You may have noticed that there has not been a lot of coverage of the new iPad 3 here over the preceding six months. While many members of the new era media were working themselves into a speculative frenzy over what the unannounced and unspecified product would be, I was content to wait for the facts. And I have to admit that at least from the display perspective, the new iPad 3 finally lives up to its predecessor’s hype.
If you want to learn more about its display, I recommend an excellent column by DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim: “iPad 3: Clarifying Display Issues”. He points out that the LCD panel (sorry, it is not the widely-rumored OLED display) has an impressive 2,048 by 1,536 pixel resolution, which works out to 264 pixels per inch (ppi). Apple also chooses to call this a “Retina Display” even though the pixel density is much less than the 326 ppi found on the iPhone 4. I expect that the explanation is that you are going to hold the iPhone much closer to your eye than the iPad, so the pixels need to be smaller. Whatever.
The news for me is that the iPad finally can display full high-definition images without scaling. Granted, the panel still uses the same old 4:3 aspect ratio as your grandfather’s television set, but at least it now has enough pixels to show 1,920 by 1,080 without scaling (though with plenty space left over for letterboxing). If you make the image scale to fit the width of the panel, however, things could get ugly as you stretch each pixel by 1.06 and two-thirds. (No, I haven’t seen an iPad 3 in person yet, but I sure hope that Apple has included a provision for watching movies that does not involve such scaling.)
Richard also points out that these smaller pixels mean less room for light to be transmitted (smaller aperture ratio) which translates to the need for a brighter backlight which in turn impacts battery life. He expresses his suspicion that the device has a larger battery to respond to this extra power draw, along with the additional power required for the new processor.
There appears to be some interesting innovation in this new tablet, which may help accelerate the spread of video entertainment to devices other than the tradtional television set.