iPad 3: Facts vs. Rumors

The iPad 3 may (or may not) have a retina display, quad-core processor, new dock connector and a 3D display. And what about the iPad Mini?
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The iPad 3 is coming, and as with all new Apple releases, the anticipation is at fever pitch. There's crazy levels of hype and speculation leading up to the official unveiling.

Apple has finally sent out invites to the iPad 3 unveiling, at which point we will be formally introduced to the next-generation Apple tablet. However, in the meantime there's more than enough rumor and speculation to keep us going.

With probably a little more than a week to go before we actually know what the iPad 3 will bring, let's take some time to look at the rumors (some sensible, some crazy) that have been making the rounds over the past few weeks.

Retina display

The iPhone has had a ‘retina display’ since the release of the iPhone 4, so it is now expected that the iPad will get its own pixel bump. Most of the rumors indicate a two-fold increase in the pixel density of the LCD panel, from the current 1024 x 768 to 2048 x 1536.

Note: Apple calls the iPhone 4 and 4S screen ‘retina display‘ because the pixel density is so high your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels.

This rumor’s been around for a while. In fact it’s been making the rounds since before the iPad 2 launched. Some pundits were so convinced that the iPad 2 would have a retina display that when it was released without one the rumor then morphed into speculating that Apple would go ahead and release the iPad 3 before the end of 2011 (this didn’t happen).

While this is probably the most compelling iPad 3 rumor circulating, I have problems accepting it as real. First, while an upscaled 2048 x 1536 panel would certainly be nice to look at, it's an incredibly high pixel density for what is still a small LCD panel. That creates a number of problems.

One problem it would introduce is that 1080 HD video would be displayed in a restricted letterbox format that wouldn’t even fill the whole screen. Standard definition video would be even worse unless it was upscaled. A retina display panel could be made to work, but it would be ugly and in some cases would actually result in a worse end user experience than the current iPad offers.

Another problem is power. Doubling the number of pixels the system has to juggle would demand a much beefier GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) than currently in the iPad 2. And a beefier GPU means a greater demand placed on the battery.

Combine this with the heaver power demands of a retina display screen and it could have a very significant negative impact on overall battery life. Apple would need to either significantly increase the power density of the iPad's current battery pack, or bite the bullet and cram a bigger battery into the unit (possibly by making it thicker).

There are also cost and supply chain issues to take into consideration. Can Apple get high density panels in at a price that will not significantly affect profit margins? And can the supply chain keep up with the inevitable heavy demand for panels (especially given that the higher the density of the panel, the higher failure rate when manufacturing)?

I’m not convinced that the iPad 3 will ship with a retina display screen, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong.

Quad core processor

More CPU cores are better, right? So it makes sense that the iPad 3 will have a quad-core processor, especially since the first-generation iPad had a single-core processor, and the iPad 2 was fitted with dual-core silicon.

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Tags: iPhone, iPad, Apple, ipad 3

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