Saturday, March 10, 2012

New iPad vs. iPad 2: Should you upgrade?

by  on Mar. 10, 2012, under USA Today News

The cat’s out of the bag about Apple’s newest iPad, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve got all of your questions answered. If you’re a current iPad owner, opting to buy Apple’s newest tablet is an even tougher choice. If you sat out the iPad 2, it’s probably your cue to upgrade to Apple’s third generation tablet, since that original iPad is starting to look downright Jurassic.
But what if you’ve got an iPad 2 in your lap? In the face of a new set of hot features, does last year’s tablet really cut it? Read on to weigh the options and decide if you should stay the course or if it might be high time to trade in.

Ultra-crisp Retina display
The new iPad’s single killer feature is its Retina display. Doubling the pixel count of the iPad 2 up to a very nice 2048 x 1536, the newest iPad offers a sharp, bright screen just like its miniature counterpart, the latest iPhone. The new pixel count is a visually noticeable boost over the last generation iPad, and your eyes will be able to feast on ultra-HD gaming, web browsing, and reading. While the iPad still can’t compete with an E Ink screen when it comes to going easy on the eyes (a backlit display is always going to produce eyestrain), the Retina display’s stunning pixel density should do plenty in the way of making your eyes happier.

Blazing fast 4G speed
Beyond the ultra high res screen, the newest iPad is Apple’s first foray into “true” 4G. 4G networks are leagues faster than traditional 3G carrier networks, and the new iPad will be able to hop on Verizon or AT&T’s own flavor of 4G, known as LTE. What does that mean for you? Mobile data speeds will be screaming compared to what you might be used to, making streaming videos and just about anything else when you’re away from Wi-Fi a seamless, speedy experience. On the flipside, more data speed comes with more responsibility — and by that, we really mean massive overage charges. Burning through the pool of data that your carrier portions out to you per month will be easier than ever, so you’ll want to pay close attention, should your hunger for data verge on insatiable.

Processing power-up with a graphics boost
Naturally, Apple has upped the power of its newest generation iPad. While the new iPad uses a processor that shares a lot in common with the iPad 2′s dual-core A5 chip, the new A5X should provide some nice oomph where it counts. Since the newest iPad will be stunning all who dare meet its gaze with a pixel-packed Retina display, the A5X’s quad-core graphics chops will translate into a high def gaming experience that should blow the iPad 2 out of the water. Of course, the iPad 2 was no slouch in this department, but the new iPad will venture more toward the cutting edge of tablet tech, putting it on par with high-end quad core gamer’s tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime.

A camera you’ll actually want to shoot with
The first iPad didn’t come with any camera at all, and by many accounts, the iPad 2 hardly did either. While its front-facing camera proved adequate for video chatting with FaceTime, the last-gen tablet’s back-facing shooter packed less than one paltry megapixel for still shots. Clearly Apple never intended for people to snap photos with any sort of seriousness on its tablets — until now. Not only does the new iPad up the lens ante to a respectable 5MP with 1080p video recording, but Apple is clearly pushing for a photo-friendly experience, throwing an iOS version of its iPhoto image organization and editing software into the mix. People might not have been wild about tablet photography before, but Apple is clearly positioning the new iPad to create just as much content as it lets you consume.

The same sleek design, just a sliver larger
At first glance, the new iPad is almost visually identical to its predecessor. Closer examination shows that the new iPad is a hair thicker (.37-inch vs. .24-inch) and a teensy bit heavier (1.44 lb. vs. 1.33 lb.) — those new features have to fit somewhere, after all. While it may have bulked up a teensy bit, the size difference should be all but negligible in everyday use. If you liked the design of the iPad 2, you’ll be just as pleased with the new iPad’s good looks, but there’s nothing here worth upgrading over.

A familiar pricing scheme
With the new iPad, Apple kept the price tag fixed right at a $499 starting point for a Wi-Fi version of the tablet packing 16GB of storage. As expected, the company dropped the last-gen iPad 2′s pricing by $100, making it something of a steal if you’re not under the Retina display’s siren song. That said, with a vastly improved display and a respectable camera at long last, Apple’s packed quite a bit of quality and value into that $499 starting price.

Verdict: Worth an upgrade?
Ultimately, if you’re eyeing an upgrade, there are really just a couple of killer features to consider. The newest iPad didn’t go back to the drawing board by any means, but it did toss a trio of important features into the mix. If the Retina display alone moved you enough to upgrade, we certainly couldn’t blame you — especially if e-reading and gaming take up a lot of your tablet time. And if you’re a genuine speed freak when it comes to zipping along on mobile data networks, 4G is going to be too sweet to pass up.
Beyond that, the new iPad’s considerably less laughable camera coupled with the new iPhoto app will likely entice mobile photogs to take a long, hard, HD look at Apple’s latest offering. But if none of the tablet types strike a chord with you, the iPad 2 might still be up to snuff — and with its recent price drop, it’s a strong contender for the best tablet priced anywhere near $399.
Copyright © 2010 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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