The new iPad with its high definition screen: Apple’s resolution has improved from 720p to 1080p. Photograph: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
In answer to your first question: yes, there is a difference. In answer to your second: yes, you can actually see the difference. It’s subtle, and yet it’s definitely there.
I’m talking, of course, of the “Retina Display” on the new iPad (which is what Apple seems to be calling it – no marketing niceties such as “iPad 3” or “iPad HD”). With much fanfare, Tim Cook unveiled it last week and the world said “wow!” or “is that all?”, depending on the viewer’s disposition. Expectations had been cranked high (about touch displays – ahem), but after so many had wrongly forecast the coming of the retina display last year (overplaying Moore’s Law), expectations were about right this time. But the incremental updates that Apple is making – having established this sector – don’t satisfy those who would like more, all at once.
So the key question is whether the new iPad is “wow!” or “huh”.
The screen is the computer
Take some dictayshun, Siri
Inside: the processor
What’s in the battery?
4G, LTE, 3.5G, or so
The screen is the computer
The essential thing about a tablet – particularly a “slate” like the iPad – is that the screen is pretty much all there is. Sure, there’s all the stuff around the back, such as the processor, the graphics processor, the storage, the battery and the wireless connectivity. But on its own, the screen is what you deal with. So if that’s better, you should benefit.
So, in specifications, the iPad 2 has 1024×768 pixels on a 4:3 9.7in screen, giving it 132 dots per inch (DPI). The new iPad has 2048×1536, giving it four times as many pixels (3.1m, Apple points out; more than the typical HD TV set) and a resolution of 264dpi, which when held at a distance of about 40cm (15in) means that the average eye can’t discern adjacent pixels. With the old iPad, you could … perhaps. Actually, even last year at least one expert was suggesting that the iPad 2 was “almost identical” to the iPhone 4’s retina display.
In fact, the difference between the visible screen quality of the iPad 2 (still available, but at a reduced price) and the “new iPad” isn’t immediately obvious. I tried putting the two side by side and looking at the icons: even for Apple’s icons, which you would expect would have been optimised for the new super-ultra-hi-res screen, it was hard to tell that anything had changed. (I also enlisted an 11-year-old just to make sure it wasn’t my eyes at fault. He didn’t spot the difference immediately either.)
But there is a difference. The clearest example comes from looking at two covers from the Newsstand app, where the difference between the covers of the Economist and New Yorker was clearly visible: on the iPad 2 the covers were pixellated, while on the new iPad they were sharper.
Here’s the iPad 2:
Newsstand on the iPad 2: note pixellationAnd now the iPad 3:
Newsstand on the iPad 3: note less pixellation