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Apple releases fourth-generation iPad with Retina display.

Apple's third tablet in three years, simply called iPad, is now available in New Zealand.

As of 6am this morning, Apple's online store had opened for busiiness, with an estimated delivery time of one to two weeks (when it went on sale in the US last week, the ship time was two to three weeks; it seems predicted shortages have not come to pass, or at least not hit too hard).

Visiting broadband enthusiast Stephen Fry was among the first Wellington buyers of the new iPad (the photo above was taken outside a Manners St store by @CarnivalLabs who explained, "That's the best I could do with [digital] zoom cranked to max on the iPhone 4").

There's also good buying for those who want an iPad 2, which is being kept on as a budget model priced at $579 (wi-fi) only or $799 (wi-fi plus 3G). For the iPad 2, ship time is one to three days.

Here's a quick guide to the pricing, the features, the reviews and the controversy.

THE PRICING

Wi-Fi

  • $729 16GB
  • $879 32GB
  • $1029 64GB

Wi-Fi + 4G

  • $929 16GB
  • $1079 32GB
  • $1228 64GB

THE FEATURES

The new iPad features a so-called "retina display", boosting screen resolution to 2048 by 1536 pixels (the iPad 2 is 1024 by 768; a high definition widescreen TV has a 1920 x 1080 display, and HD movies and TV shows are formated to that resolution). Apple is billing it as the sharpest definition on the market.

The iPad 2's dual core processor is upgraded to a dual core with quad-core graphics, the better to service the higher resolution graphics.

The rear camera's resolution hs been bumped up to 5 megapixels - still a step down from the 8 megapixels boasted by the iPhone 4S and many high-end Google Android devices.

There is a new microphone button (accompanying the arrival of Siri-style voice command and dictation software to the iPad couple with iOS 5.1 - although Siri itself was not mentioned). But otherwise the size and shape of the new iPad closely resembles the iPad 2. It's marginally (0.6mm) thicker and 50g heavier.

The new iPad supports superfast LTE/4G mobile data - a boon to people living in some areas of the US but irrelevant to New Zealand where Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees operate 3G networks, and are unlikely to begin any upgrades within 18 months, if that. 4G service in Australia is not compatible with the frequency used by the new iPad.


 

THE REVIEWS & THE CONTROVERSY

Short story, the new iPad has had wall-to-wall good reviews, especially for its retina display (scroll down for some comments).

Negatives have been hard to find, but there are a few bad notices out there for specific features. The new iPad adds a microphone button and Siri-style (but not Siri-branded) voice recognition software - but an Australian Financial Review writer found it unusable, savaging it in a column "dictated" to his new tablet. Like Siri on the iPhone, it doesn't seem to have been optimised for down-under accents.

The New York Times grouses that while the retina display is stunning, it can make some websites look rubbish as few have upgraded their graphics to take advantage of the new iPad's super-high resolution 2048 by 1536 pixels (and, given the cost and limitations of broadband - especially mobile broadband - few will in the near future).

Consumer Reports noted the new iPad runs a bit hotter than the iPad 2 - heating up to 47 degrees centigrade.

Wall Street Journal praised the new iPad's 4G/LTE support, saying the faster mobile data spec negates the need for wi-fi - at least in performance terms. In financial terms, it can lead to bill shock - as one customer found when he chewed through his monthly 2GB data cap in two hours while watching a video on his iPad (a criticism aimed at telcos rather than Apple, but still something to bear in mind for anyone looking to buy a cellular-capable tablet).

Beyond those point, it's wall-to-wall good notices.

 

ABOVE: The bad news on 4G was confirmed for Aussie buyers by this notice, slipped into the new iPad's box. Here, we don't even have 4G, so the compatibility question is moot.

A selection:

After an extended look at the new tablet, The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg - perhaps the most influencial US reviewer - wrote:

Boosting the screen and the cellular speed—usually has a negative impact on battery life in a digital device. But Apple has managed to crank them up them while maintaining the long battery life between charges that has helped give the iPad such an edge over other tablets.

