Should you buy the new iPad – the pros and cons

feature-ipad-200There’s just one more day until Apple’s new iPad hits the shelves and the question remains: is it worth the purchase?

It’s been two years now since Apple released the iPad, and while millions of eager buyers snapped up the first version, others waited to see what future upgrades would bring. That time has arrived, but it’s a trickier decision.

For starters, there are plenty of competitor tablets on offer, and many Australians have just shelled out for last year’s iPad 2.

So with plenty of information to digest, here are the pros and cons of purchasing the new iPad:

Pros

High resolution screen

This is the big upgrade. The new iPad screen is based on the retina screens used in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models, and is designed around the fact you can’t recognise individual pixels when holding it up at a normal length away from your eyes.

Holding the new screen up to an old iPad makes the older version seem blurry, like you’ve just taken your glasses off. The new screen takes a lot of power, but delivers impressive results.

Of course, not every app is going to be updated straight away, so you may find that some of your existing apps aren’t at the right resolution yet. And when you’re watching video, the lower-resolution clips are going to stand out a lot more.

But those are minor gripes in an otherwise impressive visual system. Everything you use the screen for, from internet browsing to reading eBooks, is going to look a lot better.

Faster

Apple is becoming less and less dependent on revealing the individual components in the iPad, instead just opting to say that everything is “faster” and “smoother”.

And that’s fine – it’s pretty much all you need to know. Early hands-on reviews suggest the device zips along nicely, thanks to the A5X processor. It’s not a full step-up from the A5 but it’s faster nonetheless, and will be much easier for you to use.

You should check some reviews to compare the iPad with a few other competitors, such as the Xoom or the Galaxy Tab, if you want to get down into the nitty gritty. But for now, it’s enough to know the new iPad will be faster than the one you already have.

Pricing

Everyone loves a price cut. Last year, Apple significant reduced the price of the iPad 2 to account for the rising Australian dollar. This year, they’ve added a slight price drop again. This year, the new iPad will cost:

Wi-Fi

  • 16GB – $539
  • 32GB – $649
  • 64GB – $759

4G

  • 16GB – $679
  • 32GB – $789
  • 64GB – $899

These price drops range from $40 to $50 for each model. It’s not a huge drop, but it brings us more in line with the United States. We’re pretty much on par with what our American friends are paying.

And even if you decide to go with the iPad 2, each model has been given a $100 price cut as well. So if you can’t be bothered getting the new one, the previous model is always a good choice.

Camera

The iPad camera has received a pretty substantial upgrade and is now similar to the model used in the iPhone 4S. While you may not be using the tablet for taking pictures, it’s nice to know there’s a little more power in there.

You’re also able to film anything in full 1080p HD. Portable devices are going to be used for photography more and more, and this is a great example of how Apple is keeping up with the competition – even if only a minority of users care.

New apps

Apple has thrown in a few new features to enjoy with the new iPad. They’re not going to change the industry, but they’ll be helpful if you particularly like them.

The first is iPhoto, which allows you to edit and manipulate photos. This is popular on the Mac and casual users should find its addition positive, but new users may find they’re already used to their own photo editing software.

The second is voice dictation. To be clear, this is not Siri, the voice assistant in the iPhone 4S. This is a feature that allows you to dictate to the iPad word processor. Judging by Siri’s performance this won’t be 100% accurate all the time, but still a nice addition if you like that sort of thing.

Cons

Size

This isn’t a huge issue, but some people may find it annoying. Despite Apple’s emphasis on style and elegance, the new iPad is actually slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad 2.

It’s not enough to notice, and the tapered edges hide any of the thickness, but if you’re annoyed by that type of backwards step then you may think this is enough to look elsewhere. For others it may be too small a change to notice.

Battery life

This isn’t a downside as much as it is a slight disappoint. With every iteration of its hardware, Apple improves the battery life, but this time around there hasn’t been much of an increase. That’s an impressive feat in and of itself considering the device is 4G-capable and is using an ultra-high resolution screen. But if you had been using the iPad 2 and hoped for some extra juice, you’re won’t find it here.

That said, it’s still one of the most impressive tablets on the market, power-wise, so if you’ve used either of the two versions before this you’ll be used to it.

4G

This is the biggest issue. Although Apple is saying the new iPad has 4G LTE connectivity – and it does – Australian users won’t be able to take advantage of it.

It’s true that Telstra currently operates a 4G network, but how that all works is complicated. Currently Telstra is operating its 4G network on the 1800Mhz frequency, and Optus is set to open a 4G network on that frequency this year.

But here’s the problem – the new iPad only operates on the 700Mhz and 2100Mhz frequencies. You’ll still be able to use 3G – and it’ll probably be faster – but 4G networks are out of the question.

Currently the 700Mhz frequency is being used for analogue television signals, and it’s not going to be freed up for a while. In other words, there will almost definitely be a new iPad out before that happens.

If you’re buying an iPad just for the 4G connectivity, then don’t. You’ll be wasting your money.

No peripherals

Apple fans should probably know by now the company isn’t about to stick a USB port on the iPad, but there are some that always hope for it. And again, they’ve been disappointed.

The iPad is the iPad, and the iPad only comes with a dock connector. If you want to add an SD reader or a USB connection, you’re going to need to buy peripherals, which tend to be pricey.

Conclusion

Whether or not you should buy the new iPad depends on whether you own one now.

For the buyer who got on board early with the first version, the new version is a no-brainer. It’s slimmer, faster, more powerful and the high resolution screen makes it much nicer to use.

But if you’ve bought the iPad 2, then it’s a more difficult choice. You’ll be buying the new iPad for the better screen, speed and camera – but is it worth handing over an extra few hundred dollars, assuming you’d be able to sell your current model?

If you really need the better screen and camera, then this is a must-purchase. But if you’ve already bought an iPad 2 and can bother waiting, the next version is only 12 months away.

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