iPad 3 hands-on

The latest iteration of Apple’s tablet PC landed in 11 countries around the world on Friday (16 March 2012), followed by a flurry of reviews and comparison articles.

This is not a review, but rather my first impressions after spending a day or so with MyBroadband’s shiny “new iPad.”

As with its predecessors, the iPad 3 box houses the bare essentials: a 10W charger with a USB port, a USB to Apple Dock connector cable, and a country-specific plug head for the charger. It also has the little folder with the welcome card, product guide, and stickers.

A study in “too similar”

In fact, the similarities between the boxes of the iPad 2 and iPad 3 is disconcerting. You may even be hard-pressed to tell the two devices apart in a side-by-side comparison.

Though many would blow this off as a non-issue, the fact that Apple opted against branding “the new iPad” with an easy-to-spot model number could cause heartache for less savvy consumers down the line.

iPad 3 and iPad 2 boxes side-by-side
iPad 3 and iPad 2 boxes side-by-side - iPad 3 box on left

Considering that both the iPad 2 and iPad 3 will be sold in stores, it could be very easy for scamsters to sell the older model as “the new iPad” to unsuspecting customers.

There are a few differences between the boxes of the two devices, but they are very subtle.

If you’ve got both devices in your hands it’s easy to tell that the iPad 2 is lighter and thinner, but without such a direct comparison it is difficult to tell them apart.

“Resolutionary”

Setting up the iPad 3 is as easy as any other device running iOS, and if you’ve backed up to iCloud or iTunes then all your apps and settings can be transferred to the new device easily.

If you’re not on an uncapped connection, I wouldn’t recommend restoring a backup from iCloud, however.

Once up-and-running, the iPad 3 behaves exactly as you’d expect it to. Its usability and feature-set is much the same as the Apple tablets that have come before.

Though the iPad 3 offers a slightly better processor and a much improved camera over the iPad 2, the screen is the device’s killer feature.

The new “Retina” display certainly delivers the goods: text is crisper, high resolution images look prettier, and colours are more vibrant.

iPad 2 vs iPad 3 showing a Flipboard page
iPad 2 vs iPad 3 - full brightness - showing a Flipboard page (iPad 3 on the right)

Worth the upgrade?

However, the Retina display is not a “must-upgrade” kind of feature, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

If you’re planning on watching a lot of HD video, or using your iPad for image and video editing, then the iPad 3’s improved display may be worth the upgrade.

On the other hand, if you’ve just bought an iPad 2 then you don’t need to worry that the new model has rendered yours obsolete.

iPad 1 owners have more of a reason to upgrade, but unless you need the faster processor, cameras, or improved display you should be able to hold on for at least another generation.

If the real issue is that you just want an excuse to upgrade, then the iPad 3’s Retina display should be reason enough.

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iPad 3 hands-on