Apple's third generation iPad might look quite similar to the iPad 2, but it comes with a handful of upgrades.
Off the bat, the biggest feature of the new iPad is its Retina display which presents an eye-popping resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. There is no doubt that it is probably the best mobile screen in the market right now, although the benefits are noticeable with sharper text and high quality images. The resolution on the screen is plenty dense, which gives you a greater visual experience with multimedia content.
It is not difficult to explain why Apple continues to use a dual-core processor in the new iPad - the chipset is still able to keep up with whatever you throw at it and is in no slouch when pitted against the Android tablets touting quad-core processors. The only upgrade to the A5X processor is the inclusion of the PowerVR SGX543MP4 which boosted its graphics performance, turning it into a premium multimedia device.
Another aspect with a notable improvement is the rear camera, where Apple has thrown in a 5-megapixel camera with the same advanced optics as the iPhone 4S. The new iPad now produces images of better quality although we suspect not many people would use it to take photos. You're more likely to use your mobile phone or stand alone camera than a tablet. The latter just comes in handy if you need to snap something when the device is already in your hands.
Taking into account the boost in graphics performance and pixel density of the display, it is natural that more juice is needed to power the new iPad. This is where the 11,560mAh battery comes into the picture. With 70% more capacity, the battery adds about 49g and 0.6mm thickness to the new iPad. Considering that the new iPad still managed to deliver decent battery up-time under typical usage conditions, we actually do not mind the slight increase in thickness and weight.
The only flaws/missteps we can find with the new iPad is the fact that it has slipped behind the competition in two key areas, the design/build quality and battery performance. Even though the new iPad has a solid build quality, other tablet makers are delivering products with comparable standards. Take the ASUS Transformer Pad Prime for example. Its aluminium chassis with metallic spun finish and a superior battery performance (under our grueling battery test conditions) can give the new iPad a run for its money. If you were to turn off the displays of the latest iPad and the iPad 2, there's practically no chance of telling them apart. While there's nothing wrong in the design, there's one less push factor for the general public to upgrade their existing iPads who would love to flaunt a more refined design if Apple did make some aesthetic changes.
Another major grip is Its battery performance which is somewhat an enigma. The intensive battery test didn't let the iPad off easy, and to be sure, it has lost its foothold as a power sipping tablet. If we don't push it to the highest limit at 100% volume and brightness, it is still quite capable, with more than a day's worth of up-time delivered. However when comparing it on even-footing, it has lost its edge and is in competition with other capable tablets from the competition.
There's actually one other, but it's not directly Apple's fault and that's the lack of LTE support in this region for the new iPad. There is no one consolidated frequency band of operation for LTE technology across various countries and that leaves device manufacturers in a tussle on what kind of radio modules to fit in their devices. So while the new iPad has LTE support, it is only compatible in the US for now. For the local market, the tablet will instead support HSPA+ speeds in our networks, which isn't too bad.
To be fair, no tablet in the Android camp is able to match the overall lure of the iPad; a slick and stable mobile OS, the support of the biggest app store and most importantly, competitive price points. With almost complete control of the supply chain, Apple is able to maintain the prices of its iPads, starting from SS$658. The 64GB (Wi-Fi + 4G) model costs S$1,088, which is just a tad more expensive than some Android tablets such as the S$978 Motorola Xoom 2 (3G) and the S$848 Sony Tablet P.
For consumers who are planning to get their first tablet, the new Apple iPad is perhaps the best choice. If not, the 16GB iPad 2, which sees a price drop to S$528 (Wi-Fi) and S$698 (Wi-Fi + 3G), are also very reasonable buys. If Apple's closed system approach doesn't seem appealing to them, they can always consider the S$899 ASUS Transformer Pad Prime.
However, we cannot say the same for current iPad 2 owners; the only significant difference is the improved display resolution. Upgrading to the new iPad might not be worth the amount of money they are forking out. Nonetheless, first-generation iPad owners should go for the upgrade if they have the budget to spare. If you are one of them, do take the opportunity to read our take on whether you should get the new iPad.
To end this off, if you are planning to get the new iPad along with a telco's two-year data package, we highly recommend you to read up on our detailed analysis of the different data plans offered by the three telcos for a good gauge of the total cost over the next two years.