A Weekend With the iPad 2012

The latest and greatest Apple iPad is here and two of our editors have spent a weekend putting the new model through its paces. Here are some personal thoughts on the iPad 2012 from editors Chris Reed (a hardcore Apple enthusiast) and Raymond Padilla (a guy that loves iOS and Android equally). Naturally, we want to hear how your experience with the new iPad has been too. If you’re still on the fence about the new iPad, please let us know what factors are going into your decision. Read on to see what Chris and Raymond think of the iPad 2012.

The Screen

Chris Reed: If you look at an older model and a new iPad side-by-side, the difference between the screens appears subtle at first. But the closer you look, and the more you use the new iPad, the more obvious it becomes. To me, the killer feature here is the rendering of text on the new iPad. While images and graphics definitely appear sharper, these are things the eyes usually skim over. When reading text, however, your eyes focus in on each word, each sentence. Text on the old iPad looks downright blurry in comparison to text on the new iPad. On the new iPad, text looks indistinguishable from text in a magazine. If you read lots of web articles, comics, or ebooks on your iPad, the new model is well worth the money for the crystal-clear text alone.

Raymond Padilla: After Slide to Play editor-in-chief Andrew Podolsky saw the iPad 2012, he called the improvements to the new screen “subtle.” I couldn’t disagree more. I think the difference in screen quality between the iPad 2 and the iPad 2012 is dramatic; it was obvious to me seconds after turning my new iPad on. Text looks much, much clearer. Images, depending on the resolution, are much clearer and more detailed. In terms of dots per inch, it’s not as big a jump from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4, but in real-world use the improvement is just as significant.

I do a lot of reading on my iPad — web sites, Wikipedia, Kindle, comic books, and more. Any iPad activity that involves a lot of text is simply better on the iPad 2012. First-party apps from Apple (Pages, Garage Band, iPhoto, etc.) look brilliant. Select games that are truly optimized for the new screen are fantastic. My favorite iPad app — the excellent Comics by Comixology — has a Retina Display version in beta with loads of DC and Marvel content ready to go. The iPad 2012 has raised the bar for tablet screens in the 10-inch range. To borrow a line from Tina Turner, it’s simply the best.

The Feel

Chris Reed: If you’ve used an iPad before, there’s not much to say here, because the form factor of the new iPad is very, very close to the form factor of the iPad 2. I upgraded from a first generation iPad, and even those two devices hardly differ in shape and feel. My main concern about the feel of the new iPad — and it applies to the previous two as well — is weight: it’s a little too heavy to support with one hand for more than a couple minutes. However, it’s not much of an inconvenience to rest it on your lap or the arm of the chair you’re sitting in. Like previous models, the new iPad feels like a well-made, expensive piece of technology, and I dread the day when I drop it on a hard surface.

Raymond Padilla: In terms of form factor, there isn’t much of a difference between the iPad 2 and the iPad 2012. This year’s model is roughly seven percent thicker and eight percent heavier. I definitely notice the extra weight of the iPad 2012. However, it didn’t bother me during a couple of multi-hour game sessions over the weekend. I completely understand that a larger battery was needed to power the new screen and processor, but it’s just weird for an Apple product to get thicker and heavier.

The bigger issue is heat. Like many other iPad owners, the lower-left corner of my new iPad heats up after 20 minutes or so of gaming. It never gets uncomfortable, but I wonder if inadequate heat dissipation will lead to longterm problems.

Performance

Raymond Padilla: Coming from the iPad 2, there isn’t too much of a performance difference with the iPad 2012 in terms of day-to-day activities. The biggest benefit is with gaming, thanks to the new quad-core GPU in the A5X processor. Raising the RAM from 512MB to 1GB helps in several areas, but the difference is more subtle. For example, you can keep more tabs open in Safari.

I’m curious to see if future games will experience bottlenecks. I saw a bit of slowdown in Real Racing 2 HD on the new iPad that I didn’t see on the iPad 2. The game is running at twice the resolution, which is a formidable task. The GPU seems more than up to the task, but I have to wonder if the CPU — and make no mistake, games use both the CPU and the GPU — will keep pace with future software. For the most part, performance is great for most tasks. While there are Android tablets that are technically more capable, iOS is simply much more efficient and optimized for a specific set of hardware.

While the difference in screen quality and gaming is dramatic, general performance is mostly the same as last year’s model.

Chris Reed: Coming from a first generation model, I found the new iPad to be wonderfully zippy and responsive. Apps open, load, and close quickly, and home screens shift over as fast as you can swipe. It runs like the powerful, well-oiled machine that it is. For gaming, the performance seems to be every bit as smooth as the iPad 2, even in the games with graphics updated for the Retina Display. I’m looking forward to playing games made from the ground up for the new screen, and seeing how the hardware handles them. From my experience so far, I don’t foresee any problems.

Favorite Retina Display App

Chris Reed: My favorite Retina Display app so far is Instapaper, which was updated over the weekend to take advantage of the new hardware. In case you’re not familiar with it, Instapaper is an app that strips and stores the text of web articles that you want to read later. I’ve compiled an embarrassingly large backlog of articles, but this weekend on the new iPad I put a mighty dent in it. Once you’re reading an article in Instapaper, there’s nothing else on the screen to distract you from the text. And since the new iPad displays text so gorgeously, Instapaper on the Retina Display is a thing of minimalist beauty.

Raymond Padilla: The Daily looks fantastic on the Retina Display screen. The app is already a stellar example of how to use a tablet PC as a digital magazine. Being able to use a crazy-high resolution has taken The Daily to a new level. It feels like I’m reading something from the future…but then I realize I’m not because A-Rod is still a Yankee. Will someone just kneecap him already?!?

Dislikes

Raymond Padilla: Like its predecessor, the iPad 2012 is best in class. There’s really not much to dislike…except for the home button. I hate it. It’s stupid and useless. It adds weight and increases bezel size. Thanks to gestures, I never use the home button. Now it’s just another mechanical part waiting to break.

The flaws of some old content look horrendous on the new screen. It’s kind of like playing an original PlayStation game on an HDTV. Low-res photos, apps with old art, etc. can be ugly and jagged.

With apps getting larger to accommodate Retina Display art, I was disappointed that the storage capacity is still capped at 64GB. I know that Apple wants you to buy more iCloud space and needs a hook for next year’s model, but come on!!!

Chris Reed: My biggest complaint is that, as expected, not many apps have been updated to take advantage of the new resolution yet. If you look closely, you’ll notice that these apps look a little blurry, but they’re by no means unusable. As time passes and companies update their apps, this won’t be an issue.

The other drawbacks that bother me apply equally to all tablets. Typing on the screen leaves much to be desired, and for most people the new iPad won’t work as a laptop replacement. But even with these concerns in mind, you’re not going to find a better handheld device for absorbing media.

Bottom Line

Chris Reed: The new iPad is the best tablet out there. If you do lots of web browsing, Twittering, Facebooking, gaming, ebook reading, and/or traveling — and you have some extra cash in your pocket — you won’t regret buying a new iPad. It really is an amazing device.

Raymond Padilla: I can’t recommend the new iPad enough. This goes for newcomers, original iPad owners, and iPad 2 owners. The new screen is a game changer. Whether you’re looking to play cutting-edge games, read all sorts of content from all sorts of sources, or watch HD movies, the new Retina Display makes everything better. It’s like WWE Triple H: it’s that…damn…good.

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