When the iPad 2 came out last year, it was like I had fallen in love all over again with Apple’s tablet. It was such an improvement over the first iPad that I couldn’t let go of it for more than a few instants. Of course, the novelty stir wore off, and after a few weeks, I started dreaming about what the iPad 3 could look like or what new features it would come loaded with. Surely, Apple would awe me again.

The Retina display was without a doubt the number one feature I expected from the iPad 3, so you can imagine my excitement when Apple confirmed the new iPad would come with a 2048×1536 display, packing more than 3 million pixels. After all, I don’t need much from a tablet. All I do with it is browse the web, read news, reply to emails, tweet, and my new hobby, editing pictures shot with my iPhone. So really the Retina display is all I wanted, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect Apple to amaze me with features I hadn’t even thought of.

And maybe that’s one of the problems we have with every Apple product launch. We expect too much. The company has set the bar so high, so quickly, that we’re always waiting for them to give us more, more, more, and more. We’re expecting the unexpectable.

Did I, like many others, expect too much from the new iPad?

Let me share with you my thoughts about Apple’s new tablet, now that I’ve been using it for a week. And for those of you thinking this is going to be the same old review you’ve read 27 times praising the merits of the new iPad, you’re wrong. You’ve heard every possible compliment about the new iPad, so I’ll try to give you a more captious point of view…

I have a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad, because as noted three paragraphs above, my iPad usage doesn’t require much storage. As a matter of fact, I still have 10GB of free space at the time I’m writing this. It will likely go down as I edit more pictures, but I doubt I will ever max it out.

This being said, let’s dive into this review of the new iPad.

The Design

If you’ve seen the iPad 2, then you’ve seen the new iPad. They look exactly the same, except for a very small 0.6 mm difference. An untrained eye would never be able to tell. But I’m not an untrained eye, and I bet you’re not either.

The first thing you’ll notice when taking the new iPad out of the box is that it is thicker and heavier. Apple tried to downplay that when the new iPad was unveiled, but I think it’s a very noticeable difference, and not a positive one.

At 0.37 inch thick and 1.44 pound, my Wi-Fi iPad weighs about 8% more and is about 6.5% thicker than the iPad 2. Again, it’s not a big deal according to Apple, but it is to me. Imagine if you were 8% heavier. I’m currently 180 pounds. If I got 8% heavier, I would be 194 pounds. That’s a big difference to me.

Call me crazy, but to me, there is an unwritten rule that says that a new device shall always be thinner and lighter than its predecessor. Ironically enough, I tweeted a few weeks ago that the new iPad would be bigger and heavier. I was joking of course, but little did I know that this tweet would actually come true.

I very well understand the reasons why my iPad is generally bigger than the iPad 2, but still, it is probably my biggest pet peeve about this new device.

Am I the only one noticing a difference? Nope. Last Friday, the first thing my neighbor Scott did when he came home from work was to check out my new iPad. His reaction: “meh, yeah the screen looks nice. Is it heavier?” Mind you, Scott had no idea that the iPad was indeed heavier. I confirmed his thought. He was completely unimpressed. Maybe like me, Scott believes newer devices shouldn’t be bigger and heavier.

Now to be fair, I’m sure that in a few days or weeks, this weight difference perception will have completely gone away. I will be used to it, and I’ll hardly remember how my iPad 2 felt.

We’ve spent enough time on this weight issue, so let’s move on to what’s really important on this new iPad.

The Screen

The second thing you will notice when picking up the new iPad and turning it on is how beautiful the screen looks. If you’ve owned an iPhone 3GS and upgraded to the iPhone 4 or 4S, you know very well how much of an improvement the Retina display can make. As a matter of fact, I doubt I can ever switch back to the iPad 2 without feeling absolutely miserable about the screen.

I could talk all day about it and show you videos and pictures of the new iPad Retina display in action, but it wouldn’t do it justice because no video camera or computer screen can technically capture the impressive quality of it. In short, you have to see it to believe it. There is no other way.

The first couple days I started using the new iPad, I believed the high quality screen actually gave me headaches and caused excessive eye strain, but it turns out it was just me being over tired. There has actually been reports that the new iPad Retina display is better for your eyes than the iPad 2 screen, and while I can’t attest of the veracity of this report, it seems that the new iPad Retina display has the same effect on my eyes as the iPad 2. It’s fine for a while, but I wouldn’t read a book for 30 minutes straight on it. I guess it’s just me. Many people spend hours reading on their iPads but I never was able to. Call me nostalgic or old school, but I still prefer a good old paper book.

