3 big differences with Apple's new iPad

It's not called the "iPad 3," but it features some significant upgrades under the hood and on the screen.

As the first major presentation since former Apple CEO Steve Jobs passed away, everyone knew that there was a lot riding on Apple’s unveiling of its new iPad. And as agencies move increasingly toward tablets, including the iPad, it seems government might have an interest in the announcement.

The company, of course, cloaked the announcement in as much ceremony and secrecy as possible, not even definitely saying that an iPad would be revealed, though everyone knew it was the main attraction.

The presentation March 7 out at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco even began with the announcement of a new Apple TV that supports 1080p, and the fact that movies in the iTunes store also are available in that format. Yes, that was cool and all, but everyone wanted to know about something else ... the new iPad.


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Thankfully Apple didn’t make people wait much longer than that. The very next announcement was CEO Tim Cook revealing the new iPad, which Apple is not calling the iPad 3, just “the new iPad.”

The biggest new feature, which had been guessed by most people long before the official announcement, was the greater screen resolution. The new iPad will have a 2,047-by-1,537 display, or 3.1 million pixels. That’s much more than the iPad 2 with its 1,024-by-768 display.

Apple is calling it part of its retina display line, because the human eye can not discern individual pixels. And the images shown on the giant display screen did look stunning. Shrunk back down to fit on the new 9.7-inch screen, they would be downright lifelike.

All that graphics power is being driven by a new quad-core Apple A5X chip which Apple says can drive four times as many pixels as the Nvidia Tegra 3 and is twice as powerful as an A5 chip.

Also, the display isn’t just saturated with pixels. Apple says they had to add pixels at different levels within the panel to prevent the signals from getting crossed. They are calling that effort a feat of engineering, and it sounds about right. No wonder they needed the power of a new chip to drive that screen.

Wireless options also will speed up significantly. The new iPad will run on 3G networks, of course, but is also able to connect to 4G LTE networks, as well as any wireless hotspot. Two carriers will offer service at 4G speeds initially, AT&T and Verizon.

The new iPad can become a personal hotspot for other devices, a feature that has become incredibly popular in all kinds of mobile devices. Having a 4G device able to share its connection with others can make it a hub for an entire household, or even a business.

The other main area of improvement with the iPad is the camera, which has always been a weak spot on iOS devices. The new iPad will have a 5-megapixel camera, a beautiful new lens, and some really cool support features, such as motion compensation when filming movies. That’s some pretty high tech stuff, the kind of tools directors in Hollywood use, especially for a home-based tablet.

Most everything else about the new iPad is the same or similar to existing models. It’s 9.4 millimeters thick, weighs 1.4 pounds and has 10 hours of battery life. Those are all good traits that Apple would have been foolish to change, and which would be close to impossible to improve upon, though they seemed to perform a magic trick with that new screen.

If you’re looking for a price break on the new iPad you are likely to be somewhat disappointed, though at least the cost will remain the same as the iPad 2. A 16G wi-fi model will cost $499 while a 64G model will go for $699. Pre-orders start immediately and sales begin March 16.

And Apple is dropping the price, effective immediately, on the iPad 2, which will now cost $399 for a 16G version.

I’ll have more time to analyze everything in the coming days, and hopefully get one of these into the lab for testing. I’d love to see that new display up close. In general, however, the new iPad is about what I expected. It boils down to a new iPad with three improved features over the existing model: a better (and apparently amazing) display, the ability to work on 4G networks if you happen to be lucky enough be in an area that supports it, and a greatly improved camera, which is a nice touch to go with the display.

There are other cool peripheral things it can do, such as take dictation in multiple languages or use AirPlay to stream to your TV, but those three items are the core of the new iPad.

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