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Hands on with the Apple iPad 3

We fondle the new fondleslab

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Souped up CPU

The high-resolution screen needs powerful grunt to make it work. The A5X processor is not quad-core, as some had hoped, but it has twice the graphics performance of the iPad 2, I'm told. I tested a couple of games and they played very smoothly, with advanced graphics, to boot.

Apple iPad 3 aka new iPad

Text is so much crisper on the new screen

There’s no Siri on the iPad, which is a shame. But at least the best part of Siri, the capability to dictate emails, text messages and the like, is here, accessed using the same microphone icon that's found on the iPhone 4S’ keyboard.

If you’ve used Siri for dictation, you’ll know it can be cranky – if you get a word wrong you have to start over. Here, you can edit and correct easily. Though, to be honest, Nuance's Dragon Dictation does just as good a job.

Apple iPad 3 aka new iPad

The new iPad (top) is only fractionally thicker than the previous model (bottom) but it's the extra weight you notice

Incidentally, you may be wondering, why haven’t I talked about the look of the new iPad. Well, you know the iPad 2? That’s what it looks like. It's identical, near enough. Sure, it’s thicker by about half a millimetre, but it’s hard to spot this.

More noticeable is the weight. It’s 50-55g heavier than the last edition, but still not exactly heavy. But there are lighter tablets on the market, most notably Toshiba's Android-based AT200.

Apple iPad 3 aka new iPad

The iPad finally comes into its own as e-book reader

Apple showed off an app or two last night, mostly games that made the retina display look good, but also iPhoto, a more advanced programme for image manipulation, editing and organisation than the iPad's built-in Photos app.

The best feature here came from the app’s intelligent way of recognising images. As you create an album, you can add a map and the app creates one according to GPS info on the images. Add a calendar and it drills down to find the date the photos were shot.

Apple iPad 3 aka new iPad

Apple's apps are getting retina display makeovers

And, even better, add a weather banner and the app finds out the temperature on the day the photos were taken, in the place you took them, and adds that. Very cool. Other apps, like the already available Garageband and Apple TV Remote added extra features and support for the higher-resolution display too.

So, should you be ordering a new iPad? If you haven’t had a tablet computer before, this looks like it is head and shoulders above the competition, but the iPad 2, which will be re-released at £329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, is better value.

Apple iPad 3 aka new iPad

Fanboys and fangirls plan their upgrade strategies

If you have the iPad 2, the glorious 2048 x 1536 screen is reason enough to upgrade. But think carefully about how many apps you use that will take advantage of the higher pixel count. Existing apps will be upscaled to fit, and they don't look as good as retina display compatible software does.

At least Apple isn't charging extra for the new machine – it matches last year’s pricing, starting at £399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model, rising to £659 for the 64GB 3G/4G version. Apple is taking orders now, and the new kit will arrive on 16 March. ®

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