‘New’ ipad a stun­ning, but not cru­cial, im­prove­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - Business -

The re­ported first-week­end sales of 1 mil­lion units of the “new” Ap­ple ipad leave lit­tle doubt that this prod­uct, the third in the se­ries, is go­ing to be suc­cess­ful. (AT&T Wire­less, in a neb­u­lous one­sen­tence an­nounce­ment, said it sold the most ipads it ever did for an open­ing day, but a spokesman re­fused to flesh out that claim.)

Per­haps the greater is­sue is whether you should buy one now. Five days into my own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence, I can of­fer a def­i­nite “maybe.”

It’s not that the new ipad isn’t sleek and fun and fast and visu­ally stun­ning — “It’s all that and a bag of chips,” as a friend likes to say. But if you own a 2011 ipad 2, should you bail and up­grade? Per­haps, but only per­haps.

I’ll re­turn to that ques­tion in a mo­ment. First, just how good is this thing?

Let’s start with the screen. Yes, it has a mil­lion more pix­els than a high-def­i­ni­tion tele­vi­sion set (not that your re­viewer counted each one) and the qual­ity is im­pres­sive, as good as, if not bet­ter than the HDTV for which I shelled out sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars a few years back. And while I can’t carry that HDTV with me, the new ipad is quite handy.

It’s my hope that the new ipad will prove its graph­ics-ori­ented “chops” when I’m next out on a road trip shoot­ing an event or lo­ca­tion with my dig­i­tal sin­gle-lens re­flex cam­era. Be­tween the su­per-high-res­o­lu­tion screen and a new, ipad ver­sion of Ap­ple’s iphoto, this could be a real game changer for pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers and for photo “duf­fers” such as your re­viewer.

I’ve never re­ally been one for bench­mark­ing tests: My con­tention is that users buy com­put­ers (and now tablets) to use, not to bench­mark. That said, I can re­port that the 64 GB new ipad seems faster than a sim­i­larly con­fig­ured ipad 2 from a year ear­lier, thanks to the beefed-up pro­ces­sor in the new model. One es­o­teric pro­gram a col­league and I both use would, on the old ipad, take a few sec­onds to load. Now it’s avail­able in the blink of an eye. Other pro­cesses seem faster, though, again, I didn’t break out a stop­watch to time them.

Sound qual­ity is im­pres­sive, both through the tiny (but not tinny) built-in speaker and par­tic­u­larly when a good pair of head­phones is con­nected. That’s im­por­tant not only for movie- and Tv-show-watch­ing, but also for mu­sic. (You can put plenty on a 64 GB ipad.)

What else im­presses? Well, the built-in 5me­gapixel isight cam­era on the rear of the de­vice is a bit lag­ging, megapix­els-wise, against the 8-megapixel isight cam­era built into the iphone 4S. But it should be good enough in a pinch, and it cer­tainly could work nicely with, say, a doc­u­ment-scan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for road war­riors try­ing to ride herd on re­ceipts, etc.

Noth­ing in life is per­fect, of course, and there are a few things about the new ipad that con­cern me.

For a change — I’ve been an AT&T Wire­less cus­tomer for ages — I bought my new ipad with a Ver­i­zon-friendly 4G LTE data ra­dio. Sign­ing up (and sign­ing on) is a bit of a has­sle, but $20 off the credit card later, I had a month’s worth of data ser­vice, 2 GB max­i­mum.

That is, of course, when one could get an ap­pro­pri­ate sig­nal. For­get 4G; I got no “Gs” of any kind in Fred­er­ick, Md., or on my way home one evening. It was even tough, I kid you not, get­ting a sig­nal around the corner from Ver­i­zon Wire­less’ re­gional of­fice in Ful­ton, Md. Move into Sil­ver Spring, and the LTE is on and works blaz­ingly fast.

Be­cause Ver­i­zon ad­ver­tises it­self as hav­ing the best 4G net­work, I’m sure these are tem­po­rary prob­lems. At least I hope so.

The more se­ri­ous (for me) worry is that this unit seems to burn through bat­tery life rather quickly. I can’t say for cer­tain, be­cause I’d like to go through a cou­ple of charg­ing/dis­charge cy­cles be­fore mak­ing a de­ter­mi­na­tion, but if I were de­pend­ing upon this new ipad to carry me across the Pa­cific, I’d find some bat­tery op­tions, and quickly.

Over­all, I like this prod­uct, but then again, I’m in­flu­enced by years of see­ing some very good things come out of Cu­per­tino. Should you buy it? If you have an orig­i­nal (i.e., 2010) ipad, def­i­nitely, be­cause the speed boost and vis­ual qual­ity will floor you. Got an ipad 2? It’s not a cru­cial up­grade, but sit next to me on a long flight, and you might start sav­ing your pen­nies.

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