WiFi & GPS

The WiFi stack gets an update with the new iPad courtesy of Broadcom's 65nm BCM4330, compared to the BCM4329 used in the previous two iPads. Both 2.4GHz and 5GHz operation are supported, although as I mentioned earlier the carrier-dependent personal hotspot is only available over 2.4GHz.

As with most smartphone/tablet designs the BCM4330 only supports a single spatial stream, for a maximum link speed of 72Mbps. Similar to the iPad 2, Apple hides the WiFi antenna behind the speaker grille at the bottom of the tablet. The cellular antennas (there are now two) are at the top of the tablet, behind the plastic RF window.

WiFi Performance Comparison
Distance from AP 3 feet 20 feet (Different Room) 50 feet (Different Room/Floor) 100 feet (Different Room)
ASUS TF Prime (2.4GHz) 26.9 Mbps 9.85 Mbps 13.5 Mbps 2.20 Mbps
Apple iPad 2 (2.4GHz) 35.1 Mbps 29.9 Mbps 26.9 Mbps 10.6 Mbps
Apple iPad 3 (2.4GHz) 35.1 Mbps 29.9 Mbps 27.9 Mbps 9.98 Mbps
Apple iPad 2 (5GHz) 36.7 Mbps 36.7 Mbps 36.7 Mbps 11.9 Mbps
Apple iPad 3 (5GHz) 36.7 Mbps 36.7 Mbps 36.7 Mbps 11.7 Mbps

With a similar WiFi stack and similar antenna placement, it's no surprise that I noticed very similar WiFi performance to the iPad 2.

The same goes for GPS performance between the new iPad and the iPad 2. Both devices were able to lock and track me driving around in a car with comparable accuracy from what I could tell.

Airplay Support with the new Apple TV

When paired with a second or third generation Apple TV, the iPad supports wireless display mirroring or content streaming to the iPad via AirPlay. In other words, if you have an Apple TV hooked up to your HDTV, you can use your HDTV as a large, mirrored, secondary display for your iPad—wirelessly. The only requirement is that you have a 2nd or 3rd generation Apple TV and that it's on the same network as your iPad. With those requirements met, enabling AirPlay mirroring is simple—just bring up the iOS task switcher, swipe left to right until you see the brightness/playback controls and tap the AirPlay icon.

Mirroring gives you exactly what you'd expect—a complete mirror of everything you see on the local iPad screen. All sounds are also sent over and come out via your TV's speakers—the local speaker remains silent.

The frame rate isn't as high on the remote display, but there's virtually no impact to the performance of the iPad itself. There's noticeable latency of course since the display output is transcoded as a video, sent over WiFi to the Apple TV, decoded and displayed on your TV via HDMI. I measured the AirPlay latency at ms, which is reasonable for browsing the web but too high for any real-time games. If you want to use the iPad to drive your HDTV for gaming you'll need to buy the optional HDMI output dongle.

While AirPlay mirroring on the iPad works at 720p, if you're playing a 1080p movie on the new iPad and you have a 3rd generation Apple TV, the video is also displayed in 1080p rather than downscaled to 720p.

Video playback is an interesting use case for AirPlay and the iPad. If you don't have mirroring enabled, you can actually start playing a movie on the iPad, have it stream to your TV via the Apple TV, and go about using your iPad as if nothing else was happening. Most apps will allow you to stream video in the background without interrupting, however some games (e.g. GTA 3, Infinity Blade 2) and some apps (e.g. iMovie) will insist on streaming their UI to your Apple TV instead.

Although iOS and the iPad don't do a great job of promoting multi-user experiences, using AirPlay to push video to a TV wirelessly is an exception. If you frequently load your iPad up with movies you can use it to keep others entertained while you either get work done or just goof around on your iPad at the same time. It's a great fit for families where people want to do two different things. If you do put a lot of movies on your iPhone/iPad, the 3rd generation Apple TV is probably a must buy for this reason alone.

Gaming Conclusion & Controller Support: An Android Advantage What's Next: 6th gen iPhone, Haswell & Windows 8
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  • antef - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Yes it's nice, no one will argue that. But I don't see it as the huge advancement the authors indicate. Using it in the store it seemed fine, but honestly just walking right up to it, I wasn't even sure if I was using the new or old iPad. I had to go over to the iPad 2 to recognize the difference. And even then, after being back at the new iPad for a couple minutes, I completely forgot about it. If you are looking for pixels, sure, you'll notice. If you're just using your device and thinking about other things, probably not so much. Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Eh, I think it depends on what application you use the iPad for. Web browsing and Tweeting? You're probably right, you wouldn't notice the difference in displays. But if you use it to view images I could see it being a big deal. Reply
  • zorxd - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I am pretty sure extra resolution is more noticeable when reading text than when looking at images Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I didn't mean "notice" as in you couldn't tell the difference, just that the difference wouldn't be something that you would constantly be aware of if you were simply web browsing.

    If you were reading an e-book? Absolutely, but if that's your only use case I'd get a Kindle and save the money.

    Regularly viewing quality images is something that can't be done on an e-ink reader, but for which the improved display would make a huge difference.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    I would say this is a perfect example of why it's better to use "I"" statements than say "YOU won't notice, YOU won't care, there isn't that much difference" - those kinds of statements. "I didn't notice much of a difference, it wasn't a big change in MY experience. . .)

    Displays can very very personal in experience, and things that bug the heck out of me may not be a problem to someone else. For example, a pixel pitch of around .270mm is just too big for me, in a monitor, and it bugs me. Always.

    Frame rates are a good example of something I'm not consciously aware of all the time, but I can sure tell the difference on some level, and some displays are more effected than others. There are extra factors in LCD screens that can make the problem worse for some of us - others don't notice so much, or it's just not a problem for them.

    One thing I believe, is that as more people use really better screens, they'll understand more why some of us call for them every chance we get.

    ;)
    Reply
  • darkcrayon - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I can *immediately* notice the difference in web browsing, which is primarily focused on reading text... Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I found it a noticeable difference, just not neuron melting like some reviews led me to think. For 100 or more less I'd still be plenty happy with an iPad 2, especially given the CPU and battery life performance are about the same. Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    Unfortunately the iPad 2's camera is a disgrace. It should've had the iPhone 4 camera, which was already out by that time. Reply
  • repoman27 - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    The iPad 2 was also thinner than the iPhone 4. Now that it is the same width, it has the same camera. It's not really Apple's style to add thickness to a device just to support one feature that isn't heavily used anyway (tablets are not a very good form factor for a camera.) Reply
  • zanon - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Human vision varies significantly from person to person, as do use patterns for machines. Someone who is more near sighted or simply has better vision in general, and/or uses their system at a closer distance, may see a truly dramatic change. To take my personal example, I have excellent color vision and am also near sighted, and tend to hold my devices relatively close (or use glasses at my machine). I can see the pixels on the iPhone 4 screens (326 ppi) if I focus a bit, and for the older screens (or old iPads) they're massively pixelated to me (not that that made them useless). The High DPI screens are a night/day difference personally, making all types of reading in particular (be it on a terminal session, the web, PDF manuals, ebooks, or whatever) massively more functional (and everything else more beautiful).

    But that's just me, and is that awesome? No, it's kind of meh, I'd love it if I didn't need glasses to use my desktop without being hunched over the keyboard to drive. But understand that you'll see raves about the screen that are completely justified, just not for you. 20/20 vision puts the critical distance around 13" I think, but in the end everyone will need to take a look for themselves.
    Reply

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