New iPad First Impressions: Screen is Great, but Back Gets Hot


New iPad

I decided to order one of the new iPads to review because I wanted to see the new high resolution retina display and how it adds to the ereading aspect of the iPad.

I’ve always been critical of the iPad 1 and 2 as ereaders because I never liked how pixelated the text appears, and not just with ereading apps but with other apps too, including the web browser. When text isn’t crisp and clear it bothers me because I’m so used to the super-clear text on E Ink ereaders.

As a result of this, I really haven’t covered the iPad on this website very much. But now that all changes with the 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution screen on the iPad 3. With 264 pixels per inch, that’s double the resolution of older iPads.

There’s no question that the screen on the new iPad is the best of any screen on any tablet to date. Sure colors are vivid and bright, but it’s the text that I really like. Even on the smallest font setting in ereader apps (Stanza has really tiny text) there is no jaggedness or visible pixelation whatsoever. Text is super crisp and super clear.

This adds to the outside readability too. The new iPad has tons of glare on the screen just like before, but with the brightness turned all the way up the text is surprisingly clear (I’ll post some pictures this weekend).

But as much as I like the new higher resolution screen, it’s probably not that huge of a difference for most people. It is certainly noticeable side-by-side with an older iPad, but the average person likely wouldn’t point it out as a major difference after testing the new iPad on one occasion and an old iPad at a different time. Tech people would notice but I’m not sure the typical iPad customer would.

Still, I really like the new iPad’s screen, and would recommend getting it over an iPad 2 if you intend to do a lot of ereading.

What I like most about the iPad’s new screen is that it sets the bar for the competition. Personally, I favor Android tablets more because of the openness, customization, development (hacks and ROMs), and the fact my purchased apps are transferable to other devices, lots of devices. The new iPad is going to push Android tablets to up the pixel resolution too. This time next year there will probably be a whole slew of Android tablets with higher resolution screens.

So obviously the screen on the new iPad is the good news. I’d thought I’d even it out with some bad news.

My biggest concern with the new iPad thus far is how warm it gets. The back left corner really heats up on the new iPad, much more than any other tablet I’ve tested to date. It’s not going to burn your hand or anything, but it does get uncomfortably warm after extended use. The heat even radiates to the front so the front of the touchscreen gets pretty warm too. I will definitely be picking some sort of back cover, perhaps a rubberized cover, so that it is more comfortable to hold.

The new iPad just arrived this morning so I’ll need more time for testing before writing a full review. I plan on posting some pictures and videos—comparing the screen with other devices and such—over the weekend so check back or subscribe to keep update.

11 Responses to “New iPad First Impressions: Screen is Great, but Back Gets Hot”

  1. william jacobs March 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Do you risk damaging the iPad by covering the back, thus not allowing the heat to dissipate?

  2. Nathan,

    If you get a chance, get your hands on a Galaxy Tab 7.7. I purchased one from an importer in NYC (just the wifi version) and its GREAT for e-reading. 1280×800 resolution in a tab that is only slightly larger than the original TAB, yet even lighter and thinner. Uses a Super AMOLED screen that creates some vivid colors and deep blacks. I’ve been very pleased with it compared to my original GT P1000 which is more like a Kindle Fire experience.

  3. “that’s double the resolution of older iPads”

    If you think one-dimensionally, that is true.

    iPad 1/2: 1024 × 768 = 786,432 pixels.
    New iPad: 2048 x 1536 = 3,145,728 pixels.

    3,145,728 / 786,432 = 4 times as many pixels, not 2.

  4. A coworker of mine is going to buy this iPad, but I’m going to wait longer. 2 obvious problems with this unit — the screen’s glare, but it can be fixed with some kind of screen covering to give it a matte finish, so that’s easy & cheap to fix — and the overheating, which is a different matter. Apple has to fix that, they have no excuse for such a flaw in a several-hundred-dollar product. Once they’re over that hurdle, the iPad 3 may yet reveal its wonders.

  5. It really does get hot. I have turned off the cellular and it’s still hot just browsing the web. Makes me scared to put it in a case. Won’t that buildup of heat just kill the battery?

  6. Looks like brightness of the screen is a huge factor. Turned my brightness down and got instant relief.

    • You’re right the brightness does seem to make a big difference. I was using it for a couple of hours straight this morning with the brightness all the way up and it got alarmingly warm. But using it all afternoon at about half brightness or a little under, the back stays warm but it’s not too bothersome that way.

  7. Robert, thanks for mentioning the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 — its 1280×800 screen has a unique width of 7.7 inches — but I can’t find it anywhere for under $500. I’d rather pay that amount for the iPad 3, if only for its Retina screen (9.7” and 2048×1536). Sorry, Samsung, Apple beat you this time.

    Considering the screen as a leading feature, multitudes of tablets and readers have come and gone, and left us with a Hobson’s choice of screens: LED or E-Ink, 7″ or 10″, 800×600 or 1024×600. Something different or better can make a more attractive screen, and a more successful device.

    The Hanvon WISEreader C920 with a Triton color E-Ink screen at 9.7″ and 1600×1200, is another gadget I’d go for, if only it was available for purchase. The Triton color E-Ink screen is very likely matched if not outdone by Apple’s Retina screen. Sorry, Hanvon, you snoozed.

    Anyone heard of the Samsung Series 7 Slate? That tablet has an 11.6 inch screen, runs Windows 7, and is not cheap. Look it up on Amazon. The iPad 3 seems to offer all the same and better than the Slate, and for one-third of the price. Sorry again, Samsung.

    I wonder how many competitors will be shaking a fist and shouting “APPLE!”

  8. Let me add some comments on two things and ask a question:

    1. Prior iPad resolution was 132 dpi compared to e-ink at 155 dpi. 150 dpi is the “floor” for (black and white)tricking your eyes into thinking they are looking at true print. Since color has to rely on three pixels to form color, the dpi has to be higher for the same result. By doubling the resolution Apple has achieved the same as print effect.

    2. The heat factor is probably from the light source. I read an article that indicated Apple had to include double the number of LEDs to light the screen because of the increased pixel density. This appears to be proved out by the above comments about the heat being reduced when the brightness is lowered.

    Question/request – Can someone let us know how their eyes feel after reading for more than one hour on the new iPad? I’m curious to see how reading on a backlit screen compares to reading from a reflective screen. Also please indicate what the brightness setting was when the reading was performed. The test should be reading black and white book text and not colored pictures.

  9. A quick update to my comments on the heat issue. Check out the iPad 2012 tear down report at http://www.techrepublic.com. Apple appears to have almost doubled the battery capacity in the unit and this might be the source of the power. You’ll need to look at the tear down report to see which components the heat location might align with.

  10. barbara stanislawski May 24, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Wonderful and most helpful comments. I’ve hesitated about the iPad3 but your comments make a big difference. Only caveat I have is not having the openness of the Android system. Any idea of whats on the horizon from the Android community? thanks for your article.