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Opinion: 5 Letdowns of the New iPad - Is It Good Enough?

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 78 comments

It's official. The rumor mill can slow down; we can return to our everyday lives again and order a new iPad.

Apple announced the new tablet with enough superlatives to blanket every other tablet press release for the remainder of this year. However, the new features can be summed up in a few sentences, may not be as revolutionary as they sound and, given the expectations we have in Apple, just be barely good enough.

Reading through Apple's "New iPad" announcement sends your mind spinning. (Yes, it's not an iPad "3" in an apparent attempt to reduce perceived fragmentation and user envy.) It is a textbook example of how to write an announcement of a product you are either extremely proud of, or a textbook example of a product that fell short of what it should have been and requires plenty of words to wrap around a few new features. I admit that it does not really matter, since we know that this thing will sell like hotcakes anyway. The few truly new features announced, most notably a 2048x1536 pixel retina display as well as 4G LTE support and a processor that is promised to blow Nvidia's Tegra 3 out of the water, are enough to keep the iPad ahead of the competition. I am not sure about you, but the reasons to buy this tablet essentially boil down to the display. Compared to the average 10-inch tablet available today, the retina display has more than three times the resolution (2048x1536 = 3,145,728 pixels versus 1280x800 = 1,024,000 pixels) which should look good, especially on a 9.7-inch screen.

Still, Apple had an opportunity to do more. Here is what I would like to have seen.

Layered 3D display and gesture expansion

In January of 2010, Apple filed a patent that described a layered 3D display. This specific patent was apparently targeted at desktop displays, but 3D for the iPad with an option of layered menus is the far greater opportunity that makes a lot of sense. The idea is to use transparent OLEDs in the front and the middle as well as a common LCD in the back to achieve a physical 3D effect of objects shown on the screen. So far, no one has figured out how 3D can be explained as a technology of value to consumers. It might take Apple to help the technology to succeed in the mainstream. Perhaps 3D just isn't mature enough, but I would love to have seen that in the iPad. The fact that there is no 3D display also means that there is no evolution of the basic user and gesture model, which is a good thing. On that note, there have been rumors that Apple may introduce a touch-sensitive bezel that would eliminate, for example, the physical rocker for the volume adjustment. The bezel appears to be a huge area of wasted space that can be used for additional gestures, as well as touch input.

No quad-core CPU

This one is difficult, as even the established application processor makers are in a disagreement as to whether four cores make sense at this time. Intel has only one core; most manufacturers have dual-cores. Only Nvidia has a quad-core with an additional power-saving core. One hurdle to move to four cores clearly appears to be power consumption. If we look at today's dual-core application processors, we have to admit that they are way too power hungry already. Five years ago, my dumb-phone lasted two days on a charge. My LG Optimus 2X can't even compete with my antique Motorola M301 from 1996 in terms of battery time. So Apple may have a good case as to why it stays with a dual-core chip, the A5X, which includes "quad-core" graphics that help the iPad reach a "console-like game performance." However, had Apple found a way to transition to four cores and do so responsibly in terms of power consumption, Apple would have been ahead of most other tablet makers and would have eliminated the bragging rights on that front. I admit that this is a personal preference, and it is difficult to gauge the benefits of a quad-core chip in today's tablet world. Also, it may not matter to iPad buyers anyway. "Good enough" has always been good enough in Apple's world. There is no sign that this will change anytime soon.

Where is my cheap iPad 2?

Apple's launch event also held the message that the company has no intentions of competing in the $199 tablet market. Instead, the iPad 2 will remain what it is, but will now cost $399 (16 GB, Wi-Fi) and $529 (16 GB 3G), which is still rather costly – especially for a last-generation tablet. There is no 7- or 8-inch iPad. Apple has a huge opportunity to use its brand and reputation at least for a $299 product, which I would predict will arrive next year. Similar to its iPhone strategy, I am pretty sure that Apple can shave off another $100 when the next new iPad arrives. For now, however, Apple is leaving that market to Android makers, which may be a strategic mistake, given the immense leverage the company has right now. Keep in mind, we are promised to get Tegra 3 tablets for less than $300 this year. Those tablets are likely to come with a fully-equipped hardware feature list that provides full access to Android Market. Tablets costing $350 and below may be the segment that Android makers can seize for themselves this year, shutting out Apple, if they devise some compelling hardware and software products that appeal to those who can't afford to spend $500 or more on a tablet.