The Retina display really is the star of the show. If there is one reason to buy the new iPad – besides maybe its 4G LTE capability – this is it. Again, there is no word or picture that can describe the beauty of it.

The Cameras

The iPad 2 was notorious for having a crappy front facing and an even worse back camera. While the new 5 megapixel iSight camera brings a much needed improvement on the back, the front is still equipped with that same poor “zero point something megapixel” camera you can find on the iPad 2.

And this is probably my biggest beef against the new iPad cameras.

5MP is just about average. For information, this is the same camera you can find on the iPhone 4. Apple could definitely have done better by bringing the 8MP iSight camera of the iPhone 4S over, but then what would they have to sell you next year? It’s a bit disappointing to see that the technology is here and available, yet Apple decides to purposely deliver a product with specs that are not what they could be. I understand the marketing goal behind it but I have a hard time agreeing.

This being said, the iSight camera takes great shots, records very nice videos. It’s all good, but again, nothing we haven’t seen before, maybe except for the ability to now shoot videos in 1080p.

The front-facing camera is probably my biggest disappointment and I find it very frustrating that Apple didn’t deem necessary to throw us a bone. This VGA-quality camera is the one that is primarily used for FaceTime, and if you were hoping to have a better FaceTime experience, then forget about it, because this hasn’t changed one bit.

Apple would probably argue that a better front-facing camera would lead to lagging when FaceTiming. While this might be true, I don’t seem to have any issue when using the iSight camera during a FaceTime call, so why would it be an issue to have a better front camera? This will remain a mystery, at least until next year when Apple bumps up the camera specs and claims to reinvent face to face communication.

The Battery

Per Apple’s tests, and from what I can tell, the battery of the new iPad is on par with what my iPad 2 delivered. I can go for between 9 to 10 hours of usage on a full charge.

Speaking of full charge, plugging your new iPad 3 to a wall will take about 6 hours for loading up the giant battery used to power the Retina display. And if you want to charge your new iPad via the USB plug of your computer, make sure you have plenty of time ahead of you because it will take for ever. At least from my experience.

So this is all great, right? Better screen and same battery usage. Wait a minute. If my Wi-Fi only iPad has the same battery as its 4G counterpart, why do I get the same battery life out of it? After all, 4G is supposed to be draining batteries at a much higher rate. This is another mystery.

I’ll stop complaining about the battery here, because at the end of the day, it still amazes me that I can go for 10 hours non stop on one single charge. I could fly from Los Angeles to Paris and be able to play Angry Birds Space all along, on one single charge. Quite impressive!

Should You Buy the New iPad?

Here were are. If you haven’t made the plunge yet, this is where I’m going to try to answer the inevitable question that I’ve already been asked about a hundred times: “should I buy the new iPad?”

As always, it depends a lot on you, what you use a tablet for, how much you can afford, and what tablet, if any, you currently own. I’m going to provide a few scenarios, and hopefully it will help you make up your mind.

If you don’t own a tablet and are looking for one, then yes, run to the Apple Store and get the new iPad now. Starting at $500, the new iPad is the best money can buy when it comes to tablets. The iPad 2 is still available at $400, but unless you can’t afford forking in another hundred dollars, I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to get your hands on this resolutionary piece of technology.

If you already own a tablet or a first generation iPad, then again, go for it. Without even knowing what other tablet you may own, I can tell you without a doubt that the new iPad is much better anyway. If you are the proud owner of a first gen iPad, it will definitely be a nice upgrade for you. You’ll get a faster, thinner and lighter device, with front and back facing cameras, all that topped with the vibrant Retina display. It’s a no brainer!

Now if you have an iPad 2 and aren’t sure if it’s worth the upgrade, then it’s a tougher decision to make. I have a hard time justifying a $500+ upgrade just for the Retina display. As a matter of fact, a few of my friends who already own an iPad 2 asked me if it was worth it, and I had to be honest and tell them that no, it’s not worth it. And this is my advice to you as well. If you aren’t a gadget freak and you already own an iPad 2, save up your money for next year’s iPad. I’m sure it will make more sense then.

