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In-depth review: Apple's third generation iPad and iOS 5.1

The beautiful Retina Display

Let's start with the screen. Apple could call the new Retina Display iPad "HD," but it actually has 1 million more pixels than the high end 1080p HDTVs now on sale. Its screen supports 2048 x 1536 pixels at a 264 pixel per inch density.

In the PC world, adding additional pixels via a higher resolution screen typically had the effect of making everything on the screen smaller. For the new iPad, Apple followed same strategy for iPhone 4: more pixels don't mean a smaller user interface; they mean a sharper user interface.

It's easy to look at the new iPad and immediately take its Retina Display screen for granted. You have to compare it with previous generations of iPad to remember how things used to look.

Previous iPads exhibited minor pixelation particularly noticeable on the rounded corners of buttons; a gray, muddled appearance in the anti-aliasing of text and an overall user interface that looked like a computer. With the new Retina Display, iPad looks like you're working with reality.

It's the same qualitative jump iPhone 4 experienced over iPhone 3GS, except rather than being limited to a small smartphone screen, iPad delivers a magazine-sized version of that same ultra-sharp display. It's hard to convey in words how beautiful it is. It's like interacting with a glossy, high resolution print page that smoothy interacts with your touch.

It simply looks perfect. In fact, when there is some display bug (as I observed in iOS 5.1 when selecting text; you occasionally get a missing line of pixels in the highlighted selection), it looks jarring. As if you're noticing a flaw in the Matrix.

Fortunately, such flaws rarely occurred in testing. The overall user interface feels solid and responsive. While being the first release supporting the new iPad, iOS 5.1 draws upon two years of Apple's experience with iPad and five years of development since the release of the original iPhone. It feels experienced and mature.

On page 3 of 6: More iPad iPhone 4-nication: a decent camera, new A5X chip