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Walt Mossberg of All Things D called the iPad's new display and move to LTE "massive" upgrades.
"Using the new display is like getting a new eyeglasses prescriptionâyou suddenly realize what you thought looked sharp before wasnât nearly as sharp as it could be," he wrote, later adding that it was the "most spectacular display" he had ever seen in a mobile device.
Mossberg was impressed by Apple's ability to maintain the iPad's long battery life even with the increased power demands from the screen and LTE. He did note that trade-offs came in the form of 8 percent more weight and 7 percent more thickness.
However, in spite of those trade-offs, the reviewer believes the upgrades to the iPad "strengthen its position as the best tablet on the market." Except for people who prefer one-handed use tablets, he recommends the device to consumers as their "best choice" in a general-purpose tablet.
Mossberg had trouble illustrating on a website or in print just how much better the new iPad's screen is than the iPad 2, but he did say it is a "big leap forward." When he put Apple's third-generation tablet next to its second-generation, he noticed that text that had seemed sharp on the older model now seemed fuzzier. He did note, though, that the new display, like all glossy LCD, color displays, still performs poorly in direct sunlight.
Left: iPad 2 Right: New iPad | Credit: All Things D
On Verizon, average LTE download speeds for the reviewer were over 17 megabits per second, compared to an iPad 2 average just over 1 mbps on 3G. AT&T's LTE network averaged over 12 mbps.
Performing his standard battery test, Mossberg got 9 hours and 58 minutes of battery life on the new iPad, compared to 10 hours and 9 minutes on the iPad 2. He was able to get more than a full day's worth of normal use out of the device, but not as long as the second-generation iPad.
Mossberg said the new rear camera has "greatly improved" from the "awful" performance of the iPad 2's shooter. "I loved the photos and videos it took, indoors and out," he said.
"Since it launched in 2010, the iPad has been the best tablet on the planet. With the new, third-generation model, it still holds that crown," he concluded.
David Pogue of The New York Times said that content looks "jaw-droppingly good" when optimized for the new iPad's display. Apple's own apps, for instance, are "just incredibly sharp and clear," while Amazon's Kindle app has "relatively crude type" because it hasn't received a Retina-ready update.
As the "world's first tablet that can actually show you hi-def movies in full 1080p high definition," HD videos looked "dazzling."
Pogue called 4G LTE service "really, really nice" on the iPad. HE found that he didn't have to wait for videos to load before they started playing. Testing performed in San Francisco, Boston and New York produced speeds ranging from 6 to 29 mbps.
He was also pleasantly surprised by Apple's ability to preserve the iPad's battery life even with 4G, a "notorious battery hog." His all-day nonstop-usage test got nine hours out of the new iPad's battery.
"If youâre in the market for a tablet, hereâs the bright side: For the same price as before, you can now get an updated iPad thatâs still better-looking, better integrated and more consistently designed than any of its rivals," Pogue concluded, adding that iPad 2 owners don't have to feel "quite as obsolete as usual."
Edward C. Baig believes that "nearly everyone" who gets their hands on a new iPad will be "delighted." The new device "snatches the crown" from the iPad 2 as the "finest tablet" customers can buy, he said.
Baig called the iPad's Retina Display "a screen to die for" and "the thing that will have you salivating." According to him, the first and second-generation iPad displays were "pretty sweet," but he was "blown away" by the new iPad.
As for other features, still images and video taken with the new iPad were "generally pleasing," even without flash, and 4G LTE speeds were "zippy" for him during a week of testing in San Francisco and Austin.
The reviewer said the the iPad lasted through an "entire day of being worked hard" without any battery problem.
Baig encouraged first-generation iPad owners with money to spare to go for the upgrade, but he was said it was "harder to justify" for iPad 2 owners, unless they have a family member who can inherit their current model.
"If you're a tablet newbie, there's no better choice on the market than an iPad, provided â and this is a pretty big if â price isn't an issue and you don't want a tablet that would fit in your pocket," he wrote.
Joshua Topolsky said the Retina Display on the iPad does in fact live up to the hype.
"This display is outrageous. Itâs stunning. Itâs incredible," he wrote. "Thereâs something almost otherwordly about how good this screen is. For rendered text or high-resolution images, it just looks like a glowing piece of paper."
He found there to be "no stutter, stagger or delay" when using the new iPad, unlike many other mobile devices that he has used.
The third-generation iPad "screams" on Verizon's 4G LTE network, the review noted. Topolsky said he saw higher speeds in midtown Manhattan than on his home network.
The reviewer said the iPad's battery life did live up to Apple's claims of 10 hours of active use and 9 hours using LTE. He also wrote that the new camera "performs admirably," though he found it hard to imagine that he would want to take photos with the iPad because of its size.
"In all, the new iPad is in a class by itself. As the latest product in a lineage of devices that defined this category, the iPad continues to stand head and shoulders above the competition."
Like others, Topolsky shied away from recommending that iPad 2 owners buy the new version, but he thinks first-time tablet buyers and first-generation iPad and Android tablet owners looking to upgrade should not hesitate to buy the third-generation iPad.
"The new iPad is the most functional, easy-to-use and beautiful tablet that any company has ever produced," he said.
Other publications have also published early reviews of the new iPad. Jim Dalrymple of The Loop said that he has been "in awe" of how good the iPad's Retina Display is since the first time he turned on the tablet. Writing for TechCrunch, M.G. Siegler compared the new screen to being able to see clearly after getting prescription glasses.