The new Apple iPad: Retina Display, A5X chip and 4G.

(Credit: Apple)

In the end, the rumors got the most important detail right.

As widely speculated, the latest version of Apple’s iPad has a whopping 2,048 x 1,536-pixel display. It’s good enough for Apple to call it a Retina Display. The reason: Despite the fact that its pixel density of 264 is still lower than that of the iPhone 4S, you hold the iPad further away compared to a phone.

The new iPad has four times as many pixels on the screen as its predecessor. Hence, Apple has augmented the graphics on its A5 processor. The new A5X chip boasts up to twice the graphical horsepower of the iPad 2 and Apple calls it “quad-core graphics”.

The other big feature on the new tablet is support for 4G/LTE, with maximum speeds of up to 72Mbps, depending on your network. It will also be 3G-capable and there’s a new feature to turn the iPad into a personal hotspot. Note that many countries in Asia still do not have commercial LTE services.

The iSight rear camera on the latest iPad has been improved significantly. Apple claims that the new 5-megapixel rear shooter uses similar optics as the version on the iPhone 4S. It will have autofocus, auto-exposure and face detection. It’s also capable of 1080p HD video recording.

While there was speculation about Siri, it turns out that everyone’s favorite assistant won’t be making its iPad debut. Instead, Apple has a new voice dictation feature that supports English, German and French. Japanese, too, will be supported with the upcoming iOS 5.1 update, which incidentally sees Siri adding Japanese language support to her repertorie.

Despite the new features, Apple said that the iPad will continue to maintain its 10 hours of battery uptime. This drops down slightly to 9 hours if it’s on 4G. However, it appears to be slightly thicker than the iPad 2 (9.4mm vs. 8.8mm) and is a bit heavier at 652g.

* 4G LTE
* 9.7 inch retina display with 2048 x 1536 pixels
* 5-megapixel iSight camera
* 1080p video recording
* 1.4 pounds and 9.4mm thick
* A5x quad-core graphics
* 44% greater saturation
* 10 hour battery life (9 hours on 4G)

The best part of the announcement is that prices stay the same–US$499 for the 16GB version, US$599 for 32GB and US$699 for 64GB. The 4G version starts at a higher price: US$629, US$729 and US$829 respectively. Apple is taking preorders now. Meanwhile, the current iPad 2 will get a price cut to US$399 for the base model.

The tablet (in the usual black or white) will be available initially on March 16 in ten countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. The rest of the world will get the new iPad from the end of March.

Besides the new iPad, Apple also announced a refreshed Apple TV, which appears to have a more powerful processor that supports 1080p videos and a new, more iOS-like interface. Movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store will hence be available in 1080p, too. The price remains at US$99 and it goes on sale on March 16.

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