Apple iPad (2012)

With a host of improvements, like faster graphics, a better camera and a gorgeous high-res screen, the latest iPad cements its position at the head of the tablet pack.

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Apple's new iPad is a mix of the familiar and the futuristic. Its design remains practically unchanged from last year's iPad 2. Its internal components and wireless capabilities have only received a predictable bump. You'll think that Apple fell asleep at the wheel with this one — until that moment when you turn on the screen.

When I tell you that Apple has doubled the iPad's screen resolution to an unprecedented 2048x1536 pixels, your eyes should water a little. No other screen in your home can compete with this resolution — not your laptop, not your desktop computer, not even your 1080p TV. For a device that fits in your lap and costs as little as AU$539, a screen like this is an impressive feat.

Speaking of pricing, the going rate for an iPad hasn't changed since the tablet's introduction in 2010. The AU$539 entry-level price buys you 16GB of built-in storage; spending AU$649 buys you twice the room (32GB); and AU$759 will bring you up to 64GB. All three models can access the internet over Wi-Fi, and are available in either black or white. If you want the added ability to access the internet over a 3G cellular network, tack on an extra AU$140.

For the iPad uninitiated looking to save a little money, Apple is keeping around the 2011 iPad 2 (16GB), priced from AU$429. It's a good price, especially considering that the iPad 2 is still leagues better than many of the tablets that we've seen this year. But if you want bragging rights and a renewed lease on the cutting edge of tablet technology, then the new iPad is the way to go.


Looking at the new iPad, you'd think that someone was playing a trick on you. It looks almost exactly like last year's model. The tablet's glass and aluminium construction is still 241mm tall and 185mm wide. Thickness is now up slightly at 9.4mm, weighing in at a beefier 662 grams. You get the same home button on the bottom of the screen and a volume rocker on the right side, along with the mute switch/rotation lock. Up top, you have the sleep/wake button and headphone output, and the bottom edge retains the 30-pin port.

The new iPad is slightly heavier than the iPad 2.
(Credit: CNET)

Apple's retreat from being one of the thinnest, lightest tablets on the market may leave some room for competitors. Already, we're seeing tablets, like the Toshiba Excite X10 LE, which are thinner than the iPad 2 and just as light. Apple is betting that a best-in-class screen will trump any concerns over the slight uptick in weight and thickness. And if they're wrong, well, the iPad 2 is still around for those who can't bear the extra 51 grams.

But the sure fire way to tell a new iPad apart from an iPad 2 (aside from counting pixels or breaking out the scales) is to flip them over. No, this isn't a tablet gender test; what you're looking for here is the rear camera in the top left corner. On the new model, the camera is slightly larger, accounting for the improved optics and camera sensor, similar to what's used in the iPhone 4S (though not identical).

New features

Beyond the vastly improved screen, there are a number of other upgrades worth mentioning. The iPad's processor has been upgraded to what Apple is calling an A5X. Like the A5 processor used in the iPad 2, this CPU remains dual core. The "X" is there to signify that the graphics processor has been beefed up to quad core. This seems to be a necessary measure for juggling four times the pixels of the previous model, but, regardless, games and graphics perform fluidly.

Against everyone's expectations, Apple did not include its Siri digital assistant on the new iPad — at least, not entirely. Siri's voice-to-text dictation capability has migrated to the iPad, but that's it. If you want to find nearby sushi restaurants, you're going to have to search for the answer online, like a Neanderthal.

Still, the addition of voice dictation is a welcome feature, and it can be handy for composing quick emails and bypassing the touchscreen keyboard when searching for information online. Its accuracy leaves a little to be desired, though. Just like auto-corrected typing, the iPad's dictation isn't infallible.

Last but not least, there's the iPad's updated rear camera, which the company calls its iSight camera. It is a huge improvement over the iPad 2's 0.7-megapixel shooter; this updated shooter is now 5 megapixels. If you've spent any time over on Apple's iPad page, you've probably seen the exploded view of Apple's five-element lens system, which was adopted from the iPhone. However you want to explain it, the photo quality is exceptional for a tablet, and we have the photos to prove it.

We still contend that it's a bit silly waving a tablet around to capture photos and video, but I understand the counterpoint, and I'll admit that the iPad's screen makes a better display than any camera, smartphone or photo frame.

