Tablets Guide

Apple iPad (2012) review

Apple iPad (2012) - Three Steps Forward, One Step Back

Compare This

Overall rating 8.5/10
Design:
8.5
Features:
9
User-Friendliness:
9
Performance:
8.5
Value:
9
THE GOOD
Gorgeous display with 2,048 x 1,536 pixels
Better camera performance
Competitive price points
THE BAD
Heavier than its predecessor
Heats up easily
Low battery mileage when brightness level is at its highest


Performance

Dual-Core Processor with Quad-Core Graphics 

How the iPads Stack Up
Specifications / Tablet Apple iPad (2012) Apple iPad 2
Processor Apple Dual-Core A5X (1.0GHz) Apple Dual-Core A5 (1.0GHz)
GPU PowerVR SGX543MP4+ PowerVR SGX543MP2
Memory 1GB 512MB
Storage 16 / 32 / 64GB 16 / 32 / 64GB
Display Resolution

2,048 x 1,536 pixels

1,024 x 768 pixels

Apple's focus on delivering great user experience has resulted in the company sidelining some specifications of the new iPad such as the clock speed and memory size. While Apple mentioned that the new iPad runs on a dual-core A5X processor, it is also known to underclock the chipset as seen in the iPhone 4S. Fortunately, the guys at TechRepublic did a teardown of the new iPad and reported their findings: 

  • Apple Dual-Core A5X 1.0 GHz processor manufactured by Samsung 
     
  • 1GB RAM
     
  • PowerVR SGX543MP4+ GPU (found in the Sony PS Vita as well)
     
  • 11,560 mAh Li-ion polymer battery 

To assess the performance of the new iPad, we used Geekbench 2 which deploys different benchmarks to measure the performance of the processor and memory. Here's a brief description of each benchmark section provided by Primate Labs

  • Integer performance: a high integer scores indicates good overall performance. 
     
  • Floating point performance: floating point performance is critical in video games, digital content creation and high-performance computing applications.
     
  • Memory performance: it measures the performance of the memory hardware (which includes the motherboard and the chipset along with the memory itself) and memory management functions provided by the operating system 
     
  • Stream performance: memory bandwidth is assessed in this section. Software working with large amounts of data relies on good memory bandwidth performance to keep the processor busy. 

Based on the scores above, the new iPad showed only marginal improvements over the iPad 2. This is not surprising since both devices run on the same dual-core Cortex A9 processor. In case you are wondering about the "X' in the A5X chipset, it is referring to the new quad-core graphics engine and not to any speed bumps in the main processor itself.

The new iPad also scored a win over its predecessor in the Memory and Stream sections as it has double the RAM at 1GB. The amount of RAM is one of the many factors in determining how fast a device loads and display graphics-intensive apps or web pages. More importantly, it also determines how smoothly the device is able to handle multiple apps running in the background.

During our time with the new iPad, we could hardly find any fault with its overall performance. The iPad felt smooth and fluid in its operation. Switching from one app to another was effortless. Even with multiple apps in the background, the iPad breezed through without a hint of stutter.

 

Web Browsing 

How the Tablets Stack up
Device Apple iPad (2012) Apple iPad 2 ASUS Transformer Pad Prime
(Android 4.0)
Motorola Xoom 2 (3G)
CPU Apple A5X dual-core 1GHz Apple A5 dual-core 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.3GHz TI OMAP4 dual-core 1.2GHz
GPU PowerVR SGX543MP4+ PowerVR SGX 543MP2 12-core GeForce ULP GeForce
RAM 1GB 512MB 1GB 1GB
OS Apple iOS 5.1 Apple iOS 4.3 Google Android 4.0 Google Android 3.2

 

There is a marked improvement in the SunSpider Javascript benchmark where the new iPad easily surpasses the competition to take the crown amongst the latest tablets we've tested. Number-crunching aside, the web browsing experience on the new iPad was great with web pages loading quickly, with pinch-to-zoom working almost flawlessly. Do note that Flash-enabled websites are still forbidden grounds for iOS devices in general.

 

Multimedia and Battery Performance 

If there is one feature that defines the new iPad, it will be its display resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. Similar to how the iPhone 4 and the 4S squeezed 960 x 640 pixels onto its 3.5-inch display, Apple basically upped the ante for tablets by implementing the same strategy on the new iPad.

No existing tablet in the market comes close to having the 3.1 million pixels that is now on the display of the new iPad. As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. Below is a comparison between the screen resolution of the new iPad and the iPad 2:

While some critics may argue that: a) it is pointless to pack so many pixels into a 9.7-inch display and b) the difference is negligible during normal usage conditions, the marked improvement in display resolution is more apparent after using the new iPad for a period of time. We agree that the differences aren't exactly as evident as day and night, but let us explain.

Users will appreciate the high definition display on the new iPad when browsing web pages with fine graphics or go through albums of high-resolution photos. Under these two situations, the visual differences are quickly noticeable even when you view the iPad at an arm's length, especially for text which appears much sharper.