A 5MP camera?

Since the first iPhone in 2007, the camera was a problem for iOS devices. Lately, they have been generally labeled as good enough, but a decent 8MP camera is pretty much standard today. Admittedly, megapixels aren’t everything (even if I'd claim I'd rather have more than less), and we know that some higher-resolution CMOS chips deliver less quality than some lower-resolution chips. However, I must admit that Nokia's recent 41MP phone camera announcement has left a lasting impression. I am wondering how those pictures would look with the iPad's retina display. Not that I would ask for a 41MP, but I am sure that the current camera module, which seems to be the same, or at least similar to the one in the iPhone 4S, will not exploit the capabilities of the stunning display. This may have been the reason why Apple promoted only high-res 12MP DSLR pictures during its iPad presentation. I am sure, if you are buying the high-end 64GB 4G LTE iPad for $830, you would expect a slightly better-than-5MP camera.

Storage

I am not sure if anyone can answer the question whether 64 GB of storage space is enough. The answer highly depends on your usage scenario and the way you employ your applications. In the future, we may use cloud applications extensively. However, a complete transition to cloud that reduces our need for local storage is not quite feasible as long as carriers believe nose-bleed tiered data plans are the way to go and as long as they can charge $20 for a 1 MB download when you are outside the borders of the U.S. So, in cases of users who intend to replace their PC with an iPad, 64 GB of storage space may not be enough, and an 80 GB or 120 GB option would be desirable. With 64 GB of storage space, there is still a market that Apple (and other tablet makers) cannot touch. However, that market may be shrinking as cloud services become more popular. I would assume that Apple would have introduced such a tier if it saw a need for it, which leads me to believe that the share of 64 GB iPads being sold is rather small. Personally, however, I would like to have seen a 128 GB version that can hold most of my digital stuff, even if it was offered at a substantial premium.

To be fair, the new iPad is a solid improvement over its predecessor, but it is not disruptive enough to send you into a depression if you spent $500 or more last Christmas on an iPad 2, which may not be such a bad thing after all. However, I wonder about the expectations that are raised by Apple's CEO Tim Cook, who told the audience at the presentation that Apple has the "most innovative" employees in the world. Realistically, some of the features in the iPad are just catch-ups, some are behind the competition, and one is considerably ahead – the retina display. Did Apple meet the expectations? I leave that up to you to answer, but I have to say that I had hoped for a white rabbit that Cook would pull out of Apple's hat. That rabbit wasn't there.

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Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    snotling , March 8, 2012 8:18 PM
    I want that display on a LAPTOP
  • 25 Hide
    nforce4max , March 8, 2012 8:15 PM
    The lack of removable storage and the locked down application support turns me off besides the high cost of an iPad.
  • 24 Hide
    house70 , March 8, 2012 8:25 PM
    In terms of storage the op forgot to mention the fact that it has no expansion card support.
    nforce4maxThe lack of removable storage and the locked down application support turns me off besides the high cost of an iPad.

    That.
Other Comments
    Display all 78 comments.
  • 21 Hide
    obsama1 , March 8, 2012 8:09 PM
    True. The Prime is still the best tab out right now.
  • 25 Hide
    nforce4max , March 8, 2012 8:15 PM
    The lack of removable storage and the locked down application support turns me off besides the high cost of an iPad.
  • 14 Hide
    djfv , March 8, 2012 8:15 PM
    Everything that had to be said, was stated here.
    Good article and summary.
  • 25 Hide
    snotling , March 8, 2012 8:18 PM
    I want that display on a LAPTOP
  • 24 Hide
    house70 , March 8, 2012 8:25 PM
    In terms of storage the op forgot to mention the fact that it has no expansion card support.
    nforce4maxThe lack of removable storage and the locked down application support turns me off besides the high cost of an iPad.

