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Apple iPad: The retina display redefines the tablet

Melissa J. Perenson | March 19, 2012
The 2012 refresh of the Apple iPad wows, but not for the reasons so often associated with Apple products.

The 2012 refresh of the Apple iPad wows, but not for the reasons so often associated with Apple products. After all, at first glance it appears to be the same product--it's just barely thicker and a tad heavier than the model that came before it. But that impression changes once you turn on the iPad's screen: That's when the new iPad not only takes your breath away but also demonstrates how Apple has redefined the tablet game--again.

Part of that redefinition is in the price. Other tablet makers continue to struggle to offer innovation at the same price the baseline iPad 2 has had for the past year. In contrast, Apple is introducing its third-generation model (Apple is calling it just "iPad," not "iPad 3") with a dramatically improved display at the same prices as before: $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB, and $699 for 64GB, plus $130 extra to add AT&T or Verizon LTE 4G connectivity (mobile broadband service extra; at launch, only Verizon will offer mobile hotspot services).

If you're contemplating which size to choose, consider this: The 64GB iPad I tried had only 57.17GB available to me before I even downloaded a thing. And all of your lovely apps, images, and high-definition 1080p videos will take up more room than before. So you might want to consider springing for more storage, since the iPad doesn't offer any on-board expansion slots as Android tablets typically do. My own images, imported via iTunes, took up more than twice the space on the new iPad than they did on iPad 2.

iPad: It's All About the Retina Display

Apple reset the standard for displays when it introduced its Retina display for the iPhone 4. Once you've seen a mobile world without pixelated, blurry text, you can't accept anything less. That's why I was disappointed that the iPad 2 didn't have the new screen a year ago; by then I was already accustomed to the iPhone 4's higher-pixel-density display, and I was loath to settle.

With the third-generation iPad, you're definitely not settling--at least when it comes to the display. (You are with regard to the tablet's weight and size, but I'll get to that later.) This model's 2048-by-1536-pixel, 9.7-inch display successfully sets another standard, this time for what users should expect of their tablets.

This iPad is the first tablet we've tested to score Superior marks, our highest rating, across our subjective screen-quality evaluation. On our grayscale test pattern, it produced the best balance of blacks and whites we've seen; on our color-bar chart, it exhibited a lovely spread of colors, with no colors blown out at the far end of the scale (something we see often on Android tablets). The colors looked rich and warm, more so than on the iPad 2. The richness of the colors made our images seem just shy of being oversaturated, though that could be in part because we're not used to seeing the images on such a high-resolution display anywhere.


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