Apple unveils its latest and greatest.
A version of this article originally appeared on our US site, Fool.com.
There you have it, folks. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL.US) has just taken the wraps off the latest and greatest iPad. The customary flurry of supply chain leaks and rumours had already tempered our expectations of what to expect, and Cupertino delivered a package that was mostly in line with my personal predictions with no major surprises or "one more things".
The only aspect we didn't really know was the official moniker, and Apple surprised everyone by simply dubbing it "The new iPad," instead of the "iPad 3" or "iPad HD" that most (including me) were expecting. Let's go through the upgrades and see what's changed.
This is probably the most important upgrade, and it was practically a lock going into the announcement. Apple doubled each screen dimension from 1,024 x 768 to a 2,048 x 1,536 resolution. This cranks up pixels per inch, or ppi, from 132 to 264, which is still short of the 326ppi on the iPhone's Retina display. Despite the lower ppi, though, Apple is still marketing it as a Retina display (where the naked eye can't distinguish individual pixels) since the iPad is typically read at a further distance than the iPhone.
Those dimensions quadruple the number of pixels on the screen to more than 3.1 million, and it tops many HDTVs on the market today that have fewer pixels packed into larger screens. That's an awful lot of pixels that require an awful lot of horsepower, which brings us to...
Cupertino made an interesting move (although not entirely unexpected because of the rumour mill) with the custom ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM)-based chip inside. Instead of bumping up to a quad-core A6 CPU, Apple stuck with a dual-core processor but jumped up the cores inside the graphics processor to four.
This chip is dubbed the A5X and, as fellow Fool Eric Bleeker points out, it dampens the quad-core narrative that's being led by NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA.US) this year with its Tegra 3 as the only mobile quad-core CPU currently on the market. In comparison, the Tegra 3 has a 4-plus-1-core CPU and 12-core GPU. Apple even went as far as to compare the A5X directly to the Tegra 3, claiming four times the performance.
Apple will still probably come out with a quad-core A6 soon enough, potentially in this year's iPhone, but it shows that the migration isn't particularly urgent.
Apple has improved the backside-illuminated image sensor found in the iPad, and the rear shooter (now called an iSight camera) sports five megapixels, while the front VGA camera appears unchanged. There's a chance that sensor maker OmniVision Technologies (NASDAQ: OVTI.US) is back in Cupertino's good graces, and may have won the spot after losing the juicy iPhone 4S camera win to Sony last year.
This iPad carries improved optics like the iPhone 4S, but we'll have to wait for the teardowns to come in before the image sensor's origins are identified for sure.
Pricing on all the new models stayed put, contrary to dubious rumours that Apple might tack on an extra $80 to each model.
The iPad 2 has seen its price cut and, while Apple didn't go as low as a $299 8GB model, which would have promptly extinguished Amazon.com's Kindle Fire, it did keep 16GB of storage and is now available for $399 (UK prices can be found here).
Here's a comparison of a few specs:
| ||The new iPad||iPad 2|
|Processor||Dual-core A5X (with quad-core graphics)||Dual-core A5|
|Display||2048 x 1536 Retina Display at 264 ppi||1024 x 768 at 132 ppi|
|Cameras||Rear: 5-megapixel. Front: VGA.||Rear: 0.7-megapixel. Front: VGA.|
|Battery life||10 hours||10 hours|
What didn't make it?
I was surprised to hear that Siri didn't make it into the new iPad. Instead, Apple touted Voice Dictation, which is simply mere hands-free transcription as opposed to the various tasks that Siri assists with. Looks like Nuance Communications (NASDAQ: NUAN.US) is going to have to wait before taking its complex relationship with Cupertino to the next level.
Apple continues with improving its streamlined global rollouts, and the new iPad is set for an aggressive launch starting just a week from Friday, on 16 March. The iPhone 4S was the fastest global launch yet, and the new iPad should see similar treatment.
The only remaining question is how many will move on launch weekend.
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