The New iPad
It’s been a day and a half since I got the “New iPad” (which, hereafter, I will refer to as the “iPad 3,” as “New iPad” is subject to confusion). Unfortunately, that does not mean I have had much chance to play with it–I got it at 9:30 a.m. and immediately had to leave for work, which ran from about 11:00 to 8:00 yesterday. Today was our anniversary, so much of it was dinner and a show (much better, but not iPad-intensive, naturally!), much of the rest reserved for caring for Ponta and doing some work.
Nevertheless, I have already used it enough to get a few basic impressions.
First of all, at least some of my comparison is based on two years of daily use of the first iPad, pictured above; I have barely even held an iPad 2 for more than a few seconds, so the design was fairly novel for me. The difference was immediately apparent in details like the bezel being far less visible. The iPad 3 comes across as noticeably thinner and lighter, something which an iPad 2 user will likely not feel at all. As you can see as well, the colors on the iPad 3 are more saturated; what does not show as well in the photo above is the fact that the iPad3 also comes across as having a brighter screen.
But what about the iPad 3 itself? How does it perform, especially in light of expectations? Well, let’s start with the negatives.
Maybe it’s just the first run before a full recharge, or perhaps it’s only the machine I got (or my prior iPad was exceptional), but my impression is that the battery life sucks. I was expecting a stronger battery, not a weaker one. I recharged it last night, and have only used it for a short time this morning, and already the battery’s down to 90%. My old iPad 1, even with all-day use, never got as low a battery reading as the iPad 3 got yesterday. Keep in mind that I am using the WiFi version, so there is no 3G or LTE to suck the battery dry. Nor was I using any graphics-intense software–just normal, everyday apps. I took a handful of photos and maybe ten seconds of video, and did not watch any video at all.
So, what the hell? I’ll keep my eye on this as I use the iPad daily, but if this keeps up, then maybe I should consider taking it to the Genius Bar at Ginza and asking for a replacement. I know people who get iPhones with the same issue–my iPhone lasts more than all day on a single charge, but others report that their batteries drain within a few hours of off-and-on use.
Next, Siri is a notable omission in the new tablet–for what reason I can only guess at. Maybe Apple’s servers are overloading, or they want to sell more iPhones, but there should be no reason that they leave Siri off of the iPad. Again, what the hell. They do have dictation, but I had to dig through preferences to figure out how to activate it–it is not on by default. It also needs a live WiFi connection to work, and that’s not always available. For example, I wanted to try it out in class yesterday to get a transcript of what I taught, but I was not able to get WiFi in the classroom.
When I was able to try it out, it was fairly good when I intended to make a transcription; I didn’t get a chance to test it out under natural conditions. However, I did try to use it to transcribe a video clip–I held it up to the speakers on my Mac as an interview played.
Did it work? No, not really. At least, not at a practical level. Even not counting the lack of punctuation (you can speak it to make it appear, though), the transcription was pretty bad, requiring a ton of correction. Not as bad as transcribing by hand, but not a whole bunch better, either.
Another problem: the transcription only works in 40-second chunks, and does not reveal in real time. So, when you are transcribing, you see nothing but a blank screen, and then after two-thirds of a minute, it snaps off, waits for a few seconds, then shows what it got.
40 seconds in not nearly enough for most transcription needs; to do anything meaningful, you’ll be needing to constantly be stopping as you get interrupted by the end of the time limit (they could at least include a countdown!), then having to restart when you activate it, and then go back and edit out the sentences which were cut off. Certainly, this will be useless for transcribing stuff like class lectures. Currently, I can’t think of any use for it considering the time limit.
Finally, that hot corner everyone has been talking about? It’s for real, all right. Yesterday, in fact, it felt like a good half of the unit was warming up. It’ll be great in winter, but I can imagine getting sweaty palms in summer.
Okay, that’s the bad news. Now for the good stuff.
The hardware is definitely far better… than the iPad 1′s. Again, I have no iPad 2 experience to reference against. However, I have one game (Civ Rev) that gets stuttery at times on my old pad, and almost goes too fast on the new one. The speed bump–and maybe the 1 GB of RAM (compared to the iPad 1′s 256 MB)–is immediately noticeable to be. I am even considering dropping six bucks or so on one of those HD-graphics games, just to see what it looks like…
The screen is indeed really, really good. I don’t necessarily agree with the reviews saying it is “awesome” or “eye-popping,” but it is definitely noticeable, and is noticeably improved. Here are some photographs of the two screens, taken with my digital SLR, showing the difference as well as I can represent it.
First, here’s an icon–and immediately you can see a huge difference:
Text in iBooks is remarkably more clear; for fun, I even added the same text from the same book in its paper form:
The iPad 3 gives even a paper book a run for its money in terms of clarity and readability; only those who, for whatever reason, cannot tolerate a backlit screen will not find the iPad 3 a reasonable replacement. Here is a closer look:
Note that in the extreme closeup of the iPad 3, the pixels begin to become visible–but this is only due to the camera’s detail. Unless you have excellent vision, chances are you’ll see no more than the barest hint of pixels, and that only by bringing it right up to your face and straining a bit.
Here are comparisons with video, in this case, using the trailer from “Brave”
To be fair, the iPad 1 images use the 720p trailer, while the iPad 3 images use the 1080p version–but this is fair, since the iPad 1 cannot even load 1080p video (I tried), and 720p on the iPad 3 is less meaningful considering the available resolution.
One downside to the new screen: old stuff looks worse than before. While text in old apps displays sharply, and some graphics get smoothed out, some apps show marked pixellation when used full-screen. As someone noted, it’s kind of like watching old standard-definition TV shows on a new HD TV–the old stuff, which looked nice and sharp on an older TV, now looks really bad, as if it’s all out of focus. The effect is not quite as pronounced on the iPad, but it’s certainly something that stands out.
Other than that, everything about the new tablet feels excellent. Now that I have enough RAM to run it, iCloud works for me and is running on all my devices, finally. I don’t have to shut down and start up the device under iOS 5 like I did my old pad. As I mentioned above, the iPad 3′s screen comes across as brighter as well, with more saturated colors and slightly better contrasts. Compared to the iPad 1, the iPad 3′s look and feel are much superior–though the beveled edges take a bit of getting used to–it feels a bit like it’ll slip out of my fingers sometimes.
Overall, I am quite pleased, but hope that the down points will be helped over time. Maybe my battery’s performance will improve, maybe Apple will improve the dictation feature or even enable Siri, and possibly Apple will update the iOS to cool down that corner a tad. We’ll see.
In the meantime, I look forward to using the iPad 3 in earnest.