Technology

Inside the new iPad

It looks like the iPad 2—but it's the magic below the surface that counts.

Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller talks about the display on the new iPad during a 2012 Apple product launch event (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

It was roundly dismissed for being too similar to the iPad 2, but there’s real magic in Apple’s latest tablet. After weeks of breathless hype and rumours, some met the new iPad, unveiled on March 7 in San Francisco, with an unenthusiastic golf clap. But beneath the surface, the new iPad’s internal remodelling pushes the limits of personal technology to new frontiers.

Most high-fives were for its new retina display resolution, featuring 2048 x 1536 pixels—double the resolution of the iPad 2, with a million more pixels than a similarly sized HDTV. Packing four times the pixels into the same size screen is harder than it sounds, requiring double the number of LEDs, a breakthrough in Super High Aperture pixel design, and significantly more power. As a result, the new iPad’s battery has double the capacity of the previous version while making the tablet just 0.02 millimetres thicker and 32 grams heavier. Apple was able to boost the power density of the Li-ion cells it uses with almost no effect on the iPad’s weight.

The new A5X system-on-a-chip design reportedly has 1 gigabyte of RAM—double that of the iPad 2—and a graphics processor that has more memory and screen resolution than an Xbox 360 or PS3. There’s also the high-speed data networking capability using 4G LTE wireless technology.

Steve Jobs’s marketing prowess always told us Apple products are “magical,” but the technical advances made to create the new iPad aren’t magic—just amazing acts of engineering and design.

A5X processor


 

This system-on-a-chip design has 1 GB of RAM—double that of the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S—and a quad-core graphics processor that Apple says is four times as powerful as Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip, used in many competitors’ products.

Camera


 

A five-megapixel rear camera with backside-illuminated sensor, five-element f/2.4 autofocus lens with infrared filter that can shoot 1080p video. There’s also a new edition of iPhoto for iOS that fully utilizes the iPad’s touch screen and gesture control.

Retina display


 

At 264 pixels per inch, double the iPad 2’s count, Apple had to use twice the LEDs for backlighting and a Super High Aperture design to squeeze 3.1 million pixels into the same 9.7-inch screen without causing cross-talk or affecting image quality.

4G/LTE


 

The iPad 2 and latest iPhones use 3G technology and top out at a speed of about 21 megabits per second. The new iPad, when connected to 4G LTE service, can reach a speed of 73 Mbps. It can also use 3G variant DC-HSDPA to get up to 42 Mbps.

Battery


 

The 42.5-watt-hour lithium polymer battery keeps the 10-hour life of the iPad 2 with double the power for new resolution, processor and networking capabilities, while only fractionally increasing the tablet’s weight and thickness.

Voice dictation


 

Call it “Siri lite.” It’s not as dynamic as the iPhone 4S personal assistant, but the software supports English, French, German and Japanese, and it works with third-party apps, so you can speak your tweets.

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