Features we take for granted

Let's not forget all the features that made the first two iPads unbeatable. If you've ever used an iPhone or an iPod Touch, the new iPad will feel immediately familiar. Out of the box, you get many of the iPhone's capabilities, including Apple-designed apps for web browsing, email, maps, photos, music, video and YouTube. More apps can be installed using the built-in App Store software, or by connecting the iPad to iTunes via your computer, using the included cable. If you already own apps purchased for an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you can transfer these apps to the iPad, as well.

The original iPad made its debut with iOS 3.2. That OS' limitations seem prehistoric today. You couldn't bounce between applications with multitasking; you couldn't organise applications into folders; and support for document printing and AirPlay streaming of music, videos and photos didn't arrive until November 2010.

At launch, the new iPad comes with iOS 5.1. Recently added features such as iMessage, Newsstand, Notifications and Twitter integration are all included, along with support for Apple's free iCloud online backup service.

One sticking point in the original iPad that Apple hasn't addressed in the new iPad is Adobe Flash support for Apple's Safari web browser. Apple seems dead set against supporting Adobe's popular tool for presenting video and graphics on the web, and, without it, some corners of the web are still inaccessible on the iPad.

To Apple's credit, even the maker of Flash (Adobe) has conceded that HTML5 is a better solution for presenting content on mobile devices going forward. As such, the web is steadily bending towards greater compatibility with the iPad, and the issue of Flash compatibility seems less contentious than it once was.

In terms of browser features, the iPad's Safari browser matches what you'll find from the best competing tablets. With Google's recent improvements to Android's Chrome web browser in Android 4.0, Apple now has some tough competition.

But in terms of the subjective web-browsing experience, Apple's Retina Display gives the new iPad a decisive victory. Because text is rendered with such razor-sharp clarity, everything from Facebook to The New York Times takes on a print-like quality that is easier on the eyes than what any laptop or tablet offers.

To 3G or not to 3G?

For those who just get a little itchy at the idea of not being connected to the internet, Apple offers a version of the iPad with an integrated 3G mobile data connection, priced at an AU$140 premium over models that only offer Wi-Fi.

The jury seems split over whether the added cost of a mobile data capability is money well spent, or an unnecessary expense. Ultimately, if you can afford it, do it. Aside from the 10 grams it adds to the iPad's overall weight, there are no drawbacks to owning an iPad 3G model other than the data plan it requires. Yet, unlike so many 3G tablets on the market, Apple requires no contracts if bought outright; the data plans you purchase month to month can be ratcheted up and down as you please.

Another advantage of iPad with 4G is the added capability of assisted GPS (A-GPS), allowing users to accurately pinpoint their locations on a map and take advantage of navigation and location-aware apps. The Wi-Fi-only models of the iPad can use rudimentary Wi-Fi hot-spot triangulation techniques to guess locations, but are much less accurate and consistent.

If you have no plans to regularly use the iPad outside of your home, you'd do just as well to save some money and stick with a Wi-Fi model. But if you do take the plunge, the 3G download performance on either network should knock your socks off, provided that you live in an area that supports it.

iPad as an e-reader

As far as ebook content goes, the iPad has got you covered. Every major ebook retailer (and quite a few specialised stores) offer an iPad app, including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, Stanza and Apple's own iBooks.

Mainstream magazines, including The New Yorker, Wired and Vanity Fair, all have iPad-specific editions. Even speciality publications, such as comic books, test prep and sheet music, have found their way onto the iPad.

But when you compare the experience of reading on the iPad with its paper-based ancestor or dedicated E-Ink readers, the iPad still falls short. It's beefy, at 662 grams (a Galaxy Tab 7.7 weighs 340 grams), and, in spite of the Retina Display's exquisitely rendered text, glare is still an issue — especially outdoors. Also, a product like the Amazon Kindle promises up to two months of reading without a recharge, whereas the iPad will only get you to 10 hours.

iPad for gaming

If you don't have a game installed on your iPad, I feel sorry for you. Whether it's a simple round of Scrabble or an intense romp through Grand Theft Auto 3, the iPad's combination of Retina Display and quad-core graphics processor add up to a dramatic improvement for gaming.

