New Apple iPad tops our tablet Ratings

Consumer Reports News: April 02, 2012 06:08 AM

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The high-resolution screen of the new iPad establishes a new benchmark in excellence, providing the best rendering of detail and color accuracy we've ever seen on a tablet display. As a result, the iPad tops our new tablet Ratings, posted today.

Performance on the new iPad ($500 to $830) was superb in virtually every other way as well. The 5-megapixel camera took very good photos. Verizon's 4G network yielded very fast, dependable connectivity to a 4G-compatible version of the iPad in our informal tests. And despite the energy-intensive display and graphics, the iPad still has longer battery life than all other tablets.

Responding to consumer comments on the new device, and to coverage from other reviewers, we also carried out further tests that confirmed the new iPad is warmer in its hottest spots than the iPad 2. But we didn't find those temperatures to be cause for concern (see our post, The new iPad can get very warm, further tests show, but is still safe). In addition, further tests of observations we made that the new iPad was not recharging when playing a demanding, intense video game, showed that the problem was limited to times when the device was playing a demanding game with the screen fully bright. Our high overall judgment of the new iPad was not affected by the results of either battery of tests. More details soon on these tests.

We also added 10 other tablets to our Ratings, and found several worth recommending. Among them is the 10.1-inch Toshiba Excite 10LE. It's the lightest 10.1-inch tablet we've tested, weighing in at just over a pound. It's also very thin, measuring just .31 inch.

Beachgoers might be interested in Pantech's new 8-inch Element, a tablet claimed as waterproof that also has the longest battery life among smaller tablets: It lasted more than 10 hours. Sun worshipers might need to set up their beach umbrellas, however—the Element is not as readable in bright sunlight as some other tablets.

Also recommended is the Sony Tablet P. Shaped somewhat like a large eyeglass case, the Tablet P is a dual-screen device. It's great for reading e-books in a more traditional, two-page "book" format. The two 5-inch screens also make viewing photos easier by displaying a gallery on the lower screen and the selected photo on the upper. When playing some games, the lower screen also serves as the controller. But in performing other tasks, such as Web browsing, the dual-screen format got in the way.

Samsung's latest entry in its Galaxy Tab line, the Galaxy Tab 7.7, has the first OLED screen we've seen in a tablet. That display provides deep blacks and a wide viewing angle.

The iPad's display, however, is the best we've seen. It has remarkable fidelity, achieving the highest score we've ever recorded for color accuracy in a tablet. Colors are more saturated than on the iPad 2, making deeper shades more vibrant. And the new iPad's screen lacks the slight bluish hue of the iPad 2's screen, and has a warmer and more natural "color temperature" that becomes apparent when comparing white backgrounds displayed on the new and old iPads.

As a result of the standout performance of the new iPad's screen, we have recalibrated our standard of excellence for tablet screens. The iPad alone now receives an excellent overall score for display quality. A number of current models, including the iPad 2 (which remains on sale and is a fine performer), that received excellent scores under the past standard will now be adjusted to receive very good scores overall. Likewise, some models that received good scores may also be adjusted downward, and some overall scores have changed slightly.

The new iPad's display does, in at least some applications, serve to magnify imperfections in content designed for lower screen resolution. For example, some text in e-magazines looks worse on the new device than on the iPad 2, as others, including PC World, have noted. Publishers who offer iPad editions, including Consumer Reports, are still weighing how to balance the advantages of increased visual resolution with drawbacks, including lengthening the already considerable time required to download an e-magazine to the device.

On balance, however, the screen quality of the new iPad is a significant plus, especially given the likelihood that content will increasingly rise in resolution to take advantage of it.

Our test finds new iPad hits 116 degrees while running games
First Look review: The new iPad is shaping up as the best tablet yet

Donna L. Tapellini

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