The new iPad 3 picks up the iOS story where the iPad 2 left off - with an incremental upgrade to iOS 5.1 the main talking point.
However, before we go through what's new, we'll take a quick tour across the operating system to show just how simple it is to operate a new iPad.
The home screen is laid out in a very similar way to the iPhone, except we're seeing some much larger icons for the apps you've downloaded.
You can fill as many home screens as you like with apps as you download more from the App Store, and swiping from screen to screen on the iPad 3 is silky smooth even with loads of programs downloaded.
There's also the dock at the bottom of the display which can hold up to six regularly-used apps that are present on all home screens, which is more than the four on offer with the iPhone thanks to the extra screen real estate.
Neat freaks need not despair either: it's easy to create folders of the apps you want to lump together simply by dragging an icon and plopping it on top of another – the iPad will create a name for the group based on the content, but it's easy to rename these.
iOS 5.1 doesn't offer too much in the way of new features for the users interface, but a trick that Apple has learned from Google's Android is the notifications bar, which can be accessed simply by swiping down from the top of the screen.
This contains information on everything from unread mail messages to notifications of new moves in games you're playing with friends. It's a simple system and one that's prevalent throughout the system, even in most apps, meaning you can easily jump in and out of applications where necessary.
Speaking of which, it's worth taking a look at the multi-tasking gestures on offer, as they're pretty sensational. Using a full set of fingers on the screen allows three functions: pinching in will take you to the home screen, flicking up will enable the multi-tasking window and swiping left will let you bounce between open apps.
It really works on the new iPad, and we urge you to check it out as it really makes moving through the system easy and cool at the same time.
There's a great debate over what really constitutes multi-tasking – but in our view, the iPad does enough to warrant the title. The likes of the BlackBerry Playbook are more capable when it comes to fully running programs in the background, but most users will struggle to really notice the difference when the iPad and its Android competition are asked to jump between apps.
As mentioned, you can easy multi-finger swipe up or double tap the home button to call up a list of recently opened apps, which can be deleted from the tray by a single long press and tapping of the 'x' that appears.
Swiping right in the multi-tasking tray will also call up the music player, which allows you to see what songs are about to play, or change the volume or brightness. Not new, but the closest thing to a widget we'll get here.
The lock screen allows you to do some pretty funky stuff; double tapping the home button will call up the music player so you can switch tracks or pause without needing to open the iPad. Also, there's an option to have a slide show of your photos – although we've all got some we don't want to see cycling past at times.
The iPad interface is one that's a little hard to judge, as it's so subjective we're bound to be chastised for the manner in which we rate the OS. However, in our minds it's still a little simplistic, with no opportunity for real customisation, and that's something we've been hoping Apple will fix for years.
But then again others hate overly-complicated user interfaces, and they'll love the simple icon-centric offering. There are other foibles, like apps not re-aligning when one is deleted off a screen, but there are examples of this happening on other tablets all the time, so it's hard to criticise the iPad specifically.
Does the iPad 3 really do enough to be the poster boy for the A5X chip in terms of smoothness under the finger? Maybe, but it's nothing spectacular. The iPad 3 randomly shut down apps during use on more than one occasion, and we were often left prodding a key on the screen only to see that there was a big freeze at work.
Although Apple won't admit it, there's an increase under the hood from 512MB of RAM to 1GB – given the iPad 2 had a decent level of snap between programs, it's hard to say how this really works until put under a few months of load.
However, jumping through apps with the multi-touch gestures certainly impressed, and we're hoping this level of RAM will keep the iPad running at optimum performance for a while longer.
Basically, if you want simple and a mostly slick user interface, then you're in for a treat. It's not the most complete system out there, but iOS 5.1 is knocking the socks off the users who love the iPad experience, and don't give two hoots about Android widgets.
When you boil down the 'point' of a tablet, the lines are still very blurred between a large smartphone and a standalone device – and the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note, with the 5.3-inch screen, and confusing things even more.
The iPad 3 can do nearly everything its little iPhone 4S brother can do, with the exception of voice calling (and inexplicably Siri… but we'll get to that later). However, it's the layout that impresses us, as Apple has taken some time to go through and really make use of the extra screen size.
Contacts are laid out in a proper address book format: we're talking tabs at the side you can scroll down, and your own contact info all stored on the opening page. If you lose your new iPad then you'll either get a saint that knows how to contact you to return your device or a scary man who now knows where you live.
