Name: Apple iPad
Carrier: AT&T, Verizon
Price: $500 (16GB, Wi-Fi) to $829 (64GB Wi-Fi + 4G)
The Back Story: Some have said that there really is no tablet market, that there is only Apple's iPad. And while a little hyperbolic, there's some truth hidden beneath that claim. Despite the efforts of every consumer electronics company, none have been able to produce a tablet able to slow down the one from Cupertino. Sure, the Amazon Kindle Fire is contender, but that made front-page news when it sold over a million in a week. Apple's new iPad sold three million in one day.
It's safe to say the iPad is not kind of like a big deal, but indeed a huge deal. The first iteration showed the world how a tablet was supposed to be made, and the second, the iPad 2, perfected that model. And now here we are at the third version. Like the iPhone 4S, it doesn't bring with a new form-factor, it doesn't have a laundry list of new features that will make competitors scrap their worksheets and start from scratch. Hell, it's not even called an iPad 3. Many were disappointed by this assumed lack of innovation. Some think this release has shown Apple to be vulnerable. But there's just one problem with that idea. The iPad is still the best tablet money can buy. Here's why.
Display: The iPad, and every other tablet for that matter, is essentially a large display. So, naturally, the best tablet should have the best display. The new iPad does. The 2048 x 1536 Retina Display is absolutely, without question, the best display we've ever seen on any gadget, and that includes TVs, phones, and laptops. Everything is sharper and more vivid; images pop with detail and life-life recreation, videos are clear, and text as if you're reading a page underneath a piece of glass. It's impossible to get tell how great the screen is from the commercials for print ads, we recommend going into an Apple Store and checking it out for yourself. We guarantee you will be blown away.
LTE: We tested the 64GB Wi-Fi + 4G model that ran on the AT&T network. Surprisingly, the 4G worked so well, we found ourselves forgetting to turn on the Wi-Fi when we got to the office or home. It's that fast. It may be the fasted 4G device we've used on the AT&T network. Using the SpeedTest.net app, we clocked download speeds of 14.61 Mbps. For comparison purposes, Cablevision's I/O broadband Internet only pulled down speeds of 9.68 Mbps. Fast isn't the word.
Speed: If you have an iPad 2, the difference in speed between that and that iPad 2 won't be incredibly noticeable, but it's there. However, if you have an original iPad, the difference is like fat Jonah Hill and skinny Jonah Hill. This is all thanks to the new A5x dual-core processor which was designed to work alongside the new powerful display. Fire up one of the most graphically intensive games in the App Store and you'll see how powerful the new iPad is. Working in conjunction with the A5X is a quad-core graphics chip that produces gaming graphics more powerful that we're bound to see with whatever Sony's Vita will produce. We never experienced a freeze like we did with the original iPad. Web pages, even crazy intense ones breezed along.
Battery Life: We have to tip our had to the crew in Cupertino for producing a tablet that is faster and rocks a display with one million more pixels than an HDTV and keeping the battery life the same at 10 hours. It's true. You can use this thing hard for the better part of a day and not worry about it conking out on you. Impressive.
Camera: The biggest gripe with the iPad 2 was the camera. Despite people's best efforts to use the tablet as their go-to camera, the hardware simply did not justify it. Photos were bleak and fuzzy. Apple realized this and hit the lab to come up with a better solution. The front-facing iSight camera is now able to shoot five megapixel still images, while the rear camera can now record full 1080p video.
Charging: The reason the iPad can last as long as it does is because its battery is bigger. Because of the larger pack, charging the iPad takes a really long time. Our record showed it took a little over eight hours to fully charge. Not a big deal, but if you're in a rush, it could be bummer.
Size / Weight: For the first time ever, Apple has produced a product that is thicker than its predecessor. As the company's laptop line gets thinner and thinner, the iPad put on a little heft, a little like Jonah Hill after he shed all that baggage. The new iPad is 52 grams heavier than the outgoing model, and while it won't strain your arms, it's a noticeable weight difference. Although, if you're coming from an original iPad, which weight 1.5 lbs, you'll think it's all good.
Final say: The iPad is still the best tablet money can buy. There's no question about it. The faster specs only magnify the already great iOS 5.1 operating system. When you combine that with the barrage of apps available, it's hard to justify buying anything else. Should you buy one? It depends. If you have an original iPad and you feel like it's getting long in the tooth, yes, go get an iPad 3. The difference will amaze you. Same goes for those who don't yet have a tablet. However, if you have an iPad 2, you can save yourself some dough and keep rocking with what you have. At this point, the iPad is similar to the Porsche 911. Similar in shape to previous models, each new 911 simply (well, it's not simple at all, really) hones the already great base put in production all those years ago. Is it revolutionary? No. But it's so good, it doesn't need to be.