Chances are you're reasonably familiar with the look and layout of the new iPad by now. The most important point to make here: in terms of look and feel, absolutely nothing has changed compared to the third-generation iPad. We got out our scales and our calipers and couldn't find a fraction of a millimeter difference in dimensions or a gram's adjustment of weight.
So, that means you're looking at a tablet that measures 9.5 x 7.3 inches across its glass-covered front, which of course protects that luscious 2,048 x 1,536 Retina display. The tablet still measures 0.37 inches (9.5mm) thick and weighs 1.44 pounds (632 grams) in WiFi guise, as we tested here, 0.02 pounds (10 grams) heavier if you opt for the cellular model. That's 0.6mm thicker and 0.11 pounds heavier than the iPad 2 -- which, by the way, lives on should you find the new iPad mini a bit too tiny for your tastes.
The gradual refinements of the iPad design have created a tablet that is both comfortable to hold and still striking to look at.
When holding an iPad 2 and a third-gen iPad in either hand it's possible to tell them apart -- just. But, hold a third-gen unit in one hand and a fourth-gen unit in the other and you'll be left gazing at the size of the hole in the bottom to identify one from the other. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the gradual refinements of the iPad design have created a tablet that is both comfortable to hold and still striking to look at.
Again, it's a 2,048 x 1,536, 9.7-inch LCD up front, with a 720p iSight HD camera located front-and-center above the panel and the familiar, concave Home button below. The power/lock button, still slender and made of black plastic, resides on the right side of the top, while the black volume rocker and rotation lock switch can be found on the catty-corner on the right side.
On the bottom, of course, is the major change: the Lightning connector. Apple's new interconnect is far superior in every regard to the old Dock port: thinner and easier to connect, more durable and faster when transferring files. But that might not help assuage the pains of a house (and, perhaps, garage) full of docks and accessories that want the older, fatter, flimsier, clunkier and frankly uglier connector that came before. Apple has you covered with a suite of adapters that will address nearly every incompatibility, but none come for free. Neither does progress, we're afraid to say. (Check out our iPad mini review for a full run-down of those connectors.)
What more can we say? This is still the best display you'll find on a tablet. We went on and on about Retina in our review of the third-gen iPad and while we'll spare you the soliloquy this time, we will say that the Retina display in the new iPad still looks fantastic. Brightness, contrast and viewing angles are all world-class, color reproduction is brilliant and even outdoor visibility is superb. And we haven't even mentioned the resolution yet.
Yes, the 2,048 x 1,536 pixel count beats all other portables (though not for long, thanks to the forthcoming Nexus 10 matching it), but we'll point out yet again that the way iOS scales things means you won't get any more usable display space on the tablet. Icons and buttons and everything else are exactly as big as they were on the iPad 2, but now they are of course rendered with amazing clarity. So, too, is text and other visual controls -- at least in the apps that have been updated to support the display, which these days is an awful lot.
The new, new iPad has a five megapixel camera on the back and 1.2 megapixel FaceTime HD camera up front, a step up from the VGA unit that was still found wedged inside the bezel of the third-gen iPad. That, then, is a solid improvement, but image quality on the back we didn't find to be much improved from the previous iPad, which in general took pleasing shots. That said, image capture is completed much, much more quickly than before, enabling the kind of rapid-fire shooting we enjoyed on the iPhone 5. Sadly, still no Panorama nor HDR modes here.