Review: iPad third generation

When Apple’s iPad event ended last week, I walked out of the venue, spoke to Phil Schiller for a couple of minutes and went into a meeting with Apple executives. That’s where I picked up my new iPad and Apple TV.

I know everyone will be speed testing the processors and graphics chips, but I’d like to take a different approach and give you some information on how I actually use the iPad. My testing lab is my life, and how a device fits into that determines if I continue to use it or not.

I’ve been using the iPad for a week now and I’m so impressed. From the first time I turned it on and saw the Retina display, I was in awe of how good it was. Trust me, even if you watched the introduction video, you still have no idea how good this display is. You really do have to see it to believe it.

I struggled after the event to put the right words together to describe the display and a week later I’m still lost for the proper analogy. The only thing I can think of that comes close is comparing it to the first time you ever saw an HDTV. Remember how startling it was to go from one of those giant standard definition projector TVs to an HDTV? That’s what this is like.

The Retina display will make you do a double-take the first time you see it. Even on the home screen, it’s crisp and clear — you can notice a huge difference, even from the iPad 2.

So what does that mean in practical terms for me as a user? Plenty. Especially for the way people use the iPad. Granted, I’m not much of a photographer, but when I’m editing pictures in iPhoto I like to be able to see what I’m doing. I want those edits to properly reflect what I’m seeing on the screen. With the Retina display, they do.

Movies are the same — crystal clear and the colors are so vibrant. I can’t think of any reason I wouldn’t watch a movie on the iPad, especially when I’m traveling. I have my iTunes account and Netflix on the device, so movies are only a tap away.

For me, the real benefit comes with the clarity of text. I know that may sound strange, but I use the iPad to read quite a bit of text everyday. Crispness of the text matters to me.

If a device is a pleasure to use, you will keep using it. That’s a simple theory, but also very true. If the words on an iPad are fuzzy or difficult to read, you probably won’t use it that often.

The iPad makes it a pleasure to read whether you zoom in or use it in its normal mode.

I actually don’t read many books on my iPad. I read for my job all day, so I play guitar to relax — the last thing I want to do is read more. (Although my wife said she planned on buying a book and reading on the iPad. I think I’m about to lose this iPad).

I read my RSS feeds on Reeder, look through my saved articles on Instapaper, read Web sites and sometimes even post stories to The Loop. The iPad 2 did a fine job allowing me to do all these things, but the new iPad is just that much better.

Of course the iPad isn’t just about the Retina display. It also has 4G LTE, which is amazingly fast connection to have on a mobile device, a 5-megapixel iSight camera and the ability to record 1080p video.

I love having the ability to capture quality content on the iPad. Having a camera to take pictures and video is one thing, but having a quality camera is quite another. Knowing that the media you take home will be so good that you can make an HD movie or produce a slideshow is a huge plus. It’s the person with the iPad that won’t be saying, “excuse the quality, I didn’t have my good camera with me.”

I also really like AirPlay. This gives you the ability to play content from the iPad on your HDTV through the Apple TV. I played music, videos, trailers and all kinds of things on my TV directly from the iPad.

When you do this with iTunes Store movies, the screen goes blank on the iPad, so it’s not possible to watch it on both, but I don’t care about that, I want it on my TV anyway.

When you play media on your TV from the iPad, you can control the volume and playhead from the iPad. It’s like the iPad becomes your remote control. It really was cool to use.

One of my favorite features of the iPad isn’t really a feature of the device itself — iCloud. Setting up an Apple device is so easy these days with iCloud.

Apple walks you through all of the main settings when you start the iPad and then you just enter in your iCloud ID. Like magic, all of your contacts, iCloud email and calendars are there waiting for you. What’s more, they will automatically sync if you make a change on your Mac, iPhone or other iOS device.

iCloud goes even deeper than that. It’s my login for the iTunes Store and the App Store accounts. After logging in, you can browse through all of the apps that you bought and download the ones you want all at once. You can do the same for music, but I use iTunes Match, so it’s even better.

With iTunes Match, I don’t sync music to my iPad, I have access to all of my music. Thousands of songs and videos, instantly. Anytime, anywhere. That’s the way a service should be.

So, what did I like about the iPad? Simple — the experience. Nobody in the market today can touch the Apple experience.