The down and dirty on the 'new iPad'

Here’s the nitty gritty on “the new iPad”  (that’s its' name, not “iPad 3” or “iPad HD”) announced by Apple in San Francisco today and going on sale worldwide Friday, March 16th.

What It Costs: To keep the “post-PC revolution”  going,  prices will still start at $499 for a 16 GB  Wi-Fi only version,  bumping up to $599 for 32GB and $699  for a 64GB tablet in your choice of black or white case. Also, the  older 16 GB iPad 2 will stay in the line, at a more “school-friendly“ price of $399, said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Screen Improvements: The new iPad screen maintains the familiar 9.7 inch  size of predecessors but now boasts  QXVA 2048 x1536 resolution.  That works out to 264 pixels-per-inch, versus 132 in older iPad panels. Expect much finer, smoother display of text and visuals, easier on the eyes, and (with better processing)  a slicker  look from video games, a point Apple pushed hard with a demo of “Infinity  Blade Dungeons” customized for the new pad.

 The new panel uses IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) chemistry to pack  electron particles much tighter. The back-lighting system has also changed,  we hear, from fluorescent to strips of LEDs, explaining why the new model is a tad thicker. More panel details here.

Improved Battery?: Well, yes and no.  Better run time is number one on tablet users’ wish-lists, and there apparently is a larger battery in the new iPad . But that’s offset by the new tab’s higher energy consumption. So all's a wash.  Expect ten hours run time, 9 hours on 4G.

Better picture taking: Downright crappy on the iPad 2, the rear-mounted camera in the new iPad has 5 megapixel image resolution (not up to the iPhone 4S's 8 megapixel count) with face detection,  LED flash illumination and 1080p HD recording.

A faster, more robust microprocessor:  A quad-core GPU and dual core CPU  -  “more powerful than in an Xbox 360”  -  will run the show for better game experiences and high def movie play. The new chip set also enables a new Garage Band enhancement  called Jam Session (four players can jam together over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi), numerous extensions on iPhoto editing and the ability to create your own movie trailers with iMovie.

A Speedier Communicator:  A new mobile communications chip in specified models works with the faster 4G LTE networks from  Verizon or AT&T in the U.S. You can’t extract both from the same tablet, i.e. switch between the two carriers, though around the world both versions will now roam on 3G.  4G loads stuff superfast.  Also allows the new iPad to function as a personal hotspot, connecting with up to five devices, with purchased carrier support

Also announced today: the iOS 5.1 operating system and a refreshed version of the little Apple TV internet receiver  (still $99)  enhanced with an iOS style menu display, 1080p resolution and the ability to pull down movies you’ve stored on the iCloud.