What are the differences between the iPad 2 and new iPad (for a South African)?

Posted on June 6, 2012

A previous post of mine comparing the iPad and iPad 2 proved to be one of the most visited on the site with over 3500 people reading it. Since the new iPad  (aka iPad 3) has been out for a little while now it made sense to do a follow-up.

When it was announced a big deal was made about the screen, and what an amazing screen it is. However that is not the only difference between the devices. As a very happy iPad 2 wi-fi+3G user I wasn’t going to upgrade, and kept telling myself I didn’t need to as there weren’t really any real differences. The chance came along to get a new iPad at a great price and I took it. Looking back, I didn’t realise all the difference between the two.

Below I explore many of those differences – component by component. Take a look at the bottom of the post for a line by line factual comparison to support the opinions presented. The information (in the table)  is sourced from a number of websites. Source list with links below the table.

First up, has to be the display

Yes, it is beautiful. The Retina display is amazing, the text is crisp and clear, when browsing websites it looks better, pages with thumbnails are greatly improved as the level of detail in the thumbnail is much better.  The 2048×1536 screen has FOUR times as many pixel as the older 1024×768. That is huge. While talking about the screen one has to talk about the graphics processor. It now has four cores instead of two. So, twice as fast. Indeed, however, it now has to push four times as many pixels. It has been written elsewhere that the previous graphics processor was overpowered for the previous screen, so there was some grunt in reserve. The iPad 2 was smooth, silky smooth as a result. The new iPad, is mostly smooth, but sometimes just a little bit sluggish. So we pay the price of the screen in just a little way.

to quote from Anand Tech around the gaming performance :

“With the new iPad’s Retina Display delivering 4x the pixels of the iPad 2, a 2x increase in GPU horsepower isn’t enough to maintain performance. If you remember back to our iPad 2 review however, the PowerVR SGX 543MP2 used in it was largely overkill for the 1024 x 768 display. It’s likely that a 4x increase in GPU horsepower wasn’t necessary to deliver a similar experience on games. Also keep in mind that memory bandwidth limitations will keep many titles from running at the new iPad’s native resolution. Remember that we need huge GPUs with 100s of GB/s of memory bandwidth to deliver a high frame rate on 3 – 4MP PC displays. I’d expect many games to render at lower resolutions and possibly scale up to fit the panel.”

The screen also CHEWS power. The power usage bumps up from 2.7 watts to 7 watts. That’s almost 2.5x as much juice to run it. That needs some serious battery enhancement as we will discuss below.

Summary : Beautiful screen but the faster graphics processor struggles to cope with it at times, power consumption up.

Weight and size

The length and breadth of the new iPad are the same as the old. It is 0.6mm deeper, just barely noticable, and makes it just  a little bit snugger when putting it into my old iPad 2 zip up case. It weighs 49 grams more (about 8%) – half the weight of a modern cellphone. Given the overall weight though (662g) it is also barely noticeable . Tight fitting custom-made cases may not fit, while slightly bigger ones will be fine.

Summary : If you are planning on using your old case beware, otherwise nothing here really, move on


The front camera is unchanged at VGA (640×480) resolution. The back camera is however a massive change. From the pretty crummy 0.92MP (1280×720) camera we move to a decent 5MP (2592×1936) with autofocus and tap to focus. Much better for snapping those occasional pics and for taking those Instagram shots. Previously Instagram was about the only thing I had used the camera for, so perhaps that will change.

The iPad 2 could do 720p video (though it was just below the HD ready resolution of 1366×768), the new iPad bumps that up to 1020p (1920×1020) which is a nice increase and gives you full Blu-Ray quality for those full HD tv’s out there.

Summary : Much better back camera now suitable for more than just Instagram, 1020p video a bonus

Processor and RAM

No real change in the processor. Same dual ARM Cortex A9 MP running at 1Ghz. Image signal processing and earSmart believe to be unchanged.

The main memory (RAM) has been doubled from 512MiB to 1024MiB which should help smooth operations generally and potentially allow so more advanced apps.

Summary : RAM doubled to help smooth performance generally, no change in core processing power.

Battery and charging

As above, power consumption is up massively due to the better brighter screen, and due to the four graphics cores needed to push it. The compensation for this is to replace the 25-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery with a 42.5 watt-hour one. This is what was needed to keep the running time to the same 10 hours as the iPad 2. If these babies were put into an iPad 2 you could have an almost 20 hour running time, that would have been a bonus 🙂

Charging that bigger battery takes much longer than the old one. It took an estimated four hours to charge the iPad 2, that is now up to seven hours. There is a caveat. It has been shown that after those seven hours the battery on the device shows as 100% full, however, in reality it is only 90% full. That last 10% takes another +- 2hrs to charge. It seems Apple didn’t want consumers to think charging time had gone from four hours to nine hours hence the “recalibration”.

