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Third-generation iPad: What you need to know

Macworld Staff | March 9, 2012
With Apple’s Wednesday introduction of the third-generation iPad, many of the questions people and pundits have spent the past few months obsessing over have been answered—but not all.

With Apple’s Wednesday introduction of the third-generation iPad, many of the questions people and pundits have spent the past few months obsessing over have been answered—but not all. We know it has a nicer screen, a faster processor, better cameras, 4G networking, and voice dictation. But even if you’ve read our live blog, chances are there are still bits of info you want to know. Here are all the details we’ve been able to dig up about Apple’s newest tablet.

What’s the new iPad’s screen resolution?

Like the iPhone 4 and 4S, the new iPad has a Retina display—a term Apple uses to describe a screen with a high-enough pixel density that you can’t discern individual pixels at normal viewing distances. The Retina display for the iPad boasts a resolution of 2048-by-1536 pixels—over 3.1 million pixels in total—at the same 9.7-inch (diagonal) screen size as before, for a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch. (For a point of comparison, a 1080p TV has a resolution of just 1920 by 1080 pixels.) Apple also says the new iPad’s display offers 44 percent better color saturation than the screen on the iPad 2.

(Image Caption: The Retina display's resolution means much clearer text.)

Though the new screen’s 264-ppi pixel density is lower than that of the iPhone 4 and 4S (326 ppi), Apple argues that both are Retina displays because you generally hold an iPad farther from your eyes than a phone. This blog post by astronomer Phil Plait, who did the math, seems to agree.

Will my current apps still work with the new screen resolution?

Apple says existing iPad apps will work fine with the new screen, but those updated for Retina-display resolutions will look much better. To demonstrate, Apple has updated pretty much every one of its own iPad apps for Retina display: the iWork suite, GarageBand, iMovie, Remote, Find My Friends—you name it. The new iPhoto app also supports Retina displays, of course.

Does the new iPad’s screen offer pressure sensitivity or “haptic” feedback?

No, contrary to a good number of rumors, neither of these features made it into the new iPad. However, like the iPad 2, the new model can use its built-in accelerometer to detect how hard you’re tapping the screen, using that data to enhance apps such as GarageBand.

The iPad 2’s cameras weren’t very good. Are they better on the new iPad?

The new iPad’s front camera—the one facing you as you use the tablet—remains a FaceTime-quality camera with VGA resolution. The back camera, however, has been upgraded significantly. Whereas the iPad 2’s back camera could take photos and videos at 720p resolution (1280 by 720, or roughly 0.9 MP), the new iPad sports a 5-megapixel (2592 by 1936 pixels) iSight camera, much like the one in the iPhone 4. Apple says the new camera offers improved sharpness, and it supports auto-exposure, auto-focus, auto-face-detection, auto-exposure lock, auto-focus lock, and (for low-light images) temporal noise reduction. It can record 1080p video, and it uses the iPad’s improved processing horsepower to provide image stabilization.

 

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