size as before, each element now has four pixels in place of one.

The result is breathtakingly sharp typography and cunningly crisp images. Anyone who is familiar with the iPhone 4 and 4S will recognise the effect of the so-called Retina display. Writ large across a 9.7in rather than 3.5in phone touchscreen, the upgrade in image quality is quite extraordinary on the new iPad.

See the new iPad 3 in action in PC Advisor's exclusive new iPad 3 video review. Click the image above or follow this link for our full-size new iPad video review.

Behind this screen, quite literally, is a revised display technology. It's believed to be a form of the Super High Aperture (SHA) process that allows incredibly tight packing of the thin-film transistors that comprise a display matrix. Apple as ever is tight-lipped about the minutiae of internal technologies, but we believe the first raft of new iPads are taking Samsung-made screens, with LG and Sharp mooted to contribute as production is ramped up.

The irony of Apple's Korean arch-enemy supplying Cupertino with the very component that will push the iPad to a new level beyond the Android copycats is difficult to miss.

Squeezing four times as many pixels into the same 9.7in display gives a density of 264ppi. That's lower than the iPhone's 326ppi, but when viewed on a new iPad at a typical reading distance (Apple quotes 15in, which we confirmed is our comfort zone) the Retina effect is restored. Mind you, we've peered closer, much closer, and still can't see any individual pixels. Viewing most content on-screen, it's like looking at a glossy magazine, not a computer screen.

New iPad review: bigger battery

To achieve this effect has taken bleeding-edge screen tech, more LED backlighting, and bigger batteries to drive it all.

Which is why the battery has been expanded by 70%, from 25Wh to 42.5Wh, to maintain Apple's class-leading battery life. The company quotes 10 hour lifespan again. For the iPad 2, we'd suggest that figure was slightly conservative, but maybe one that's closer to the case for the power-hungrier third-gen iPad.

Battery testing mobile devices remains an inexact science with too many variables to replicate a ‘typical' usage pattern. In three days of testing, we had to charge the unit twice, where an iPad 2 may have lasted on a single charge. But our usage of the new iPad was perhaps far from average – in essence caning the device with near-constant use.

New iPad bigger battery

Next page: the new iPad's connectivity >>