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New Apple iPad: Is it worth a buy?

The new iPad has finally arrived in India, and as usual, it comes on a wave of sales records, hype and controversy. There are those who insist that it does not represent a huge step forward, even as others believe that it redefines the tablet category. The truth lies somewhere between these two extreme views. We have been using the new iPad for a while and here’s what we think of Apple’s latest tablet.

Style and substance

The new iPad is as sleek as its predecessors even though it has gained a bit in terms of thickness and weight-it is 9.4 mm thick and tips the scales at 652 g (the iPad 2 was 8.8 mm thick and weighed 601 g). But the device really impresses when you switch it on. The 2,048 x 1,536 pixel display is easily the best we have seen on a portable device. Forget the figures, there are more pixels on this device than you get on an HDTV. The result is dazzling, not just in the case of videos and games, but also in something as mundane as text. We have not been as surprised by a display since Samsung launched the Super AMOLED-borne Galaxy S.

There is some very good hardware beneath this display-a dual core A5x processor with quad core graphics processing. No, it is not the fastest we have seen, but it managed the wonderful display and processing with buttery smoothness. There is 4G connectivity, which is of little use in India (we can use 3G and GPRS though), and the usual Bluetooth-GPS-WiFi combination on the connectivity front. It also comes with an upgraded 5-megapixel camera, which is capable of shooting 1080p video.

It did perform extraordinarily well, but the heavy weight strained our wrists after some time, especially since the new iPad weighs more than many DSLRs. A more pleasant surprise is the battery. It ran for almost 11 hours on Wi-Fi with push mail and social networks running, even as we browsed and played some Angry Birds and YouTube videos.
The new iPad has finally arrived in India, and as usual, it comes on a wave of sales records, hype and controversy. There are those who insist that it does not represent a huge step forward, even as others believe that it redefines the tablet category. The truth lies somewhere between these two extreme views. We have been using the new iPad for a while and here’s what we think of Apple’s latest tablet.

Style and substance

The new iPad is as sleek as its predecessors even though it has gained a bit in terms of thickness and weight-it is 9.4 mm thick and tips the scales at 652 g (the iPad 2 was 8.8 mm thick and weighed 601 g). But the device really impresses when you switch it on. The 2,048 x 1,536 pixel display is easily the best we have seen on a portable device. Forget the figures, there are more pixels on this device than you get on an HDTV. The result is dazzling, not just in the case of videos and games, but also in something as mundane as text. We have not been as surprised by a display since Samsung launched the Super AMOLED-borne Galaxy S.

There is some very good hardware beneath this display-a dual core A5x processor with quad core graphics processing. No, it is not the fastest we have seen, but it managed the wonderful display and processing with buttery smoothness. There is 4G connectivity, which is of little use in India (we can use 3G and GPRS though), and the usual Bluetooth-GPS-WiFi combination on the connectivity front. It also comes with an upgraded 5-megapixel camera, which is capable of shooting 1080p video.

It did perform extraordinarily well, but the heavy weight strained our wrists after some time, especially since the new iPad weighs more than many DSLRs. A more pleasant surprise is the battery. It ran for almost 11 hours on Wi-Fi with push mail and social networks running, even as we browsed and played some Angry Birds and YouTube videos.

 Achilles’ heel

However, the new iPad retains some flaws of its predecessors. The storage remains fixed (16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB) and there is no support for memory cards. This is going to pinch even more in the latest version because applications designed to make the most of the magnificent display will take up far more storage space. Our 64 GB unit filled up in no time at all. There is no support for Adobe Flash either and Bluetooth connectivity remains rather limited. The camera is a trifle difficult to use and those who invest in the 4G version will be paying for a facility they cannot use.

Though the arrival of iCloud and over-the-air updates have lessened the dependence on iTunes, you still need to use it for transferring music and videos to the device, which is tedious. And you still cannot buy books, videos and music on iTunes in India, which is irksome. The 10-inch size means that it has to be used mostly with two hands unlike the smaller seven-inch displays in some tablets.

Worth a buy?

The past year has seen a lot of change in the tablet market and, if all you want is a portable device for mail, browsing and the odd bit of social networking, there are lots of options available. Some of the devices that are cheaper than the iPad and have competitive specifications are the Motorola Xoom, the BlackBerry PlayBook and Samsung’s range of Galaxy Tabs, even the hybrid Galaxy Note.

However, only the Android tablets come close to matching Apple’s undisputable app market. If you want something that blends the best bits of a notebook, smartphone, media player, e-book reader and gaming console in one sleek, flauntable unit, the iPad is your best option.

The real question is, should you go for the new iPad or buy the cheaper iPad 2? The difference in prices for similar models is around Rs 6,000, enough to buy you a nice cover and a sound dock. For instance, the 16 GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 now costs Rs 24,500, while the same model for the latest iPad is priced at Rs 30,500. If you are going to use the device only for browsing, checking mail, playing a few simple games and reading e-books, you should buy the latter.

The retina display or faster processor will only be beneficial if you intend to play high-definition games and videos or use heavy software like video editing. Besides, most of us have better cameras on our smartphones, which are easier to carry than the heavyweight iPad.

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