    That.
  • 21 Hide
    soldier37 , March 8, 2012 8:28 PM
    The best thing would be the res update but on the same 9.7 inch display I dont see as much a benefit to it as say a 30 inch monitor with 2560 x 1600 that I'm used to. I just bought a Samsung Galaxy note with a 5.3 inch screen to replace my aging Iphone 4 and couldnt be happier. I was really disappointed with the 4S last year so I moved on from Apple.
  • 21 Hide
    Anonymous , March 8, 2012 8:29 PM
    You forgot to mention the more obvious part - the battery is nearly twice as big for the same battery life. That to me is kind of a step backwards. The display and the quadcore graphics don't sound very impressive anymore.
  • 8 Hide
    eddieroolz , March 8, 2012 8:38 PM
    The display is admittedly nice. That is heck of a resolution for any device, not just portable devices. But, the overall impression in this presentation was just like that of iPhone4S; focus on hardware and not some cutting-edge design, feature or creation.
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , March 8, 2012 8:45 PM
    Good article, but I'm also not impressed with this new iPad. Granted, I'm a little biased against Apple considering everything, but the only things going for it are it's display and processors. Those are very important, but not everything. I have to agree with author, it still leaves disappointments. However, I may never understand why these tablets can't get multiple MicroSD card ports so you could really fill them up on storage capacity. It wouldn't take a lot of space, it should be considered by someone.
  • -5 Hide
    ap3x , March 8, 2012 8:52 PM
    BatteryLifeYou forgot to mention the more obvious part - the battery is nearly twice as big for the same battery life. That to me is kind of a step backwards. The display and the quadcore graphics don't sound very impressive anymore.


    How is that a step backwards. Better graphics capabilities, High PPI/resolution display, LTE. All this takes power. Sure the consumption is slightly higher with this new hardware and instead of release a product that had all these great new capabilities but trade off battery life. They engineered a better battery in it so they would not have to make that sacrifice. They put all this in a form factor that was only slightly thicker than it's predecessor.

    Personally I hate trade offs and allot of manufacturers do just that. Apple didn't.
  • 7 Hide
    stingray71 , March 8, 2012 9:07 PM
    Nicely written. Really like HDMI out on most android tabs as well.
  • 3 Hide
    atomrend , March 8, 2012 9:07 PM
    I think having a rear camera on a tablet is the wrong idea. Since most people are still carrying around their phone along with a tablet, they can use the phone for that. A front-facing camera could be useful for video conferencing, but I'd never use it for that. I'd prefer the manufacturers to leave all camera's off and lower the price. Expandable storage would be nice too.
  • 11 Hide
    raincenter , March 8, 2012 9:15 PM
    Apple has always been pay more, get less. This 'new' ipad is no different...except the display. :-)
  • 2 Hide
    halcyon , March 8, 2012 9:21 PM
    obsama1True. The Prime is still the best tab out right now.


    I believed the hype of the Transformer Prime, but unlike most that praise it, I've had a lot experience with that particular tablet...and, for me, it wasn't all good. I'm liking the new iPad but then again, I'm somewhat of an anomaly here...I'm not anti-Apple. However, the new announcement didn't really leave me disliking my iPad 2.
  • -7 Hide
    molo9000 , March 8, 2012 9:36 PM
    It's just an evolutionary step. Get over it. Was anyone really expecting a 3D display?

    The only bad thing about the iPad 3 is the higher weight. Apart from that it's exactly what people expected.
    The good display and the large selection of software are going to be more than enough for most consumers.

    atomrendI think having a rear camera on a tablet is the wrong idea. Since most people are still carrying around their phone along with a tablet, they can use the phone for that. A front-facing camera could be useful for video conferencing, but I'd never use it for that. I'd prefer the manufacturers to leave all camera's off and lower the price. Expandable storage would be nice too.


    Thank you!
    I just can't understand people who want a camera on a tablet. You look like a complete idiot when taking pictures with a tablet.
    I've never once used the camera on my tablet.
  • 12 Hide
    NightLight , March 8, 2012 9:43 PM
    the word "meh" comes to mind...
  • 7 Hide
    klavis , March 8, 2012 10:07 PM
    I don't understand why any tablet has such a low capacity for storage. It's so cheap and small to put a lot more storage in a device, it just blows my mind no one has stepped up in that area yet.
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