The contacts are all sadly faceless at the start – you have to manually go through and give each person a picture unless you've synchronised from Google or Exchange and have already assigned one.
It's still really annoying that you can't draw in profile pictures from Facebook and Twitter still – it would really set off the iPad's contact list and given there's already deep integration with Twitter in iOS we can only assume Apple doesn't like the quality level of the profile icons.
As we've mentioned earlier, getting contacts on your new iPad can be achieved in many ways: you can download them easily from a previous list on an iPhone or older iPad, and the sync process is jolly quick.
You can also pull them in from the likes of Exchange or Google, although the latter is harder than it should be – if you want to know how to get contacts on the new iPad from Google, you'll have to follow the linked instructions.
The good news here is all those phone numbers you've brought across aren't useless, as giving the string of digits a tap will result in a FaceTime call.
Of course, this is only any use of the other person a) has a compatible iPhone or iPad and b) is in a Wi-Fi zone.
The actual call quality itself isn't too bad – the front facing VGA camera does the job fine, although with the Retina Display you can't help but look pretty grainy.
However, the picture looks smooth and clear if you're calling an iPhone – just be ready for the fact if you're calling a new iPad 3, you're going to have to look your best to minimise the flaws in your face.
We're still not sold on the idea of FaceTime or video calling in general – but in order to achieve 'enchantment' with the new iPad Apple mandates you have to call your partner from another country to look at a baby... so video calling is a must.
Just be aware there are other services on the App Store that can achieve the same thing but with much more flexibility.
The iPad 3 is a device that's really about consuming media than creating it (at least when it comes to prose) and as such, you wouldn't label it a message-centric device.
However, that doesn't mean it's not one of the best out there, as when it comes to the likes of emailing it's simply brilliant if you can get past the slightly odd keyboard.
We'll start with Apple's keyboard on the iPad, as it's consistent throughout the OS. It's a great option in our eyes if you're one of those that's invested in a SmartCover to help bring some elevation to the screen, as you can use it as a desktop keyboard pretty easily - although you'll need to get over the lack of feedback under the finger and the dull 'thunk' as your digits bash the screen.
However, it's not as good for holding the new iPad 3 and trying to get a missive out to the world; cradling it in landscape mode means you can't hit the middle keys as easily, and when in portrait you've got the issue of the device being quite top-heavy so it's again an uncomfortable experience.
You can open up a split keyboard to make it a little easier to type in the hands, but be warned this is at the expense of accuracy.
So in summary: accuracy of keys good, holding iPad to type bad.
The email client on the iPad 3 is pretty goshdarn good in our opinion - the iOS email app is second only to Windows Phone in our opinion, and that's not got a tablet category, so Apple's way out in front here.
From the range of mail portals you can use (many) to the ease of getting notified of an email (unobtrusive - a little pop down from the top and it will sit in your notifications bar), it's a simple way of using the iPad as a decent background emailing device.
The email interface itself is also good - a unified inbox allows you to combine both work and personal life, but in truth many will prefer to bounce between to two. A list pane can be called up whenever you like, meaning it's easy to read an email and then jump back into the inbox with a flick of the finger.
It's elements like this that make the iPad 3 a different beast to the iPhone, and Apple has recognised this. Text is also much more legible on the Retina Display - we're not saying it was terrible before, but we definitely felt it was a more comfortable reading experience.
The other key feature the iPad 3 has is the ability to wander through mail folders - many people are dealing with email overload these days by sticking them in separate folders for later, and it's key to be able to get access to these without having to mess about with thousands of taps.
Searching for email is similarly easy - you pull down from the top of the screen to get access to the search bar, and from there you can easily ask for any word in an email that might have been put somewhere - be it the sender's name, subject or general message text - plus the server searches are very speedy as well.
If you've got an iPhone or iPad already, the above will be of no surprise to you - the new iPad 3 doesn't really take this story on any further, except to make text more legible - but it's worth mentioning as it will be a key feature to many prospective buyers.
Dictation is also included in the place of Siri on the new iPad, and while there are some editors out there that think this is going to be the end of the Dictaphone when it comes to transcription: think again.
We've no idea why Siri isn't included on the new iPad, but the dictation service is only 90% accurate in our tests, which just isn't enough to consider switching from the normal keypad when writing an email.
In truth, the accuracy is better on a Samsung Galaxy S2 when it comes to voice recognition – not by much, but for this service to work it really needs to be bullet proof. And after the song and dance Apple has made over Siri, why is it not included in this more powerful machine?