Best then to be charging the new iPad overnight if you want to maximise the usage. The device still charges from either the supplied mains charger or from your PC, though it complains if you are using it while charging from the PC that it isn’t charging properly. Also charges very slowly like that so mains is first prize.

Summary : Better screen needs bigger battery to keep running for same time – which takes longer to charge.

Location and GPS

In the location and sensors area there is a small change with “+GLONASS” being slipped in there. Not much mention of this was made in any of the reviews so I needed to go and look it up.

Glonass to turns out is the Russian competition to GPS, completed in October 2011. It is a radio-based systems, first set up in Soviet times but only recently upgraded.

Why have just one sat nav systems when you can have two?

Like GPS, Glonass also has a number of satellites circling the earth. The modern GPS chips (positioning chips perhaps a better term) can now talk to both sets of satellites.  The use of the two systems almost doubles the number of satellites in use,  providing quicker location identification and better accuracy, particularly when in built-up urban areas with lots of high building around.

The positioning of the satellites also allows Glonass to  be more accurate than GPS in the northern latitudes – not much use to us in the Southern Hemisphere in that respect then.

Summary : The addition of GLONASS provides quicker and more accurate positioning, especially in deep urban areas


The bluetooth module has been bumped from version 2.1 +EDR to version 4.0. I had to google this to see what this is all about and found that  “Bluetooth 4.0 uses even less power than previous versions, and enables various devices to replace propriety sensor technology with Bluetooth. This Bluetooth Low Energy has benefits for technology in fitness, such as heart rate monitors and pedometers, which before could only communicate with a specific device controlling them. Now this information could theoretically be checked by any phone or computer.”  (TechRadar)

The power usage is so efficient devices can last between 5-10 times longer allowing batteries to be built into remove devices such as keyboards and mice and never needing to be recharged over their life.  New high-tech devices such as the Nike FuelBand and Motorola Motoactv already are compliant out of the box.

The speed is also significantly improved from Bluetooth 3.0, up from 2Mbps of 2.1 to 26Mbps potentially allowing even video streaming to be done over Bluetooth.

I learned from CNET that Bluetooth 4 is also compatible with NFC chips : “Another convenience newer forms of Bluetooth brings is compatibility with NFC chips. Both Bluetooth versions 3.0 and 4.0 can talk to NFC hardware in phones and laptops to make pairing a simple process of tapping the two devices together. So you can imagine configuring Wi-Fi settings on mobile gadgets just by resting them on NFC equipped routers or hooking up headsets with tablets and phones in the same manner. For example, Motorola’s new Elite Sliver headset already has this NFC pairing ability. ”

I hadn’t read this anywhere in relation to the new iPad so hope it will be available and be used.

Summary : Bluetooth is faster, uses less power and will be able to be used with cool low power devices in future

WiFi and Cellular connectivity

4G has been an area of controversy for some time. Cell C advertised their network as 4G for a while, the new iPad was advertised as 4G for a while (now it’s just Cellular). Both Apple and Cell C lost court cases and now don’t use the branding anymore. Good thing too since Cell C and Apple used different definitions. Apple’s 4G is LTE and we don’t have any network providers in South Africa using this. It could theoretically provide a 73Mbps connection, but don’t worry about that, we can’t use it and probably won’t be able to in the near future (next 3-5 years), and even when we get LTE it may not be on the same frequencies.

The iPad 2 had ” UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)” and the new iPad has “UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)” Say what??

So the extra letters in there are HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA. But what do they mean? These are all extensions of the 3G protocols to give us faster upload and download speeds. Some information on this :

  • HSDPA = High Speed Download Packet Access (up to 7.2Mbits/s downlink )
  • HSUPA = High Speed Uplink Pack Access (up to 5.7Mbits/s uplink)
  • HSPA = High Speed Packet Access (combination of the above two technologies)
  • HSPA+ = Evolved High Speed Pack Access (up to 168 Mbits/s downlink, 22Mbits/s uplink, 28Mbit/s Release 7, 42Mbit/s release 8)
  • DC-HSDPA = Dual Cell High Speed Download Packet Access (Dual HSPA, speeds can be double of above)

My reading on all of this, the HSDPA of the iPad 2 gave as a maximum theoretical speed of 7.2Mbit/s while the new iPad supports all the new technologies of the networks in SA.

Vodacom, Cell C and MTN all claim to have high-speed networks. 8ta is a little less clear. Vodacom probably has the widest rollout of 42Mbit/s technology with a claim of over 3000 towers. Cell C initially rolled out 21Mbit/s tech for their “4Gs” network and later claimed to have upgraded it. There is no clarity of how widely upgraded it is. Cell C also don’t sell modems that are faster than 21Mbit/s and in some of their FAQs etc state that unless you buy a data specific SIM you will be locked out of using these speeds.

