New iPad: First Hands-On Look at Updated Apple Tablet

Updated Apple tablet starts at $499, with better screen, processor.

ByABC News
March 7, 2012, 4:31 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, March 7, 2012 — -- Now that's a beautiful screen.

That was my first impression of Apple's new iPad. While the first thing people noticed about the iPad 2 was how thin it was in comparison to the original iPad, the display on the new iPad is what Apple hopes will get people talking. And it will.

In terms of raw specs, the 9.7-inch screen has a 2048 x 1536-resolution, which equals 246 pixels per inch. What that really means is incredibly sharp images and crisp text. I spent most of my time with the tablet checking out preloaded images and 1080p video, and I was just blown away by how crisp they look. It's like a HDTV in your hand. The display also makes reading better, with sharp-looking fonts.

Yes, the new iPad looks exactly like the old iPad save for the new screen -- it comes in black and white -- but there are other new things packed inside the 9.5mm tablet. And while I couldn't thoroughly test the iSight 5-megapixel camera and its picture quality in a short time, I did notice how fast the camera app launched and how great a game like Infinity Blade looked. That would be because of the new A5x processor with quad-core graphics. Everything seemed just a bit snappier than on the existing iPad 2.

"Is Siri in the new iPad?" was what one of my colleagues texted me during the event. No, to many people's surprise, the voice-activated personal assistant didn't make its way over from the iPhone 4S to the tablet, but there is a new voice dictation feature, which allows you to say what you want the tablet to type. I didn't get to try it out in the noisy room where Apple let us handle the new iPad. Similarly, I didn't get to try out the new 4G / LTE speeds.

"Eh, so it's just a new screen, new camera, and faster processor," some pundits at the event were complaining. But the software that Apple continues to make is what will continue to make the iPad ride above the competition. The new iPhoto app, which is available today for $4.99, lets you do some incredible things to photos with just some basic taps. I was able to change the shading on an image. Similarly, the new iMovie app looks extremely robust, with an array of video-editing tools.

There are still a number of things to test on the new iPad, and we plan to bring you a full review when it goes on sale. But something tells me lots of people will be saying, "That's a beautiful screen" come next week, on March 16, when the iPad goes on sale.