A screenshot from Modern Combat 3 for iOS.
(Credit: Gameloft)

Even your old games will look and perform better on the new iPad. It's not like the old days, when games designed for the original iPhone had to be stretched and deformed to fill the iPad's screen. Games that look great on the iPad 2, such as Cut the Rope, Infinity Blade and Fruit Ninja, look as though they've had a haze cleared from the screen. We're sure there's some resolution scaling involved, but there were no visible artefacts that we could pick out. Everything just looks smooth and crisp.

And for titles that have been optimised for the new iPad's screen and graphics processor, plan your sick day now. Games like Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy and Mass Effect 3 Infiltrator look as though they were beamed over from your Xbox 360.


Don't be fooled by the new iPad's specs sheet. The bumps in processing power and RAM are balanced out by the demands of the Retina Display and by processing the types of high-resolution content that you'll be feeding it. The experience of poking around the music player or composing an email are seemingly no swifter than on the iPad 2.

Fortunately, we never found the iPad 2 lacking in system-performance power. There were things that it simply couldn't do, such as play 1080p video files, but it seldom sputtered or hung while browsing the web or loading apps.

The new iPad's maximum brightness is slightly higher than the iPad 2's, but it can't match the Android 4.0-based Asus Transformer Prime in Super IPS mode. The Prime's Super IPS mode's high brightness is useful when using the tablet in direct sunlight. At the other end of the spectrum, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1's PLS-based display delivers a lower maximum black level.

While the new iPad's screen is gorgeous, it still can't technically match the luminance extremes of these two popular Android tablets. But thanks to the visual impact of the new iPad's high-resolution display, it's an easy detail to look past. If you do crank up the iPad's brightness, be prepared to take a hit on battery life.

With the new iPad, 1080p video files will play just fine, and are ironically upscaled to the screen's native resolution. These video files take a huge bite out of the iPad's capacity, though, with a movie like Hugo coming in at 3.99GB. If you're going to store a lot of HD media, spring for the extra capacity.

The same caveat goes for the iPad's new rear camera, which offers a dramatically improved 5-megapixel still camera and 1080p video-recording quality. A test photo can be seen below, and a sample video is being included in the first look video above. In both cases (but especially for video), these high-quality files will eat up space over time, so don't skimp on capacity if you plan on using the camera often.

A test photo taken with the new iPad.
(Credit: CNET)

Apple has rated the battery for the new iPad at a 10-hour mark that still befuddles the competition. With 4G active, this number slips down to a still admirable nine hours.

Here are the official CNET-tested battery life results.


Fortunately, Apple hasn't done anything to monkey around with the iPad's universal dock connection. Generally speaking, if you could plug it in to the first two iPads, it should work with the new one, as well. This goes for charging cables, video adapters (such as Apple's HDMI-compatible digital A/V adapter), Apple's Camera Connection kit or any in-car adapter cables. Apple has released an updated version of its HDMI Digital A/V Adapter that is optimised for the new iPad, but the older adapter will still work.

If you'd prefer to beam content wirelessly from your iPad to your TV, the little hockey-puck-sized $99 Apple TV is the way to go. Aside from working as a great standalone media streamer for iTunes downloads, Netflix and others, you can also use it to push media from your iPad to your TV (a feature that Apple calls AirPlay).

Who should buy it?

If you've waited this long to buy your first iPad, then congratulations! Buy with confidence that this is the best iPad yet. That said, if the price of a new iPad has got you cringing, then there are a number of more affordable iPad alternatives out there.

For existing iPad owners, I would liken this to the time you upgraded your TV to a high-definition model. All things being equal, if this is something that you're going to look at every day, you may as well invest in the remarkably better screen.

Will the iPad's screen be matched or bested by a better or cheaper product in the near future? Possibly. But even if an Android tablet manufacturer throws one out there, the general dearth of tablet-optimised Android apps to run on it will take some time to overcome.

Final thoughts

When the original iPad bounded out of the starting gate, it took a huge lead before its competitors figured out what was going on. With the iPad 2, Apple lapped the competition once more by setting design expectations that were nearly impossible to match. The third iPad employs a similar tactic, dramatically raising our collective expectations of tablet-screen quality. Placed next to the competition, the superior product is literally plain to see.