It's not really messaging as such, but it's worth mentioning Apple's deep integration with Twitter. Well, deep as in you can Tweet a photo directly from the Gallery app, as there's no on board client or anything to mess around with, nor can you assign Twitter names to contacts.
However, when you take a picture there's an option to post it straight to Twitter providing you've linked up the account in Settings – plus you get a pleasant little chirping sound when it sends. Nice.
And here we come to one of the key reasons to buy the new iPad 3: the internet browsing experience.
You can imagine that a device designed for internet browsing is only going to be improved hugely with the addition of a high resolution Retina Display - and you're be pretty much bang on the money.
The screen looks superb when flicking around the internet - be it text heavy sites or those filled with pointless photos of Michael Bublé being stalked by raptors, it all looks so much better than on previous tablets or smartphones.
The odd thing is how impressive text and pictures look on the screen. Yes, we know the pixel density is stupidly high for a tablet, but most of us will have used a desktop monitor with the same level of clarity in the past, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise.
It's the shine of the new iPad 3 that makes it so much more stunning - the screen isn't too reflective, but just gliding your finger over the display is a really pleasant sensation.
We know this isn't really the way we usually review an internet browser, but Apple users have a different expectation when it comes to purchasing decisions compared to picking up a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and thinking about the CPU power running under the hood.
However, if we look at the technical specifications, the new iPad 3 is no slouch as we've discussed - and that certainly shows with the internet browsing experience.
We noticed a definite improvement in the speed with which TechRadar loaded under both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, with the latter showing the most improvement at 2-3 seconds until fully loaded.
We were using the new iPad 3 on the Orange network, which dipped occasionally into T-Mobile coverage but generally stayed strong with the Orange signal (although it did take a little while to recover a 3G connection when switching at times). We found very little in the way of signal drop thanks to the wider coverage (which is being touted as the widest by the network) which is always a plus.
We did find one problem in that the new iPad would sometimes refuse to connect up to mobile data despite having a full 3G signal - this was a real problem that only turning the device on an off again would solve, although was intermittent.
The internet browsing experience on the new iPad 3 is definitely closing in on the experience of the desktop browser, with the likes of tabbed browsing making it very easy to jump between different pages instead of having to flick out to see which windows are currently open.
There are other features that have carried across here as well, with the Reader tab in the address bar turning any text on the page into an ebook like experience.
When we first played with this feature we were excited to no longer have the issue of pictures getting in the way of our reading experience, but in reality it's not as cool as we expected - it takes a couple of seconds to load up, and as it doesn't save text for offline reading, isn't much of an upgrade from reading on the web page.
The web browser does have a few missing elements in our minds, and not just the lack of Flash integration. We're not going to get into the Flash debate here - it's becoming less and less relevant on mobile devices thanks to the onset of HTML5 coding, but it's still a noticeable omission. We'll leave it up to you to decide whether you can live without web video on certain sites.
It's more the fact the new iPad 3 web browser hasn't quite nailed the icon sizes that we take umbrage with. Things like hitting the icon to reload the page or shut down a tab are difficult to hit, as they're pretty tiny.
Apple has clearly increased the accuracy around these, as otherwise you'd need Borrower-size fingers to use them, but we still had a large number of mis-hits when simply trying to bounce between web pages.
With LTE on, the same AT&T iPad reached 53Mbps download and around 20Mbps upload. Those were consistently faster download speeds than we saw on Wifi (around 33Mbps), but not quite as fast for uploading (around 32Mbps).
But either way you shake it, that's incredibly fast.
Granted, your speeds will depend on your area and carrier. If you're in the States, we'd recommend the Verizon iPad - not just for the more comprehensive LTE coverage, but the ability to make your iPad a Personal Hotspot (a feature not offered on the AT&T iPad).
In areas without LTE coverage, you'll connect to 3G networks (HSPA, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA).
Fortunately, we used the new iPad's internet in just about every manner we could, and didn't feel particularly hot in our hands. We'll continue testing it and report if that changes.
Despite the upgrade in specs, it's hard to believe Apple has really made the camera a priority, as there are some elements we're struggling to understand.
For instance, you're able to take a photo using the volume key to make it easier to snap. Firstly, this is quite stiff and leads to some picture wobble, and secondly, doing it this way means it's almost impossible to not put your finger over the lens.
There's no flash to speak of, which we can kind of understand given the packaging gone into the iPad 3 chassis, but it would still be nice on occasion.
