What you need to know about the new iPad (FAQ)

(Credit: Apple)

Apple debuted its third-generation Apple iPad yesterday, and many CNET readers still have some unanswered questions about the device.

The new tablet is set to hit store shelves on March 16. Apple has already outlined the basic new specs of the device. But there is still some confusion around what some of these new features are and how they can be used.

In this FAQ, CNET answers some of these questions and provides a basic primer on what Apple is calling simply, the new iPad. If you’ve got more questions regarding the third-generation iPad, let us know and we will update the FAQ.

What’s different about the new iPad compared to the iPad 2 introduced last year?

  • There are several key differentiators.
  • Higher resolution high-definition screen.
  • 4G LTE wide area network connectivity.
  • Faster processor A5X chip.
  • Upgraded 5-megapixel camera with 1080-resolution for video with image stabilization.
  • New apps, such as iPhoto and updates to Garageband and iMovie. iPhoto is US$4.99, while GarageBand and iMovie remain US$9.99 each.

Is there anything that has stayed the same between the iPad 2 and the third-generation model of the device?

  • The basic design and dimensions of the iPad are the same. The new iPad is less than a millimeter thicker than the iPad 2, which means most of the existing iPad 2 cases will fit the new iPad.
  • Battery life is consistent, with the iPad giving users 10 hours when on Wi-Fi and about 9 hours of use on a 4G LTE network.
  • Pricing and memory configurations are the same for the new iPad as they were for the iPad. The base model with Wi-Fi connectivity and 16GB of storage will cost US$499, while the most expensive 4G version, with 64GB, will cost US$829.

I keep hearing that the screen resolution is really impressive for the new iPad. How incredible is it?
The new iPad boasts a screen resolution of 2,048 x 1,536, or 3.1 million pixels. That better than any other tablet or laptop on the market today. And it may be even better than some HDTVs.

CNET’s tablet reviewer Donald Bell called it a “stunner” in his hands-on take with the new device.

“Remember the first time you saw an HD television? You were probably excited about the future but also a little sad that your current TV’s days were numbered. For tablet fans, a glance at the iPad’s new screen may offer this same emotional cocktail of envy and loss,” he writes in his post about the device after seeing it in person at Apple’s event in San Francisco yesterday.

If that wasn’t a strong enough endorsement for you, Bell went on to say, “Let’s be clear, here. Not only does the new iPad’s QXGA screen wreck your expectations for tablet screens, but your laptop or desktop computer screen will also look shabby by comparison.”

You said that the third-generation iPad supports 4G LTE. What does that mean exactly?

Apple offers two basic versions of the iPad. One version has only a Wi-Fi radio for Internet connectivity. This lets people connect to the Net to check email, surf the Web, stream video, play games, or whatever else they want to do with the device over a Wi-Fi connection. The other version of the iPad also has a carrier network radio so that users can connect to the Internet even when they aren’t in a Wi-Fi hotspot. Previous iPads had cellular 3G radios in them. For AT&T this was a GSM/HSPA radio and for Verizon Wireless this was a CDMA/EV-DO radio.

The latest version of the iPad will now connect to a carrier’s network via 4G LTE. AT&T and Verizon are building these 4G LTE networks. Verizon can offer its service to more than 200 million people in the US And AT&T’s network can serve more than 70 million customers today. Both carriers are continuing to expand their network footprints. So if the iPad is being used where 4G is not available, it can still use the 3G network of AT&T or Verizon, depending on which carrier is supported.

What about roaming? When I go abroad will I be able to roam onto an LTE network in Europe?

The answer to this question is “no”. For one, there are few LTE deployments outside the US today, so you’d be hard pressed to find an LTE network to roam onto. But even once LTE gets deployed in other places, neither the AT&T nor the Verizon version of the iPad will be able to roam onto other LTE networks.

The reason is that the spectrum bands used in the US are not the same ones used in other parts of the world for LTE service. That said, it doesn’t mean that roaming is not permitted at all. Instead, your iPad will roam onto an GSM/UMTS or HSPA/HSPA+ network while you’re traveling, just as the iPhone 4S is able to roam onto other carriers.

AT&T and Verizon have not confirmed this is the case. AT&T’s representative Mark Siegel said he was unable to answer any questions about the device’s capabilities. But judging from Apple’s Web site where it describes the connectivity technology available on the device, this makes sense.

Is the new A5X chip, which Apple just announced for the new iPad, a quad-core processor? Apple says it has quad-core graphics, but is quad-core graphics the same thing as a quad-core processor?

The A5X is not a quad-core processor. That said it integrates a dual-core processor with “quad-core” graphics. And Apple say this gives the A5X offers “four times the performance” of Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip. It also claims the performance of the third-generation iPad is twice that of the iPad 2.

CNET blogger and chip guru Brooke Crothers explained in his post:

“The new iPad’s graphics chip–which is based on Imagination’s PowerVR tech–is basically a quad-core version of the dual-core graphics chip in the iPad 2. That’s where Apple gets the two-fold performance increase. The upshot is that Apple is focusing on the GPU because it needs to devote all of the chip real estate it can to transistors that push around an amazingly pixel-dense display–which crams a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 into a 9.7-inch display. A rough analogy could be made to a high-end gaming rig. If you’re playing Crysis:Warhead on, let’s say, a 2,560 x 1,600 display, you need a powerful graphics chip like Nvidia’s GeForce GT 500 series. Without it, everything slows to a crawl.”


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