THE 3rd generation iPad has finally hit Malaysian shores, and despite early criticism and then waning hype over it’s “small” list of improvements, it’s time to actually put the “resolutionary” device to the test.

After all, this was the first major product to be launched after the passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and the first under Tim Cook’s new reign as Apple’s head.

Many iFans waited with bated breath as Cook took to the stage last month to announce the new iPad, and many walked away with ‘mixed feelings.’

On the surface, it doesn’t look like the new iPad provides much of a bump over it’s predecessor – the iPad 2. Boasting a mildly improved processor – the A5x, LTE data connections (where applicable), and a higher resolution display (four times as many pixels) as it’s key improvements, many people simply didn’t see a reason to upgrade. The feeling seemed to permeate throughout the launch weekend.

While there still were people queuing up overnight for the new iPad, this time however, the crowd was much smaller, lines were shorter and people were showing up later to queue. Heck, one of my friends even mentioned strolling into an Apple retailer on Saturday morning and picking up his unit without much fuss.

So what’s up with this iPad? Has it lost it’s magic?

Before you think I’m about to embark on some iPad bashing rant, here’s some context. I own an iPad 2 and now, I hold a new iPad in my hands – ordered on Friday, delivered on Monday (yes, Apple’s delivery is THAT good). Yup, I upgraded, and what follows are some honest thoughts on the new iPad:

Resolutionary display

Apple’s made a big deal about the new iPad’s high resolution screen – also called a “retina display” though not having quite the pixel density as the iPhone 4 or 4S.

In my books, this was the one reason I made the leap to upgrade to the new iPad. Many may not realise the difference, but as someone who regularly reads on his iPad, I didn’t like the fact that I had to zoom in oftentimes to make the text on the comics or articles I was reading legible. The new iPad’s higher resolution makes this problem go away.

If you enjoy reading comic books or have zoomed out, full page magazines on the iPad, then the screen reallydoes make a big difference.

However, there’s a certain quirk with LCD screens. If you’re trying to display something that’s not optimised for a high resolution display, you’ll get something that looks really blocky.

And with the new iPad being as new as it is, I’ve found this to be true in quite a few games — particularly, FIFA 12. The game shows up with blocky club badges on the new iPad, which may be a turn off for some people.

4G – or lack of thereof

In the US, the iPad models that comes with the LTE radio are marketed as a 4G devices, and in Malaysia, it comes with an extra caveat that you need to check “4G availability with your network.” The only Internet network in Malaysia to provide 4G connection is YTL’s YES – which isn’t the 4G the iPad is talking about (it’s WiMAX for you more technical folks).

Rather, the new iPad sports an LTE (Long Term Evolution GSM) radio on some of its models, something that’s not yet commercially available in Malaysia. The good news is, DiGi has already announced that it is working on upgrading it’s network to be LTE-ready with a scheduled completion by the end of the year.

Given timelines like that for the arrival of LTE in Malaysia, it seems that 4G is perhaps a function that will only be relevant for the next, next iPad (the 2013 one).

Faster speeds, better camera, and, not much else

The biggest talking point about Apple’s 4S was “Siri” – the phone that will talk back to you. The new iPad doesn’t even boast that. Instead, beyond the new screen resolution and promise of 4G data, the speed bump on the new iPad feels marginal – less than the bump the iPad 2 got over the first iPad.

In fact, I feel as if the iPad 2 actually works faster on some applications, compared to when using the new iPad.

This is because a lot of the extra power from the processor is being used to fuel the higher resolution screen and pump out four times the number of pixels. So, you’re not likely to feel a big difference in terms of speed.

It’s a different scenario entirely with the camera, though, which is now 5.0 megapixels – a huge improvement over the old 0.7 megapixels in the iPad 2. So, if you’re into taking a lot of pictures with the iPad, you’ll welcome the change.

On the whole, I felt slightly disappointed with the new iPad. I’m a huge proponent of the screen – it DOES matter, especially when I use my iPad for so much reading. I’m also optimistic that as more apps get updated to work on the new iPad’s resolution, things will get better.

However, I’m disappointed that besides the upgrade on screen resolution, the new iPad doesn’t offer much more in terms of user experience. I’m still boggled and frustrated by the way files are ringfenced. For example, when I boot up iMovie, the only way I can import pictures or videos for editing purposes is to put them into iTunes via the syncing cable. I can’t import videos from my DropBox!

I understand that Apple wants to protect the purity of its platform, as well as monopolise its “official” experiences. But, I can’t help but feel that the iOS experience is a little bit stifling compared to the ‘openness’ other platforms areoffering.

The game is changing and with Windows 8 Tablets expected to hit later this year, I do hope there’s a new iOS update waiting in the wings that will at least ‘open up’ the platform a little more.

Let the next iPad be revolutionary, not just resolutionary.

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