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SeanW4 Facebook

"Gone now"

SeanW4 posted a review   

The Good:When I sold it

The Bad:When I bought it

Also having wasted my money, but when sold on ebay for a fraction of price in detailed explained with honesty why selling, made me feel happy again,.

SeanW4 Facebook

"Got rid and now happy with Andriod"

SeanW4 posted a review   

The Good:The ads and thats it not the products

The Bad:No Sd slot, Reliant on Itunes, not being able to install own aps, not being able to charge with common connectors, not being able to use aps on any other brand device ever so all purchases are chained, Odd screen shape, cold to hold in the winter and slippery on the hand, no back button to step one step back and having to return to home screen and then weave through, Not being able to view websites, not being able to order on wholesalers websites that can with android and windows tabs, not having as good aps as the android, when friends have had fail they replace with reconditioned units that fail again, Not being able to connect to smart tv's, BEING APPLE.

Pretty Low spec with many negatives,

Sure doesn't explain you are locked into apple and cant use any apps on the millions of other android or windows based products,

HUGE chains

JoshA1 Facebook

"The Best Tablet By Far"

JoshA1 posted a review   

The Good:Retina display, 4:3 aspect ratio, app selection, works smoothly with other Apple devices, regular software updates, runs iOS

The Bad:Not a laptop replacement

Although some technically savvy people will not appreciate what Apple is doing with their iDevices - the rest of the world will (and is) thoroughly enjoying this tablet.

It has made my life so much simpler and gives me the freedom to have the internet anywhere I want. I use it for studies, for streming video, for browsing, for a bit of gaming (board games with friends can be fun on trips), for watching movies on trips, etc.

When comparing it to other tablets, it hands down is the best tablet. The competition is getting better, however, they are not up to par. It is worth the small premium (in Australia it's only $50 dearer) to purchase the best.

It has an incredible screen, fast wireless (even if you are not living in a 4G area), the best selection of quality iPad apps (upwards of 200000), the aspect ratio is ideal 4:3 makes the most sense (Android tablets are 16:9 which is awkward in portrait view), Airplay is very nice and easy to use when an Apple TV is available, it is constantly getting better with each software update, and runs iOS which delivers its features in the most seamless way.

The limitations, however, are not really its fault. It is not a laptop alternative, so therefore, using one when a keyboard and mouse are more efficient (ie for work purposes) would not be ideal. Some may also find that it's limited in features - while this may be true when compared to competition - what it does actually do it does the best (in most cases).

Basically, it delivers on what it promises to do with an absolute minimal learning curve, which saves time and energy and frustration. I have very little patience :)


KadekB posted a comment   

Yes the Tosser in the video was obviously getting paid by Apple. How about telling the other side of the story of its negative points you ****


JoshA1 posted a reply   

How about you post them instead? Do you actually have anything intelligent to contribute or do you just go around trash talking Apple because it satisfies your ego in some insecure way?


KadekB posted a comment   

Iv'e been wanting to buy a tablet/Ipad. Iv'e read lots of reviews and as good as they are for the Ipad i think there a heap of Sh*t. I think i will be buying a Toshiba AT300/001.


JoshA1 posted a reply   

Please do. Toshiba need the sales really badly cause no one is buying their tablets. I won't go so far as to say that their tablets are a piece of sh*t but your post definitely is.


JerryL posted a comment   

Telstra 4G is only 42mbps download speed and using 2g spectrum 1800mhz and cellar tower having range of 6-13km range. Optus is testing 700mhz and download speed is 70mbps and cellar tower having range of over 30km range. 700mhz spectrum is being used by analog TV. So when the government shut down analog TV, then we see greater support of 700mhz. So it's not Apple fault for not supporting Telstra 4G. Their is no standard in 4G LTE yet. LTE (Long Term Evolution) support up to 100mbps. Even DC-HSDPA support up to 42mbps while HSDPA+ supports up put to 21mbps download speed. In Australia we call it 3.5G while some countries they call it 4G. Apple new iPad support LTE, DC-HSDPA, HSDPA+, HSDPA, 3G, and Edge. Then again what's a point arguing whether the new iPad support 4G if we still can't get 3G speed download speed. While I was in Central Station, trying to use the web browser, it took a long time to download a web page. So I tested the download speed, and only got 10kB/s. That's roughly about 6:50pm in Central. In the morning 6am at Martin Palce, I tested the download speed, and only got 400KB/s. Again I tested near Channel 7, roughly 6:40am, and only got 797KB/s download speed. I tested it again, this time it showed 796KB/s download speed.