The Verdict

This is it. There isn’t much more to say about the new iPad, because, again, there isn’t much new about it, besides the Retina display. I don’t play graphics heavy games so I can’t report about the new A5X. The new iPad doesn’t feel faster or hotter than its predecessor. The speaker is still the same, and my old Dumb Smart Cover still fits well.

I hope you enjoyed this sincere review and that my honesty didn’t turn you off. As you can tell, it’s not perfect to me, but I’ll admit that it’s pretty darn close.

A week later, I’m still a little upset that the new iPad is bigger and thicker but I will eventually get over it, because it really isn’t a big deal after all. The amazing Retina display, the improved iSight camera and the same 10-hour battery life make it up for the slight weight gain.

At the end of the day, the new iPad is still the best tablet on the market, and from what I’ve seen, it’s still light years ahead of the competition. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t hesitate one second to buy the new iPad.

  • Hey Sebastien, when is the winner of the iPad give away announced ?????????????

    • Today. Winner will be notified via Twitter DM.

  • like it!!!

  • Dan

    good review, it sums up a lot of conclusions I made myself while comparing the two. For me, LTE and the camera really aren’t important. I’ve got a 64GB iPad 2 and will wait till the next generation to upgrade.

  • I bought my iPad last Friday at 12:00 at night from wal-mart! (I was the first one in line)
    As an iPad and iPad 2 owner, it makes me laugh how people are complaining about 5 degrees hotter or heavier, or battery charge!

    Just suck it up and like your new iPad, everyone is always expecting a lot from Apple and that’s why they complain so much but if you take that thought out of the equation you would love your iPad as much as I do!

    Also, you can not blame Apple for having bad sight, there are doctors for that… You can find one using the Yellow Pages app on your new iPad.

  • Pretty much consistent with my findings. It’s really not worth upgrading to from the iPad 2.

    Excellent review Sebastien!

    • That’s because you’ve never played around with the New iPad! Once you try it, there’s no going back! The iPad 2 doesn’t satisfy your eyes anymore!

      • LOL.. Somebody’s got a new iPad :p Any way you’re right dude, it doesn’t satisfy our eyes anymore when there is a retina display glowing infront ;p

      • Anonymous

        so true its the same as going from 3gs to iphone4 massive improvement and no going back.. ipad 2 owners are just upset that their king of the hill is now only second best.

      • I know right? Or another example is like when we all had projector tvs and then HDTV’s came out! People didn’t think that it was necessary to upgrade. Then they upgraded to HDTV and watched their old projector tv again, and saw how nasty the image used to look!
        Honestly, I never noticed pixels on my iPad 2 until I got the New iPad. I promise you that I’ll keep her away from skipping but since she is obviously not going to tell you why she skipped, I guess I needed to tell you myself. 

    • That is completely untrue. For anyone that cares about graphics at all (most of the iDevice community), this is an absolute must upgrade. Personally I didn’t even buy an iPad UNTIL it had Retina. This is an amazing accomplishment.

      • KewlDewd

        It’s subjective and an opinion. There’s no true/false about it. From Sebastien’s point of view, it’s not worth the upgrade. I am a photographer and although this is my first iPad, I totally would have upgraded from a 2 because of the screen, no question.

    • Thank you

  • Well written, and I think I agree with all of it. The size and weight bothers me, I’m having wifi, heat, and battery problems… If I never owned an iPad I would be satisfied, but I had a jailbroken iPad 2 and honestly don’t think the upgrade was worth it.

  • Anonymous

    Nice review. Has all the facts and you’re own opinions. And even though you run an Apple blog you stayed pretty objective.

    I’ve never been one to download tons of app or media. Jeff’s review said you have to go w at least 32gb and LTE but at home and work I always have wifi. So I think 16gb wifi will be fine for me. If only there were some contest that was giving one away for free..

  • Well said Jeff! U have amazing blogs and reviews and your honest! Even though there has been bad reviews for he New Ipad i would still want my hands on one!

    Apple Products are THE BEST ON THE PLANET! Cant wait for the Iphone 5! =)

  • OOOPPPPP sorry , GREAT JOB Sebastian! My bad. Idownloadblog is THE BEST!

  • I have a 1st gen iPad, and am looking forward to getting the “new iPad” at some point (once I get my wife on board 🙂 ).

