For the last year, the iPad 2 has become as big of a staple in my evening routine as my toothbrush. I get into bed, read articles I may have missed during the day, check Facebook and Twitter, attempt to beat my mom in Words with Friends, and when I'm traveling, I watch a few TV episodes on the 9.7-inch display.
The truth is I've never once thought my iPad screen wasn't nice enough and the performance not fast enough; in fact, I never even think about the hardware, which as a tech reviewer is unusual. That's part of what has made the iPad such an amazing product.
But Apple has spent the last year pursuing ways to improve the world's most popular tablet. The new iPad (no number) has a better display, with double the resolution of the older model; a faster A5x processor; a better 5-megapixel iSight camera; and there's now an LTE option from Verizon and AT&T for faster web browsing.
So, how much better is the new iPad, which starts at $499, than the iPad 2, which now costs $399? And with a flood of new Android tablets, is the iPad still the best tablet on the market? There was only one way for me to find out: replace my bedside iPad 2 with the new iPad.
An Eye Popping Display
When the iPad 2 and the new iPad are sitting next to each other you wouldn't notice any differences, unless you look at them from the side. From that view you might notice that the new iPad is .03 inches thicker than the iPad 2. That also results in the new iPad weighing 1.44 pounds: 0.11 pounds more than the iPad 2. (The size difference is a result of the bigger battery inside, but more on that below.)
I could tell the difference ever so slightly in the weight when I held the iPad 2 in my right hand and the new iPad in my left, but I didn't notice the increased weight of the new iPad when using it alone. The rounder edges of the new tablet are more obvious though, making it more comfortable to hold than its predecessor.
Still, there are lighter tablets out there now, especially those that have 7-inch displays, like the Kindle Fire. I much prefer that size for reading in bed and one-handed use. There are rumors that Apple might join the smaller tablet space, but for now there's just the 9.7-inch screen option.
When you turn on the display of both tablets the difference is much clearer, especially when viewing a high-definition movie, picture, or text. Everything on the Retina display, which has a whopping 2048 x 1536 resolution, is crisper. And I mean, much crisper. It's like holding an HDTV in your hand; in fact, it has a higher resolution and more pixels than even the newest HDTV.
It's hard to find words to describe the viewing experience. The best way I can put it is that switching from the iPad 2 to the new iPad is like switching from an standard definition channel to a high defintion channel when watching a football game. You immediately notice how much clearer and vivid the field and the players look. And because the new display has an increased color saturation of 44 percent, everything just pops and appears brighter.