First Impressions: The New iPad with AT&T LTE

What a night.

To celebrate the release of the New iPad, AT&T reps took a group of us bloggers out for a night on the town. Rolling around Hollywood in a stretched party limo stocked full of drinks and iPads, our happy group was even featured on the local news coverage of the release.

So all this face time with AT&T PR, in the company of fellow techies, and with the hottest slab on the market, did I like the New iPad?

Read on for my impressions…

Let’s get this out of the way right now. It’s an iPad. If you don’t like iOS, this device isn’t going to win you over. You’d be forgiven if you couldn’t immediately tell the difference between the iPad 2 and the New iPad. The most important hardware difference between the two is the screen resolution, and it’s most noticeable when they’re side by side.

The screen is gorgeous.

Pixel pitch is tiny, fine detail is sharp, it’s like looking at crystal. You still don’t have the contrast of an AMOLED display (I was rocking a Galaxy Note for the evening), but the saturation is vibrant and the screen is bright.

Performance feels a lot like the iPad 2. Very fluid UI movement and transitions. It’s a responsive device. The only lag I could create was zooming in and out on HTML5-heavy websites. It’s much like what I thought it would be. Apple threw all of their graphics muscle at this audacious screen to keep the feel of their UI consistent.

That said, I still don’t like 4:3 sized screens for watching video. New iPad will chew through HD content, but half your screen is lost to letterboxing. Gaming will be fantastic on the device once apps are updated for the new resolution.

Battery life was on par with iPad 2 in general use. Forty minutes of Skyping over LTE resulted in about 8% battery drop. All of the sample units we got to play with lasted the entire night–impressive considering we used them pretty heavily. The new battery (nearly twice the capacity of the one in the iPad 2) seems like it will keep up with the same kind of use as last generation’s iPad.

The larger battery does make New iPad a little heavier, which might be an issue for some people hand-holding a 10″ slab, but you get used to it fairly quickly.

The new camera is much improved. To be fair, the iPad 2 set the bar pretty low in that respect, but New iPad easily went toe-to-toe with my Galaxy Note. These two shots came out surprisingly well, since they were taken with no flash in incredibly low mood lighting.

The New iPad’s screen receives most of the praise, and while it’s a very nice screen, I feel the most exciting update is the inclusion of LTE. This is Apple’s first true 4G device, and honestly it’s about damn time. These devices depend on data connectivity, especially with more and more services taking data to the cloud.

We got a sneak peek at AT&T’s Los Angeles LTE roll out, and while they’re behind Verizon’s coverage, the results are pretty exciting. While there was a lot of fluctuation, around Hollywood we were getting downloads ranging from 12-20Mbps. At the high end, that’s almost twice as fast as what I get through my home cable connection.

New iPad.

It’s a modest upgrade, which stays comfortable. This device really isn’t about rocking the boat, but maintaining a feature set consumers like. I would have a really hard time justifying an upgrade from the iPad 2. The screen alone just isn’t quite enough for me to take the plunge.

However, if data is important to you, then LTE really is the only game in town now. Apple is often late to the party on new tech like this, but once they get on board, they do arrive in style…

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