    My main decision is whether to get the Wifi-only or 4G, and I think I’ve decided to go with Wifi-only:

    1) I currently only use my iPad where there’s already a Wifi connection.
    2) It’s a lighter than the 4G.
    3) In theory there would be better battery life (but it sounds like that might not be true).
    4) It’s cheaper than the 4G.
    5) 4G data plans seem pricey when I’m already paying for iPhone data, and I can always wait until I’m in a place (or find a Starbuck’s) if I really need a data connection.

    Any other thoughts on Wifi-only versus 4G?

    • Anonymous

      I went from the iPad 1 (WiFi only 32GB) to the New iPad (WiFi Only 64GB), my operator allow my iPhone to be used as a hotspot so was a no brainer, anyway my advice is get the 64GB model, apps (since iPad retina display) are increasing in size a lot!

      • Roberto Lafarga

        That is exactly what I did! That’s ,y same story haha! Which color did you got it?

      • Anonymous

        White to match my 4S…!

  • Anonymous

    I had the 1st gen iPad…. so the upgrade for me was totally “a no-brainer”…and well worth it. But as mentioned by so many others…once you SEE the New iPad….that display just hooks you. I am very happy with this new one. But in line with this article, for my own purposes, even the move from an iPad 1 to a 2 was not necessary for me. So going from the 1 to the 3rd gen was great. If I had a 2, I would wait for next year’s model.
    I can’t help but almost be appreciative (on a certain level) of there not being a huge difference in the 2 & 3, simply so that the market isn’t flooded with gazillion used 2 units for sale when they are only a year old. Wasteful. BUT….that’s just my thought.

  • Thank you for a frank appraisal.

    I am in a quandary what to do. I have the iPad 2 16gb wifi. I am constantly maxed out on memory and now I want to add P90X video series on there to do my exercises while traveling. 10 gb by themselves. Last year I traveled overseas and I missed having the 3G to get directions and other location based activities with the iPad. Travelling again this summer to Europe.

    So I am a great candidate for a 64GB 4G new iPad. But I am having a very hard time justifying $800+ to do that. If I had the original iPad this would be a slam dunk.

    Need to make a decision quick.

    • Anonymous

      I would update just for the storage or by a larger capacity iPad 2 used. Best Buy and Target still have some of the previous higher capacity models.

    • Anonymous

      I would update just for the storage or by a larger capacity iPad 2 used. Best Buy and Target still have some of the previous higher capacity models.

  • Maybe I should trade my iPad 2 in.

    My daughter will be disappointed. She is eyeing my iPad 2.

    • I think that’s what you should do, yes. It seems that you need more storage and 3G. Getting the ultimate iPad 3 is your best bet 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Terrible review. I find your complaints trivial and borderline stupid. This device is what it is from apple…..the best tablet on the market period. The only part of your review that is relevant is the last part. But that is about as obvious as the nose on your face.

  • Anonymous

    Sebastien – excellent and well written review! 🙂

    – Eric

  • Thanks Jeff. It really helped me. So for me its wait till the 4th GEN iPad out. I have a iPad 2 3G. keep it up Jeff. Nice review for all.

  • Anonymous

    i have the new ipd and it is fantastic all the way round.. folks who got the ipad 2 late should have just waited for the 3 cause the three is the perfected version of the ipad concept

    • Do you know that the 4G from Ipad it only works in USA and its imcompatible with the other countries???

  • The one thing

  • Do you know that the 4G from Ipad it only works in USA and its imcompatible with the other countries???

    • Almost, it actually works in Canada as well and it will do faster 3G (HSPA+) in other countries.

  • Nice job on the review. Succinct and to the point. You don’t mention WiFi problems, so I gather you’re not having any, although apparently a fair number of new iPad owners are.

    The other thing that you don’t mention, that might factor into a buying decision, are the potential improvements that can happen over the life of the new iPad, and the new apps that will no doubt be forthcoming taking full advantage of the upgraded hardware.

    Apple will surely tweak software and firmware and improve, if only slightly, on the heat, WiFi, battery charge, and any other issues that people are currently complaining about.

