This iteration of the iPad might not be a major leap over the iPad 2 (*Est. $400 and up), critics say, but the improvements are significant enough to keep the Apple slate at the top of the tablet roost. The A5X processor adds greatly improved graphics capabilities to the iPad 2's well-regarded A5 CPU, and games -- along with most everything else -- look great on the current iPad's stunning 2,048-by-1,536 Retina display, which packs nearly twice the resolution of most Android tablets. A 4G LTE option has been added, although it only works on select North American networks; the main camera's quality has been boosted significantly; and Apple's software and app selection remains unrivaled.
The slim, sleek and widely praised design of the iPad remains largely unchanged, although the current iPad is slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, thanks to the inclusion of a larger battery. That battery's charge lasts upward of 10 hours, experts report, though on the flip side, the battery takes nearly seven hours to recharge completely. There are few other drawbacks, though some reports have surfaced about Wi-Fi issues in Wi-Fi-only models. Beyond that, the lower-left hand corner of the iPad can become hot to the touch during long, intense 3D gameplay sessions, and there still isn't an SD card slot, so you're stuck with the memory configuration you purchase. The top-rated Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime Android tablet has a micro-SD slot and starts with twice the storage space of the iPad, though its app selection is less robust. Or, if you don't need the 4G radio and don't care about the high-resolution Retina display, critics say the reduced-price iPad 2 is a very solid option that nearly matches the iPad's performance in everything but 3D gaming.
While the iPad includes a one year warranty and Apple's technical support is highly rated, customers only receive free phone support for 90 days after purchase. Most competitors offer at least a full year. Apple offers an AppleCare+ plan that extends the coverage to two years, although you'll need to pay a $50 surcharge if you send your iPad in for repairs. Free technical assistance can be found at the Genius Bar in retail Apple stores, but an appointment is required and the help can be a bit spotty, according to user reports.
Almost every technology publication has covered the updated Apple iPad, and a couple of mainstream sources, too. The best reviews come from Wired, CNET, PCMag.com, Laptop Magazine, TheVerge.com and ComputerShopper.com, which all offer lengthy evaluations punctuated by benchmark testing, analysis and comparisons to other tablets. Myriad other sources -- such as AnandTech.com, Pocket-Lint.com and Engadget.com -- also review the Apple iPad, though those reviews vary in length and quality.
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PCMag.com finds little to criticize en route to awarding the current Apple iPad a 4.5 out of 5 rating and an Editors' Choice award. The Retina display, 3G/4G capabilities and wide app selection are singled out as particularly high points, though Segan notes that some intense 3D games sometimes strain the A5X processor.
Review: New Apple iPad, Sascha Segan, March 17, 2012
2. Laptop Magazine
The Apple iPad earns a similar 4.5 rating and Editors' Choice award from Laptop Magazine. The improved display, 4G capabilities, and 5 megapixel camera draw praise, but Spoonauer finds the tablet gets very warm during long 3D gaming sessions.
Review: Apple iPad (2012) Verizon Wireless Review, Mark Spoonauer, March 19, 2012
CNET likewise names the Apple iPad the best tablet in the land, but reviewer Donald Bell cautions that storage needs may balloon as app makers rush to release high-definition Retina display-optimized content. The improved camera, graphics and 4G connection earn high marks from the publication.
Review: Apple iPad (March 2012, 16GB, Wi-Fi, black), Donald Bell, March 16, 2012
4. Computer Shopper
The Apple iPad notches up another Editors' Choice award and 4.5 rating at ComputerShopper.com. Jonathan Rougeot praises the greatly improved camera, display and graphics capabilities, but the lack of Siri and USB or SD card slots forces him to dock the tablet a half-point.
Review: Apple iPad (2012 Version, Wi-Fi) Review and Ratings, Jonathan Rougeot, March 17, 2012
The Apple iPad earns perfect ratings for its display, performance, battery life and ecosystem -- along with almost perfect ratings in design and software. The result is a 9.3 overall score, the highest rating TheVerge.com has awarded a tablet.
Review: iPad review (2012), Joshua Topolsky, March 14, 2012
Although Engadget.com doesn't provide numerical rankings, its dense, wordy reviews are full of benchmark tests, insight and analysis from reviewers who handle a lot of hardware -- and Tim Stevens walks away mighty impressed by the current Apple iPad. Although he says iPad 2 owners may want to pass, he says all other tablet buyers should consider the updated iPad largely because of its "truly bonkers resolution."
Review: iPad Review (2012), Tim Stevens, March 16, 2012
AnandTech.com doesn't hand out ratings or awards either, but its hardcore, multipage benchmark-based reviews are legendary for their depth. The updated iPad gets the full treatment -- including a direct comparison between the slate's A5X processor and the Nvidia Tegra 3, its closest competitor -- and it is named the best tablet available. "It has the fastest and best of nearly every component inside and out," the reviewers say.
Review: The Apple iPad Review (2012), Vivek Gowri & Anand Lal Shimpi, March 28, 2012
Jon Phillips is blown away by the 4G speeds and Retina display of the updated iPad, singling it out as the best tablet available, but he cautions that owners of the original iPad or iPad 2 might want to think carefully before upgrading, as all three basically perform the same core functions equally well.
Review: Is This the Last iPad That Really Matters?, Jon Phillips, March 19, 2012
Jason Snell reports that the current iPad is the best tablet around and better than its predecessor in every way, though aside from the 4G support and eye-catching Retina display, he says the changes are largely incremental. New buyers should snatch it up, while iPad 2 owners can pass for now -- as long as they don't make the mistake of seeing the Retina display in action. "Once you get a load of that Retina display, it's hard to go back to anything else," Snell writes in conclusion.
Review: Review: The Third-Generation iPad, Jason Snell, March 14, 2012
This seven-page review is remarkable in its detail, covering almost aspect of the Apple iPad. In conclusion, Jacqui Cheng finds the Apple iPad to be the cream of the tablet crop, but aside from the 4G and Retina display, the upgrades are largely minor. If those aren't crucial considerations, she suggests buying or sticking with the iPad 2.
Review: Pixel-pumping Prowess: Ars Reviews the Third-generation iPad, Jacqui Cheng, March 20, 2012