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What makes the new iPad special? Quad-core graphics and 5-megapixel rear-facing camera are nice upgrades, certainly, but the tablet's flashy Retina display steals the show. With an eye-grabbing 2048- by-1536 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch, the new iPad's screen has twice the resolution and four times the number of pixels as its predecessor. Apple's newest slate may not be an essential upgrade for iPad 2 users, but it's a notable improvement compared to the first-generation model.
Apps optimized for the 3rd-gen iPad are arriving at a steady clip--but what exactly does "optimized" mean? Sharper text and graphics, mostly, but in some cases, you'll find additional advantages. Snapseed 1.4, a photo-editing app, supports larger images on the new iPad: 20.25 megapixels (MP) versus 16MP on the iPad 2. And Procreate, a powerful paint app, is fine-tuned to exploit the faster graphics engine of the 3rd-gen tablet.
The iPad is today's undisputed resolution champ, but its reign may not last long. Recent reports indicate that competing Android and Windows 8 tablets may soon feature very-high-res displays that match or surpass the iPad's megapixel magnificence.
Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, outlined in a recent blog post how the upcoming Windows 8 OS will support a variety of screen sizes and pixel densities, including 10.1-inch displays with 2560-by-1440 resolution.
So when will these very-high-res Windows 8 tablets arrive? It's hard to say. Windows 8 itself isn't slated to ship until sometime this fall, and it's unclear what the first batch of Win 8 tablets will look like. However, there's bound to be a variety of hardware options if major PC manufacturers including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba, launch more than 30 Win 8 slates by year's end, as one recent report predicts.
In fact, iPad-like "Retina" displays may soon be standard equipment on tablets, laptops, and desktops. Electronics equipment manufacturer Applied Materials has rolled out machines that make it easier to mass produce very-high-resolution displays, Technology Review reports. At least five display manufacturers have installed the new production equipment, an Applied Materials executive says.
If true, it won't be long before 1024-by-768 screens seem as archaic as your old analog TV. But until Retina-like displays arrive for other tablets, the new iPad is the only game in town.
You're already heard of iPhoto and iMovie, right? Well, here are 10 more apps that are beautiful matches for Apple's stellar screen.
If there's one app that demonstrates the high-res glory of the new iPad's display, Press Reader 3.1 is it--and the reason has more to do with the app's ultra-sharp text than its pretty graphics. Press Reader 3.1 allows you to you read digital copies of thousands of newspapers and magazines from 95 countries. A publication's presentation is a digital copy of its print edition, meaning that each page displays columns of text in small font sizes. Optimized for the Retina display, Press Reader's fonts are so crisp you'll be able to read full pages of text without having to zoom in. It's a sight to behold. (The screen grab above doesn't do the app justice.) And Press Reader's clever SmartFlow interface displays scrollable thumbnails of entire pages too.
There's much more to iPad gaming than Infinity Blade II, Apple's favorite poster child. Firemint's Real Racing 2 HD is a visually arresting title with gorgeous graphics that mesh well with the game's immersive, full-throttle action. The developers' attention to detail, including highly detailed objects, building reflections, and even cascading fountains in the background, make Real Racing 2 HD a sight to behold on the new iPad. It's fun to play-- but beware: Real Racing's realism may bring about a brief bout of nausea.
This world clock/weather app has garnered accolades from Apple and reviewers alike, and it's easy to see why. Featuring live 3-D simulations of global weather conditions, including photorealistic cloud formations, hurricanes, tropical storms, and even a view of the world's cities at night, Living Earth HD is a beautiful bargain at 99 cents. You can watch sunrise and sunset borders around the globe in real time. Packed with high-res imagery optimized for the new iPad, Living Earth HD also makes a fine alarm clock.
A great display calls for an equally great photo-editing app, and Snapseed is a superb choice for discerning shutterbugs. Updates in version 1.4 for iOS include a new Center Focus filter to control brightness at the center and edges of an image; the Black & White filter has new color filters and conversion algorithms.
Snapseed 1.4 is optimized for the new iPad. For instance, it supports 20.25-megapixel (MP) images on the 3rd-gen iPad, versus 16MP files on the iPad 2 and 6.25MP shots on the original iPad. Snapseed users can now open photos directly in the popular Instagram image-sharing app too.
Augmented reality (AR) apps that display computer-generated information over a live-video image are a natural for the iPad. And if you're fond of watching the skies, Star Walk is among the best AR apps out there. Where's the International Space Station right now? What's that constellation in the night sky? Point your iPad at the sky, and Star Walk labels the satellites, stars, and constellations on the tablet's display. Since the app doesn't require an Internet connection, it should work just fine when you're out in the wilderness--a boon for urban stargazers seeking to escape nighttime light pollution.
Flipboard is an elegant and intuitive aggregation app for the news services and social sites you follow. It pulls in articles from traditional publications and a mix of content (e.g., friends' comments and photos) from social services like Facebook and Twitter, and presents it all in an easy-to-ready magazine format. You effortlessly "flip" through the pages with a swipe of the finger. The latest version is optimized for the Retina display, meaning that images are sharper and more saturated, and the typography is easier to read. My personal take: Flipboard looks glorious on the new iPad. Even better, it's still free.
Have kids? Do they love your new iPad? Barefoot World Atlas allows youngsters to traverse an interactive 3-D globe and explore the world's oceans, continents, landmarks, people, and wildlife. Children can spin the globe and zoom in on specific regions. Wolfram|Alpha provides a plethora of country facts and figures, including the current weather. Priced at $8, Barefoot World Atlas' rich graphics, hundreds of animated illustrations and photos, and immerse experience make it a fine match for the new iPad.
This tasty cooking app starts you out with 30 free recipes, with additional ones costing 99 cents apiece, or six for $1.99. Each Appetites recipe features a series of HD video clips in which the chef who created the dish steps you though its preparation. Video quality is excellent, particularly on the Retina display, and the chefs' narrated instructions are easy to follow--even if your past culinary skills are limited to a can opener and microwave. If you don't mind bringing your new iPad into the kitchen--oil splatter and all--Appetites may persuade you to ditch printed cookbooks for good. (And may convince you to buy a waterproof iPad case, which can protect you from kitchen splatter and get you set for pool/beach season.)
This $5 security app allows you to monitor multiple live video feeds, keeping a remote eye on pets, babies, nannies, offices, vacation property--and whatever else you need to keep tabs on. iCam operates via Wi-Fi, 3G, and Edge networks with most USB and FireWire webcams, and with cameras built into laptops and other devices. It works well with the 1st- and 2nd-gen iPads too.
So why is iCam included here? Because newer webcams like the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 deliver 1080p (1920-by-1080 pixel) resolution, making them a good match for the new iPad's 2048-by-1536 pixel display. (The iPad 2's screen is 1024-by-768 pixels.)
Serious artists who use the Retina display as a digital canvas should download Procreate, a powerful sketchbook app optimized for the faster graphics of the new iPad's GPU. With 45 professional brushes and a 1920-by-1408 pixel canvas, this powerful paint app has the tools that creative pros need, including 16 HD layers and 100 undo/redo states. Not too shabby for five bucks.