If you already own an iPad 2, and like it, you shouldn't feel like you have to rush out to buy the new one. However, for those who use their iPads as their main e-readers, and those who use it frequently while away from Wi-Fi coverage, this new model could make a big difference.

The optional, extra-cost, 4G LTE cellular-data capability made it feel like I was always on a fast Wi-Fi connection. 

Computerworld US took an evolution not revolution line:

The third-generation iPad, a product that doesn't mess with success. Like the iPad 2 before it, this new iPad is not a re-thinking of the original concept. Instead, Apple has chosen to focus on a few areas of improvement while keeping the overall package the same. Though it's an approach that can frustrate people who are disappointed by anything that's not a quantum leap, Apple executes it to perfection and reaps the rewards.

MacWorld's Jason Snell said:

In my review of the iPad 2, I suggested a rule of Apple product evolution I called “Jobs’s Law”—that the latest version of any Apple product is likely to be thinner and lighter than its predecessor. The third-generation iPad breaks that law. It’s actually slightly thicker and slightly heavier than the iPad 2, and in many cases users won’t perceive it to be faster.

But the changes Apple has wrought with this iPad aren’t about making it thinner or lighter or faster, but about making it better. And on nearly every front, the third-generation iPad is markedly better than its predecessor.

Mr Snell has also posted a video review to YouTube:

More first impressions:

"Unsurprisingly, Apple has managed to produce something that's truly beautiful to look at, and while we've yet to see the full potential of having this many pixels on a 9.7-inch slate, we're guessing a cadre of game developers are already hard at work in order to remedy that.

"Beyond being dazzling from a density standpoint, colors are sharp and accurate, and viewing angles are predictably ridiculous; even taking a peek from an extreme side angle gives way to a fairly solid image with next to no washout." - Engadget

"Just as when we first saw the iPhone 4 display, the new iPad's 2048 x 1536 screen is stunning to behold. Simply put, there's no other product like it on the market. Games look great, though most titles haven't been tweaked for the new resolution." - The Verge

"At first glance, the new iPad exudes familiarity. The new slate’s physical design is nearly identical to that of the iPad 2The home button remains intact, and all but one physical dimension remains the same.

"It’s only when you hold the new iPad in your hands -- and then turn on its screen -- that you begin to notice two key differences.

"The first is extremely subtle: The new tablet is thicker. Now, it’s true, you have to be an iPad 2 user to notice the difference, but this latest model really does look a bit pudgier in the flesh. From generation to generation, the tablet’s waist line has grown from 8.8mm to 9.44mm. Who knew such a small size differential could even be noticeable?

"The second key difference between the iPad 2 and “the new iPad” (come on, Apple, choose a name already) comes to light as soon as you turn on the screen. Packed with a 2048 x 1536 resolution, and pixel density of 264 pixels per inch, the new tablet’s so-called “Retina Display” is a sight to see." - Wired

"Apple's new tablet computer has arrived and its ultra-sharp 2048 x 1536 pixel Retina display is enough to set it apart from anyone else. It's almost like looking at a glossy magazine page." - Gizmodo

Comments and questions
2

Chris
The debate about LTE support (or lack of it in NZ) on the new iPad is masking some good news about this device (Peter Griffin missed this on ThisWayUp last Saturday too).
The new iPad supports Dual Carrier HSPA+ which sports headline speeds of 43Mbps (two lots of 21.6Mbps).
That in itself is about a 6-fold step up from the iPad2.
And the good news is that New Zealanders can enjoy this service - exclusively with Vodafone.
There is some excitement on Geekzone today http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=76&topicid=99629 about the customer experience.
We are pretty excited too (mine's on order!).
Cheers
Tom Chignell
GM Corporate Affairs
Vodafone New Zealand Limited

I must add that the place I work still has stock after a days trading.