What's amazing about all generations of iPads is their responsiveness to taps on the touchscreen and fluidity of navigation. When you use some tablets on the market, like the Kindle Fire or other Android tablets, you realize the iPad offers a rare and smooth experience. The new A5x processor allows the new iPad to maintain and even enhance in some graphics intensive applications, like games or movies. In fact, the A5x processor delivers quad-core graphics, resulting in some stunning visuals in games.
For instance, when I played Air Supremacy side-by-side on the new iPad and iPad 2, the graphics were much clearer on the new tablet. In this particular fighter jet game, I was actually distracted by the vivid skyline above and the crispness of the mountains underneath while trying to fly.
However, I didn't notice a performance difference on the new iPad when it came to web browsing, emailing, or using basic applications. In that regard, the old and new iPads provide a similar experience.
A Much Improved Camera
There is one place I have been completely dissatisfied with my iPad 2, and that's with the camera on the back of the tablet. It takes very grainy and sometimes-blurry images. In fact, some have been so bad that I haven't wanted to even share them.
The new iPad's 5-megapixel iSight camera fixes those issues. I've been very impressed with the shots I've taken over the past couple of days. The auto-focus is fast, and despite not having a flash, pictures I shot in lower light were decent. (Here's a shot taken with the new iPad and one taken on the iPad 2 -- you see, much clearer.) Overall, they aren't as crisp as images captured with the iPhone 4S camera, but I don't think they have to be. How often do you really want to hold up a 9.7-inch viewfinder to take a picture?
Now able to capture 1080p high-definition video, the new iPad's video quality is considerably better than I've seen on most phones. However, the video files do take up a bit of space on the tablet, so if you plan to use it for heavy video use it might be worth stepping up to the 32GB or 64GB versions. I do wish Apple would allow you to shoot lower resolution video on the tablet, but for now it just defaults to the higher resolution setting. The front-facing camera, which hasn't seen an upgrade, is still perfectly adequate for making video or FaceTime calls.
Software and Apps
From a software standpoint, the new iPad includes mostly everything featured on the iPad 2, save for two things. Apple hasn't brought Siri – the iPhone 4S' voice-enabled digital assistant over to the tablet – but it did add a dictation function. Now the keyboard has a small microphone icon.
Tap it, speak your sentence, and it will convert it to editable text. For the most part this feature works very well, and I failed to stump it multiple times with words like "arachnophobia." You do have to be connected to the Internet for it to work though.
The other difference comes with the new Retina display optimized apps. Many apps available in the app store have been tweaked for the display so images, video, and text appear crisper on the new screen. Still, apps that haven't been updated look great.
While we are on the subject of apps, the iPad continues to provide the best selection of tablet apps; there are 200,000 of them now in the store. And many of them provide absolutely engrossing experiences, with smooth navigation and clean interfaces.