A Foolish Review of Apple's New iPad

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As one of The Motley Fool's most vocal Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) bulls, it probably won't surprise any of you that I'm the proud owner of the new iPad, despite the fact that I already own way too many Apple products than I can reasonably justify.

I decided to go all out and so I picked up a 64 GB model with 4G LTE served up by Verizon's (NYSE: VZ  ) network. How does Cupertino's latest iteration stack up? Will competitors ever be able to catch up?

Display: So … sharp.
The Retina Display is absurd. But in the best possible way. As the primary selling point for me, and the most difficult component for suppliers to manufacture, nothing compares. It's only been a couple of days, but I'm already spoiled by how sharp the resolution is. At 264 pixels per inch, or ppi, it makes my 11-inch MacBook Air's display look inadequate at 135 ppi, not to mention my 27-inch iMac's 109 ppi (I told you I have too many iProducts, right?).

There are three potential suppliers of the display: Samsung, LG Display, and Sharp. There's some debate over how many of these suppliers are actually providing the displays at this point, but Samsung has confirmed that it's not the sole supplier.

In hindsight, it's a little shocking that no other gadget maker has pushed this envelope this far before. Increasing a display's resolution shouldn't be a breakthrough notion in itself, yet why have no other device makers pushed its suppliers to make it happen? It's not as if Apple is manufacturing these things by itself.

As in other categories, rivals will likely hop on after coming to this realization, especially as Samsung provides one of the most bountiful Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android OEMs. Displays of this resolution are bound to eventually become the standard, and it's hard to go back after getting accustomed to such high pixel density.

4G LTE: So … fast.
This is my first 4G LTE device, and its data speed exceeds my home WiFi. I'm also living proof that Verizon's aggressive LTE strategy is paying off compared to AT&T's. I picked Verizon as the service provider in part due to its broader coverage.

Big Red just crossed 200 with its coverage markets and is aiming to double that by year's end -- compare that to the meager 28 markets that Ma Bell is in. Both carriers offer LTE in Austin, Texas, where I'm located, but it's good to know that Verizon has more coverage for when I'm traveling.

An even more important contributor to my decision was that Verizon offers the hotspot tethering capability that Apple includes in the iPad -- and for no extra charge, to boot. Meanwhile, AT&T is still "working with Apple to enable this feature in the future."

These are some significant advantages that Verizon currently boasts over its smaller rival.

Camera: So … adequate.
It's now that confirmed that OmniVision Technologies (Nasdaq: OVTI  ) is back in the camera driver's seat and the company is hoping that Sony's tryst with the iPhone 4S was just a one-night stand.

The 5-megapixel image sensor is identical to the one found in the iPhone 4, so it's nothing to call home about. It's a healthy win for OmniVision that should boost its top line, but not as much as a pricier and newer sensor would have.

The tablet form factor isn't particularly conducive for photo shooting, but it might come in handy someday.

A5X: So… large
As suspected, Apple's custom A5X processor did turn out to be built on a 45-nanometer manufacturing process at Sammy's foundries, just like the A5 before it. One notable difference between the two chips is that the A5X's die size is significantly larger at 163 millimeters squared (as opposed to 122 millimeters squared on the A5).

This is largely to accommodate the extra 2 graphics cores, but also adds fodder to the argument that the A5X won't turn up in the next iPhone, since smartphones have much less physical space to spare inside. It also adds some context to Apple's comparison to NVIDIA's (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) Tegra 3, with Cupertino claiming 4x graphics outperformance.

Laptop Mag ran some benchmarks that showed the A5X outperforming in a couple of categories (with the Tegra 3 winning one), but it wasn't a fourfold difference. The A5X chipset is roughly twice the size of the Tegra 3, so it's using a lot more real estate to deliver that performance.

This is also another area where I'd expect Sammy to take what it's learning from supplying Apple components and apply that knowledge to its own competing products. NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang even noted this on NVIDIA's last conference call.

Long live the king!
The new iPad reinvigorates Apple's lead in the tablet market and continues to raise the bar that Android devices have already been struggling to jump. Contrary to what IDC predicts, I don't see Android dethroning the iPad as the tablet king, especially if Apple continues to aggressively price older models each year to defend its crown.

The iPad has started a revolution, but Apple is hardly the only winner. Some of the winners are hard to see because they're buried deep inside the gadgets. Check out this new special free report on "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution" that names a handful of companies that provide the crucial components that these gadgets rely on. It's free.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of AT&T, Verizon Communications, OmniVision Technologies, and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Apple, and NVIDIA; creating a bull call spread position in Apple; and writing puts on NVIDIA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2012, at 9:18 PM, Fruitfan wrote:

    This was my first iPad and I'm so glad I waited for the 3rd generation. It was killing me for the last 6 months or so but I swore I would wait for #3. Comparing it to the Kindle Fire is like comparing a golf cart to a BMW. My iPhone has gotten a well deserved break from all things not phone related since Friday. It's hard to use my iPhone for the fun stuff like twitter, facebook etc..after using the new iPad..Apple hit a home run with this one.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2012, at 9:29 PM, TMFNewCow wrote:

    Agreed. Home run indeed.

    -- Evan

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2012, at 10:55 PM, foolpost11 wrote:

    It's a selling HOT item.

    It even dissipates heat up top 116 F.

    My quad core PC hardly reach that temp.

    How comfortable and long one can hold it up?

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2012, at 11:44 PM, TMFNewCow wrote:

    I've seen the posts but personally haven't noticed any heat issues on mine.

    -- Evan

  • Report this Comment On March 21, 2012, at 8:39 AM, TMFZahrim wrote:

    Cool it, @icecube. Let me point out that Consumer Reports achieved those high temperatures by running a heavy load, uninterrupted, for a long time. I don't think that's a typical usage scenario. Much ado about nothing. And I say this as a pretty convinced Apple bear.


  • Report this Comment On March 21, 2012, at 9:22 AM, CluckChicken wrote:

    "it's a little shocking that no other gadget maker has pushed this envelope this far before (screen display)."

    Actually it shouldn't be. First as Apple even noted the eye can not even process what the screen can display. Second the screen sucks up power at an increadable rate. The battery in the new iPad is 70% more powerful than the iPad2 but the expected battery life is nearly the same, about 85% of that additional power is required to just run the display. If they would have gone with a 1080 screen it is estitmated they would have added another 4-6hrs of battery life.

  • Report this Comment On March 21, 2012, at 3:31 PM, jnail wrote:

    Your evaluation seems to be genuine. However I am one of the lucky ones to have obtained the new Asus Transformer Prime tablet with the Nvida Tegra 3 processor two months ago. If you check it is still very difficult or near impossible to purchase due to high demand. Although I can not compare it to the speed of your New Ipad, I can not understand how anything can be faster than the Asus Prime. Anything faster would just not be perceptible.

  • Report this Comment On March 22, 2012, at 10:46 AM, TMFNewCow wrote:

    The Transformer Prime looks like a mighty device, indeed. It also has a better OVTI shooter inside!

    Although I haven't gotten a chance to play with one myself, so can't speak personally on any comparisons.

    From what I read though, it looks like the best Android tablet out there currently.

    -- Evan

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