It took me a few days of heavy use before I finally “got” the new iPad. I was an early adopter of the original model, so much so that my laptop hasn’t once in two years left the studio desk where it runs my teleprompter. When the iPad 2 came out last year, I never even considered upgrading. Sure, it was faster and thinner and weighed less and had better graphics and it could take pictures and make video calls — but it still didn’t really do much of anything my old one didn’t do.
So here’s the new iPad. It’s a little thicker and a littler heavier than the 2, although still thinner and lighter than the 1. It sports even faster graphics, albeit wedded to the same-speed CPU. And both the front- and rear-facing cameras, which I will almost never use, are much nicer.
So why am I so completely jazzed about the new iPad?
It comes down to just one thing: That screen. That gorgeous, lickable, touchable, incomprehensible screen. Every time I see it, I feel like David Bowman in his own personal orbit around Jupiter: “My God, it’s full of stars!”
Apple took the acceptable 1,024 x 768 screen of the previous iPads, and doubled the linear resolution to 2,048 x 1,536. That’s four times as many pixels. It’s 50% more pixels than your 50- or 60-inch HDTV musters. At that density, it’s simply impossible to distinguish individual pixels at a typical reading distance. Perhaps just as important, color saturation is increased almost 50%.
That sounds nice on paper, but does it really mean anything?
That’s what I wondered, too, the first two or three days I used mine. Then, I changed the lock screen wallpaper to a Colorado landscape shot I made a few years ago — and something magical happened.
Before I tell you, I want you to take a look at the picture. That’s up at 11 Mile Reservoir on one of those perfect Colorado spring mornings — when the winds pick up and the clouds suddenly roll in.
It’s a very pretty shot. Now I want you to click on it, because the file I’ve uploaded has been cropped and resized to match the iPad’s screen. You will probably have to click on it twice to view it full size, because unless you’re running a massive 30-inch monitor, this picture is bigger than your desktop computer screen.
This picture — the whole thing, all three million pixels of it, all in one glance — fits perfectly in the palm of your hand on the iPad’s 9.7-inch Retina Display. And unless your monitor has a pricy, LED backlit screen that’s been professionally calibrated, then even the colors look deeper and more true-to-life on the new iPad.
The magic of it is, anything you can put on that screen, whether it’s a photo or a game or a productivity app — can look as sharp and as colorful and as breathtaking as a high-quality, glossy photo print. There’s even an illusion of depth, as icons scurry across the screen, which Hollywood has yet to match with all its million-dollar 3D movie projectors.
It is no less than astounding to manipulate photo-reality with your fingertips. It’s a joyous experience that words cannot convey. It has to be done to be believed.
Of course, not all apps take advantage of the Retina Display. Most apps simply have their pixels doubled to fill it up. They still look nice — nicer than they did on last year’s model. But apps that have been optimized for the Retina Display make it seem like you’re bending reality with the tip of your finger. And in a sense, you are.
By this time next year, if not sooner, nearly all apps will be optimized for the Retina Display. The magic will be everywhere.
So, yes, the new iPad takes better pictures and has a battery that still lasts nine or ten hours and can access Verizon’s or AT&T’s LTE networks and has quad-core graphics and all that. But so what? The new iPad is all about the screen, and there is nothing else like it available anywhere in the world at any price.
I’m in love, and I suspect you might fall, too.
ONE MORE THING: This review and all photo editing done for this review were performed on a new iPad. I love it when people call it a “consumption device.”