    Secondly, who knows what new app goodness will be forthcoming? Bluetooth 4.0 support is just one example of a pretty untapped feature. In my wife’s new car, when she turns on the stereo, her iPhone 4S is already connected (via Bluetooth) and the song that was last playing is now playing on her stereo. No mucking with wires or controls on the phone. It just works. I love this feature. Presumably this would work with the iPad as well.

    Anyway, thanks again for the review.

  • nice review, well written. i especially appreciate the honesty.

  • Anonymous

    This is the first iPad that makes playing graphics heavy games worthwhile. Modern Combat 3 and Infinity Blade II, and Sky Gamblers Air Supremacy look gorgeous and have controls optimized for touch instead of the poorly done onscreen dual sticks.

  • Anonymous

    This is the first iPad that makes playing graphics heavy games worthwhile. Modern Combat 3 and Infinity Blade II, and Sky Gamblers Air Supremacy look gorgeous and have controls optimized for touch instead of the poorly done onscreen dual sticks.

  • Much of the design decisions of the new iPad were forced by the retina display. That demanded a larger battery (and thus a larger, heavier iPad) and a faster graphics processor. That limited what else they could upgrade and hit the same price points, They chose LTE and a much better rear camera. If they had stayed with the previous display, I think you would have seen a better front camera (and all 5MP cameras are not created alike – that rear camera is a lot better than most 5MP cameras – the specs may be average, the camera is not), and probably a 128GB model.

  • Nesar Alom

    Nice review .

  • This is probably one of the most helpful New iPad reviews I have read. I almost bought an iPad 2 last year but held off. My wife has an iPad 2 but her school gave it to her and while I use it sometimes I cannot put anything I want to on it. Any books, apps, games, comic books,or anything else that is not 100% kid friendly cannot go on it so I don’t really consider it “ours”. I have been thinking about getting the New iPad for the past week, so I will stew over this review for another day or two then decide if I want to wait another year.

  • Good review. I feel much the same with 1 huge and 1 small caveat. First, it’s now arguably the best ereader available besides all the other functions of the iPad. You couldn’t say that about the 2, the pixelation was too much for a serious reader or photo person.

    2, the LTE for a serious mobile user in an area that has access, without sacrificing battery is amazing and essential for many road warriors.

    I think the weight and heat issues are near non existent. It feels almost just like the 2. It’s not a shocking upgrade, it’s what the ideal 2 would have been. The 2 was the best tablet available, so de facto this now is. It’s an essential purchase for serious readers and photographers, a more obvious indulgence for anyone else.

  • Anonymous

    Now that I decided to put emulators on my iPad 2, I can’t upgrade until the new iPad has an untethered jailbreak. Love the review though, makes me want to update regardless of jailbreak.

  • I dont get why if the overall enhancements arent much more each time a new ipad comes out and they dont ship 2 different models at the same time, they dont just call every ipad an ipad and sell them for the same price and just keep upgrading them as new tech comes out. Lets face it theres not much more they can do with it besides upgrading hardware and software. if they add extra ports etc they will just be copying android machines.

    That way it saves on the huge disappointment after each major announcement of a new model. From my experience here in Australia more people were more excited about the ipad 2 price drop than buying the new ipad. People are only buying the new one because its the only available now, not because of any new features.

  • tldr

  • Anonymous

    Heat? Length of time to charge? Poor images and apps that haven’t been upgraded? Web sites not displaying well?

    Given all that, plus the similar speeds and that the displays didn’t look much different in the store, we’re now considering getting an iPad 2 as our second iPad rather than the new one!

  • Damon Aldora

    I actually upgraded from a first generation iPad. I had a really good experience with a 3G iPad, so I assumed that this version shouldn’t be that different. I think it is a fantastic upgrade honestly. I bought the white LTE version, and I have no regrets on buying it. Really, it is such a fast tablet. The game “Infinity Blade II” looks beautiful, and TV apps such as DISH Remote Access go perfectly with the Retina Display. I use the TV app quite a lot when I’m at school waiting for class to start or on lunch at DISH where I work and I love it. Since I can watch live TV or recorded shows, its like bringing a high definition TV with me. I’m very happy with it!

  • My experience with the new iPad isn’t very well..it gets hotter than lava sometimes…my ipad doesn’t leave my room but one time i opened the smart cover and i found out that the screen is broken even though my ipad doesn’t leave the room,and sadly warranty doesn’t cover broken screen! And i don’t seem to notice the faster performance.