You can check out our detailed article on the Retina display of the new iPad, where we will show you the differences in display clarity and quality between three tablets - the Apple iPad 2, the Apple iPad (2012) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. Or, check out this video that sheds some light on how much of a difference it makes to the naked eye:

The high resolution display of the new iPad impressed us with its razor sharp text, rich colors and great clarity. We must admit: the experience of browsing through photos and watching videos on the iPad was enjoyable and the tablet is without a doubt, in a league of its own.

 

Imaging Performance

One of the weaker areas of the iPad 2 is its rear camera which produces images of sub-par quality. Apple has presumably taken customer feedback on this and gave the new iPad a boost with a 5-megapixel camera module.

Apparently, it is equipped with the same advanced optics (backside-illuminated sensor, five-element lens, IR filter and image signal processor) as the iPhone 4S. Hence, we were very eager to find out if the new iPad can throw out any surprises in our imaging test. 

Armed with an improved camera sensor, the new iPad delivers images with decent quality. Most details are captured with low noise levels. Colors and contrast are relatively good. Even though the new iPad falls short of the standard set by the ASUS Transformer Pad Prime, it is not a cause for concern as the idea of using a tablet to take pictures hasn't taken off well with consumers yet (though it may be convenient for some).

Nonetheless, we might see imaging capabilities of tablets turning into a key point of contention among tablet makers in the near future.

 

Battery Performance 

Our standard battery test includes the following parameters: 

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on 
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Test Tablets Compared
Specifications/Device Apple iPad (2012) Apple iPad 2 ASUS Transformer Pad Prime
(Android 4.0)
Motorola Xoom 2 (3G)
Processor
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Quad-core 1.3GHz
  • Dual-core 1.2GHz
Display Size
  • 9.7-inch
  • 9.7-inch
  • 10.1-inch
  • 10.1-inch
Display Type
  • LED-backlit IPS TFT
  • LED-backlit IPS TFT
  • LED-backlit IPS-LCD
  • TFT-IPS
Display Resolution
  • 2,048 x 1,536 pixels
  • 1,024 x 768 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
Dimensions
  • 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.41mm
  • 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8mm
  • 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm
  • 253.9 x 173.6 x 8.8mm
Weight
  • 662g
  • 613g
  • 586g
  • 608g

The decision to go with a high resolution display has definitely taken its toll on the battery performance of the new iPad, an area it once reigned supreme. Regrettably, the new iPad lasted four hours shorter than the iPad 2 with a rather dismal battery life of five hours and 25 minutes.

The combination of a 9.7-inch display with double the resolution, twice as many LED illuminating bars,1GB RAM and a quad-core graphics engine proved to be too overwhelming for the new iPad's larger 11,560mAh battery to handle. As a result of the lower-than-expected battery life and a slightly bulkier chassis, the new iPad also fared badly in the Portability Index. 

We also encountered the same issue as many users around the world have already reported: the left side of the iPad gets warm after an extended period of usage. The source of the heat is likely to be from the Retina display itself. As there are four times as many pixels on the display, more backlight LEDs are required to maintain the same screen brightness as the iPad 2.

In fact, DisplayMate's analysis revealed that there are an estimated 72 to 82 backlight LEDs on the Retina display, up from 36 on the iPad 2. This not only resulted in more heat emitted from the LEDs, it also meant that more power is required to power them. DisplayMate estimated the backlight power for the new iPad to be two and a half times more than the iPad 2 for the same screen brightness. They also reported that the battery on the new iPad drained 20% faster than the iPad 2 at maximum brightness, which coincided with our battery test findings.

Apple claims that the new iPad is rated at 10 hours with web surfing on Wi-Fi, video watching or audio playback. Is it possible to attain that mileage? We managed to do so when we reduced the brightness and volume to 50%. This is probably the level that an average user would adopt, though it lacks the intensive battering the iPad will take. The final result saw an 11-hour up-time for the iPad, which did match what Apple said. We'll be conducting more tests on the battery drain aspect in an upcoming article.

Ultimately for now, we will be looking at how the iPad fares against the results from previous tablets based on the same intensive parameters. Needless to say, the iPad is no longer the most power efficient tablet.

 

Increased Charging Time

Due to the large battery capacity of the new iPad, it is not surprising that the new iPad will take a longer time to charge. Based on our tests, it took about an hour to charge up the iPad by 20%, which translated to an estimated five hours of charging time. In view of the time needed for a full charge, we recommend users to charge it overnight. The current batch of third party battery chargers for the iPads may not provide extra battery juice to extend its mileage significantly. 

Another word of caution: Consumer Reports claimed that the new iPad will not recharge under heavy loads. To test its claims, we ran Epic Citadel, an app that showcases the technical capabilities of the Unreal Engine 3, on the new iPad. We conducted the test on the iPad when it was charging from 2% with all the parameters of our battery test. The battery level dropped to 1% but rose to 2% after a while. After that, it remained at 2% for quite a while.

To be safe, avoid processor-intensive tasks such as gaming on the iPad when it is charging. 

Depending on how you view it, the lack of LTE support in Singapore may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as LTE-capable devices are known for their low battery mileage. If the frequency bands are supported here, we may be looking at an even shorter battery life for the new iPad running on 4G.