Conclusion : iPad 2 gave you up to 7Mbit/s while new Ipad will take you up to 42Mbit/s depending on your network provider and SIM. No LTE or 4G for us in South Africa though.

 Final Wrap

The new iPad doesn’t look anything special when compared to the previous models, until you turn it on. The screen she is beautiful. You will experience some sluggish behaviour as the iPad pumps out all those pixels. Perhaps this will get better as app developers customise their apps more for the device.

The battery life is unchanged, just takes a lot longer to charge.

Graphics power is doubled, but also needed to power the screen. Some games will have better graphics. This could be hit and miss.

Positioning (GPS) is improved through enhancing the system to make use of the Russian (GLONASS) competitor to GPS. The new faster lower powered Bluetooth 4.0 is NFC compatible and will spark a whole new generation of slave devices and innovative uses. We may even see video streaming over bluetooth.

Network speeds won’t give use LTE or 4G but the iPad can now use the fastest that the service providers can offer us. This will bump the previous maximum of 7.2Mbit/s up to 21Mbit/s on some networks and up to 42Mbit/s on others. When they upgrade beyond that we can theoretically use those faster speeds too.

So the golden question, should you upgrade ? 

If you have an iPad 2, then it is still hard to justify the upgrade right now. Other than the screen most of the above features you won’t notice unless you specifically need them. If you are buying a new device, then yes, get the new iPad, even if it costs you a bit more. Better to have a 16Gig new iPad than 32Gig iPad 2.

If you can sell off your old iPad 2 at a reasonable price, or give it to a worthy family member or something like that then you may also find a way to make it work for you.

I still use both on a daily basis (one for work, one personal) and always pick up the new iPad when the activity I can perform can be done on either, the difference in screen is that pronounced.

Any other specific questions, please post them in the comments.

 Area of comparison New iPad iPad 2
Chip A5X A5
Processor Dual core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore 1Ghz Dual core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore 1Ghz
Graphics quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP4 250MHz dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU 250MHz
Graphics Peak Compute 32.0 GFLOPS 16.0 GFLOPS
Signal Processing Image Signal Processing Unit + earSmart Image Signal Processing Unit + earSmart
Internal Memory 1024 MB low-power DDR2 RAM clocked at 533Mhz 512 MiB low-power DDR2 RAM clocked at 533Mhz
Storage 16GB-64GB 16GB-64GB
Rear Camera 5MP (2592×1936) Autofocus with tap to focus 0.92MP (1280×720)
Front Camera VGA (640×480) VGA (640×480)
Video Recording 1080p Full HD (1920×1020) 720p HD Ready (1280×720)
Screen 2048×1536 1024×768
Screen DPI 264 ppi 132 ppi
Screen power usage 7 watts 2.7 watts
Size 9.4mm deep 8.8mm deep
Weight : Wifi 652g 601g
Weight : Wifi + Cellular 662g 613g
Wifi 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 tech 2.1 + EDR tech
Cellular : 4G 4G LTE (700,2100 MHz) n/a
Cellular : 3G UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)
Cellular : 2G GSM/EDGE (850,900,1800,1900 MHz) GSM/EDGE (850,900,1800,1900 MHz)
Battery Life Up to ten hours (using wifi) and nine (Cellular) Up to ten hours (using wifi) and nine (Cellular)
Battery Capacity 42.5-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery 25-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
Battery Charging time 7hrs (with additional 2 hrs to fully charge) 4hrs
Sensors Accelerometer, Ambient Light sensor, Gyroscope Accelerometer, Ambient Light sensor, Gyroscope
Location Wi-Fi, Digital Compass, Assisted GPS + GLONASS, Cellular Wi-Fi, Digital Compass, Assisted GPS, Cellular
TV and Video Airplay video to AppleTV 3rd Gen 1080p, 2nd Gen 720p Not supported (?)


References :

More reading on the display http://www.displaymate.com/iPad_ShootOut_1.htm
More reading on the battery http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2402027,00.asp
More on  processors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_A5
Apple on iPad 2 vs New http://www.apple.com/ipad/compare/
Apple New iPad specs http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/
Apple iPad 2 specs http://www.apple.com/ipad/ipad-2/specs.html
iPad 3 slower? http://www.androidauthority.com/why-the-new-ipad-3-may-be-slower-than-ipad-2-wait-what-61643/
Analysis of new ipad http://www.anandtech.com/show/5663/analysis-of-the-new-apple-ipad
GLONASS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GLONASS


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Categories: Fun things to do, Gadgets, iPad

One Response

  1. iPad 2 works with Cell C 4G service | j-j.co.za:

    […] 3 : The “new’ iPad is here, thoughts and comparisons with iPad 2 here. Share […]

    23.06.2012 18:21 Reply

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