March 16, 2012— -- A colleague asked me an interesting question the other day: "So I can get a free iPad 2, but should I get the new iPad?" Now, I don't anticipate many out there will have the chance to get a free iPad 2, but Apple has dropped the price of the 16GB iPad 2 to $399, making the iPad 2 vs. the new iPad a worthy fight.
"Should I get an iPad 2 for $399 or the new iPad for $499?" and "Should I get rid of my iPad 2 for the new iPad?" are questions I have been getting since the new iPad was announced.
So, let's answer them -- below are the major differences between Apple's two tablets.
The iPad 2 and the new iPad look almost exactly the same except for the screen. Yes, the new iPad is .03 inches thicker and .11 pounds heavier, but you really don't notice the difference in your hand. But once the screen on the new iPad is turned on, the difference between the two tablets is striking.
The 2048 x 1536-resolution Retina Display on the new iPad is absolutely magnificent. The high resolution makes it look as if you are holding an HDTV in your hand; pictures look incredibly crisp, video even crisper, and text is much sharper.
"It massages your eyes," a friend said. The difference doesn't really show well in photos or video; you have to check them out in person, and when you do, you will see the difference. I promise.
The new iPad's A5x processor with quad-core graphics is faster the previous iPad's A5 processor. The new processor helps make beautiful graphics possible. When I compared a game like Air Supremacy on the new iPad and the iPad 2, the difference was very clear. The game on the new iPad was more vivid and more responsive as I flew the fighter jet around.
However, for everyday stuff, like browsing the web, using regular apps for reading, and e-mail, the iPad 2 still feels really fast.
I will be the first one to say the camera on the iPad 2 is flat out bad. It takes very grainy and sometimes-blurry photos.
The new iPad has a much improved iSight, 5-megapixel camera. I have taken a number of test shots and the difference in quality is beyond noticeable. There's no more blur and shots are very crisp. You can see the difference between these shots -- one taken with the iPad 2 on with the new iPad.
They aren't quite as good as the 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4S, but I don't think it has to be. You have to ask yourself: how often am I going to take pictures with a tablet in my face? It's fairly awkward to hold up the tablet in a street or park. In my opinion, an improved camera isn't a reason to buy a new tablet.
The new iPad is available with AT&T and Verizon LTE, which is much faster than the 3G available in the iPad 2.
This is really only useful for those who require connectivity on the go and in places where there's no Wi-Fi connection. Still, if you want a very fast connection while you are out and about, the LTE in the new iPad is very fast.
On AT&T's LTE network in New York the iPad version of ABCNews.com loaded in just three seconds. And browsing through some of my friend's Facebook pictures was just as fast as it is on my home Wi-Fi network. It's fast. Really fast.
We have a bit on how much those 4G / LTE data plans cost per month here.
Lots of people have wondered why there's no Siri -- Apple's voice-enabled digital assistant -- on the new iPad. We don't have an answer to that, but there is a dictation feature that converts your voice to text on the new iPad. Just tap the microphone on the keyboard and you can speak sentences into the tablet.
The dictation is accurate and quick. It even caught words like "arachnophobia." However, you have to actually speak "period" or "question mark" for it to insert punctuation. Also, you have to be connected to a Wi-Fi or 3G / 4G network for the dictation to work. It's a very neat feature, especially for the visually impaired.
No one should ever say no to a free iPad, but as I said at the start, that offer doesn't come along very frequently. My advice is that if you are in the market for a new iPad you should spend the extra $100 and get the new iPad. The improved screen alone makes it a worthy choice.
Now, if you already have an iPad 2, the new version isn't a necessary upgrade. The screen is much nicer and it is a bit faster, but chances are the next iPad will be an even bigger upgrade. (Then, of course, the new iPad will be the old iPad). And if you've got the original iPad, you'll definitely want to get the newer iPad.
But hey, if you're looking to save some cash on a new tablet, $399 will buy you the second-best tablet on the market. And that's just not a bad deal, even if you can't get one for free.