This is the latest in what will obviously be an indefinite series of reviews of new versions of the iPad as they come out. Apparently I'm hooked on upgrading. I'm okay with that.
I recommend readers look at my previous two reviews to understand where I'm coming from with this device: Why I Needed an iPad and Why I'm Getting an iPad 2. This is not a general purpose review. I'm reviewing the features that I care about and/or I think will matter to other photographers. There are an unlimited number of other reviews out there, so feel free to browse to your heart's content.
I didn't recommend the iPad 2 as an upgrade from the original iPad (even though I upgraded), nor did I see that it brought much to the table for people who weren't interested in the iPad originally. The 2012 iPad is a different beast. I think it's a worthwhile upgrade from an older iPad, with some distinctly interesting new features.
The first is one that is near and dear to my heart and obvious to me, yet invisible to you. I'm dictating this column on the iPad. The new iPad offers voice transcription so long as you are connected to the net (via either Wi-Fi or cellular) and it works extraordinarily well, considering that there is almost no way to customize vocabulary or user settings.
In fact, even though I make extensive use of specialized vocabulary, it may prove to be a more efficient way for me to write than using Dragon Dictate on my MacBook Pro. Dragon is prone to all sorts of idiosyncratic errors, including orthography (not following the normal conventions for when to spell out numbers or write them as numbers, issues with punctuation and capitalization, etc.) I spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning up Dragon's mistakes. Apple's Dictation feature seems to get all this stuff perfectly. Plus, the recognition accuracy is truly extraordinary, the best I've ever seen.
The second big win for me is that the new iPad can function as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five other devices. Currently, Verizon supports that in their contract, while AT&T doesn't. I imagine AT&T will come on board, but I wasn't willing to wait, so I bought the Verizon model this time around. I don't use a lot of cellular data. Previously, I used the cheapest AT&T plan that provided 250 MB a month. A couple of times a year, when I would travel, I would kick up to the next highest (2GB) tier in AT&T. So I used to spend about $200 a year for connectivity. Verizon offers a $20 a month data plan that gets me a gigabyte per month, but it's going to save me money. A lot of the times when I travel I have to pay for Wi-Fi at a hotel for my MacBook Pro. I will not have to do that in the future, so I expect I'll save something on the order of $75 a year, along with getting about twice as much data on the iPad as I was getting the old way.
Now, about the display, which I know you've been wondering when I would get to. I did not order a new iPad in advance for the simple reason that while more pixels are nice (and the new iPad has plenty more), I'm a lot more concerned with pixel quality than with quantity. I bought my original iPad (see my first column) because I could use it as a near-studio-quality monitor in the field. If the new iPad compromised tone or color quality in any way it was likely to be a fail for me, no matter how attractive it seemed otherwise.
Well, quite the opposite! The new iPad display is better in every respect. Not only does it offer twice the resolution, which certainly is wonderful to behold, it renders exactly 100% of sRGB color space, in comparison with 70% on the old iPad. Apple has also tweaked the contrast, so the contrast curve is also now a perfect match for standard sRGB; previously it was too high. It's also slightly warmer than the old iPad's display, which was a little bit cooler than standard D65. Consequently, right out of the box, the new iPad display looks fabulous. After running it through a custom profiling in Air Display with ColorMunki, it looks even better. I am a very happy camper.
And, yes, all those extra pixels are really, really nice when reading the morning paper.
There are significant downsides to the display. The power consumption is way up on this model of the iPad, which means the standard 10W charger takes considerably longer to bring the unit to a full charge. Think something like six and half hours. With the old iPad, giving it a one-hour "quickie" over lunch would get you through the rest of the work day. No more of that (sigh). The additional power consumption also means that the unit charges extremely slowly or not at all if you are using it while it's plugged into the charger. Finally, run life is now most dependent upon screen brightness rather than CPU usage. At maximum brightness, the runtime is barely six hours. It still remains 10 hours or more at more normal brightness levels, but this is of concern if you're trying to work in extremely bright light or outdoors.
There are also some important, possibly unexpected, implications for photographers. I'll cover those next week, along with my review of the new iPad's camera.
Ctein's iColumn—sorry, column—appears on TOP on Wednesdays.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.