Pining posted a reply   

If Apple's product dosen't supoort 4G in Australia, but the opposition's product can, who's fault do you think it is? Their opposition?
Maybe they can sue the opposition...................again!


Will1505 posted a comment   

I think the GSMarena review was much better. Here is just a little of it:

iTunes still required for uploading most of the content
Reflective screen struggles outdoors
Same CPU as the iPad 2
Heavier and thicker than the iPad 2
No Flash support in the web browser
No standard USB port
Non replaceable battery
No stereo loudspeakers
No GPS receiver in the Wi-Fi version
No memory card slot
No Siri
Can get uncomfortably hot at times
No charging while in use
Lack of basic iOS apps - weather, stocks, clock, calculator, voice memos
Rating posted a review   

The Good:screen, camera, faster 3G net speed

The Bad:weight, it gets hot, battery no where near as good as iPad 2

Ok so went to sydney for the weekend and a new iPad just happened to jump into my hands and sadly to say i think it may have been a mistake. Yes it has a great screen, yes it has a better camera and yes it is faster then the other versions but it has some down falls that i just cannot get past. Battery life is no where near the iPad 2, i could do the same stuff on the iPad 2 and it would last a week as compared to the new iPad it only last 24hrs if lucky, it gets hot when running basic apps and as other reports have said it tends to be a bit too hot to handle. As for the people who are not impressed that it is not 4G in Aus it is faster when accessing the faster 3G net. Joe if you read this what do you think of the iPad, i know it is editors choice but really what do you think of it, do you agree in any way with me?


JoshA1 posted a reply   

So you're only complaints were that it doesn't last a week on battery and gets hot? And that's why you rated it a 4?

Are you using it for a week non-stop? Of course not. It only need to last 1 day so you can charge it when you sleep.

And i've never felt it get hot, it gets warm at best.

The problems you've decribed are not problems yet you give it such a low and undeserving rating. Some people just aren't grateful.


NicholasP posted a comment   

Seriously? Obviously these people don't read any real news online, otherwise they would realise, as Joseph pointed out, syndication happens everywhere. If you read anything on The Age or SMH websites you will notice there is content shared from the entire Fairfax group and sourced from other agencies such as AAP.


Pining posted a reply   

That has NOTHING to do with my original comment. The article placed on Cnet Australia was a disgrace in that it completely ignored the HUGE downfall of the ipad in Australia.

To sit there and say it happened because it was an article ripped from the US base is a weak and inaccurate answer, in that they "airbrushed" the 4G comment to 3G AND they INCREASED the final score given to the product.

There's a bigger fan working here than the one at the Wonka Factory!


Pining posted a reply   

Read the comments posted before replying with an irrelevant comment. Syndicattion isn't the problem. The problem is this article is not relevant in Australia.
....A bit like your comment.


lucksta101 posted a reply   

But, the ipad is good any way so it doesn't really matter. I agree that it isn't that much of a step up from the previous ipad but itis still a good product none the less


lucksta101 posted a comment   

I am on josephs side. Cnet is awesome and is better then any other site. U are awesome guys! Plus my bros gonna get an ipad! :)


Will1505 posted a reply   

We aren't against Joseph, we are actually for him. We would have just liked an Australian review in Australian conditions

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User Reviews / Comments  Apple iPad (2012)

  • SeanW4



    "Also having wasted my money, but when sold on ebay for a fraction of price in detailed explained with honesty why selling, made me feel happy again,."

  • SeanW4



    "Pretty Low spec with many negatives,

    Sure doesn't explain you are locked into apple and cant use any apps on the millions of other android or windows based products,

    HUGE ..."

  • JoshA1



    "Although some technically savvy people will not appreciate what Apple is doing with their iDevices - the rest of the world will (and is) thoroughly enjoying this tablet.

    It has made my..."

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