New iPad vs. iPad 2: how the specs compare

After months of rumors and speculation, it’s here. The iPad 3 aka the iPad HD aka the iPad 2S is now simply known as… iPad. Yes, Apple appears to have dropped the numbering system from the iPad line and is simply calling this “the new iPad.”

That doesn’t, however, take away from how significant of an upgrade this new iPad is. Don’t let anyone convince you that this is a minor update because it doesn’t have a quad-core CPU, Siri, or a portal gun.

Let’s take a look at how the 3rd generation iPad stacks up against its predecessor, the iPad 2.

Dimensions

The two iPads are almost identical in form. The new iPad is slightly thicker, but you aren’t likely to notice unless you’re juggling it with an iPad 2.

Weight

As with the thickness, the 2012 iPad is slightly heavier than the iPad 2.

If you think the new iPad is off to a lousy start, you’ll want to move on to the next category…

Display

Yes, that long-anticipated Retina Display is here. The new iPad’s killer feature is its 2048×1536 display. This is double the resolution and 4x(!!) the pixels that are in the iPad 2 display.

You can expect text, images, icons, and everything in between to look much cleaner and crisper on the new display. If this were the only new feature in the iPad 3 (aka the new iPad), it would still be worth the upgrade.

Processor and graphics

Apple hasn’t released the clock rate of the new A5X chip, but it — like the A5 — is a dual-core beast. Its big upgrade comes in the graphics department, where it grows to four cores.

RAM

Note that the 1GB listed for the new iPad hasn’t been confirmed by Apple, but it appears to have been revealed by the development community (some iOS 5.1 code shows 1GB of RAM). If this is the case, then that should give it a bit of extra zip over the iPad 2.

Storage

Though the iPad 2 has, up to this point, been available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB options, it won’t any longer. Apple only kept the 16GB version around as a budget option for $399. The new iPad, meanwhile, offers all three of the same storage options that the first two iPads did.

Wireless

The 3rd generation iPad is the first Apple device to run on LTE. Those who opt for the (more expensive) wireless edition will have the choice of AT&T’s or Verizon’s speedy 4G networks.

Battery

Despite the enhancements to the new iPad, Apple is saying that it will get equal battery life to the iPad 2. It likely has a bigger battery inside to accomplish this task.

Camera

This is another big upgrade for the iPad 3 (new iPad). The cameras in the iPad 2 are just barely there, while the iSight camera in the 2012 model is quite good. Though it has less megapixels than the iPhone 4S (5MP to the 4S’ 8MP), it has the same “advanced optics.” This includes a backside illumination sensor (to help take great shots in low light), an ƒ/2.4 aperture, and a five-element lens.

The camera in the new iPad also shoots 1080p video.

Intangibles

The biggest miscellaneous perk for the iPad 2 is its (newly dropped) price. Apple will sell you the 16GB WiFi-only model for $399, or the 16GB WiFi + 3G model for $529. Though it’s hard to recommend it over the brand spankin’ new iPad, it is dipping down closer to the price range of the Kindle Fire — creating more of a dilemma for budget-minded customers.

That Retina Display in the new iPad, meanwhile, is worth accentuating again. Make no mistake: despite the better camera, LTE, upgraded GPU, and bigger battery, the display is the big selling point here. If you’re still tempted to buy a cheaper iPad 2 over the new iPad, then we at least ask you to first see the Retina Display in person. The older iPads will look fuzzy and pixelated next to it.

One more intangible worth noting is that the new iPad gets voice dictation (not to be confused with Siri). The iPad 2 apparently won’t be getting an update for dictation.

The bottom line is that we’re comparing a cutting-edge piece of hardware with last year’s model. For most people, the Retina Display alone will make the new 3rd generation iPad worth the extra money (at least $100 extra). Consider the other upgrades to be a nice bonus.

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