And the shutter speed, which is so impressive on the iPhone 4S with lower specs, isn't present here – we're not talking much slower, and it's pretty fast – but there's a slight delay between snaps.
There's also no hint of High Dynamic Range (HDR) options on the new iPad, which means you don't get those beautifully interpolated photos so many people like on the iPhone.
However, Apple has kept the new iPad 3 camera simple – we're happy with the results, but it's more a decent camera in case of emergency rather than your primary snapping weapon of choice.
In strong light, the level of detail is impressive
The automatic macro mode is highly impressive - this is with the sensor almost pressed against the object
Here tapping on the fireplace opens up the shot to a different level of brightness
This was a very quickly taken image - we were impressed with the result
However, the lack of flash really lets down the darker shots - this would have been an awesome photo else
The video camera on the new iPad 3 manages to now shoot in 1080p at up to 30 fps, with the front facing camera managing VGA quality at the same 30fps.
There's not much more to say about the camera, as there's no option to mess about with the settings when you're taking a video.
However, the anti-shake effects are very good - quality is strong and the built-in image stabilisation is deeply impressive – our best bouncy walk should have made for unwatchable footage but the new iPad shrugged it off.
Now, here comes the good stuff. Most people we speak to use the iPad for two things: internet browsing and media consumption.
Yes, we know it's more than half decent for a number of other tasks, but media is definitely one of the new iPad 3's strong points.
The capacities aren't upped with the third iteration of Apple's tablet though; that's going to be a bit of a worry when you look at some of the media sizes now on offer and you can only choose a 16GB, 32GB or 64GB model.
With no expandable memory on display… well, Apple may have played itself into a corner for the new iPad.
Music used to be the core focus of any Apple product, but that's clearly no longer the case – not to say the fruity firm has lost its way when it comes to audio playback.
It's one of the few elements that Apple has deigned to give a widget-like experience too – both on the lock screen and the multi-tasking pane – and users will really feel the benefit of being able to control their tunes from anywhere within the system.
However, the main music player itself isn't actually that easy to use; we were unimpressed with the fact the controls were stuck high in the top left-hand corner of the app, and there's no way to increase their size.
It's not a terrible system, but if you're using the new iPad 3 to listen to some tunes, there's not a lot more you're going to want from the music app when flicking through tracks – larger icons would make much more sense here.
Imagine the jump from your standard definition TV to a full 1080p video of something the BBC shot with David Attenborough… it was immense. We were expecting something along the same lines with the iPad 3, but in reality, we weren't that blown away.
The new iPad 3 has the best video playback quality we've seen from the Apple tablet range so far, with the expected good levels of sharpness.
It sometimes still struggles with the contrast ratios (the difference between the light and dark areas of the video) on non-HD content, and the glossy screen will still annoy people that can see their reflection more than the content on the screen in bright areas.
But it's still a great movie experience when lying on a deckchair on the beach, or around a campfire in the Amazon (or whatever hip scenario the Cupertino brand is pushing this week) as long as you've got some nice content to watch.
So it's a double edged sword when it comes to video on the new iPad 3: on the one hand the screen is pin sharp, the quality excellent at full HD and even the sound out the little grille at the side is strong and relatively powerful on the bass.
If you're going to be taking the new iPad 3 on a long haul flight and are intending to consume a large amount of video, we'd reckon you could just eke things out to three movies if you're lucky – in our tests we were seeing consumption of around 15% per hour when firing up the screen.
To test this we looped a 720p video and tested to see how long it took to drain the battery – although this is atypical use (as you'll likely be prodding the screen every so often and firing up other apps in the background) we managed to get around 350mins of use out of our iPad 3 on a single charge.
There are so many connection options on the new iPad 3 that it's hard to list them all… but we're a diligent bunch here, so we'll give it a go.
The big one we're excited about is Bluetooth 4.0 – the latest version of the wireless technology, and here's our explanation from our lovely 'What is Bluetooth?' feature:
"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."
The use of Bluetooth 4.0 still isn't that widespread, but it's tipped to grow, with the possibility to even be used to work as a wireless payment system in a similar fashion to the slower speeds of NFC."
Above that, we've got Wi-Fi up to 802.11 n standard, aGPS and a gyroscope. If that wasn't enough for you, there's a cellular data connection that can handle up to 73Mbps depending on the territory you're in, with the likes of DC-HSPA promising speeds of over 40Mbps for those in the less well-connected territories.
As you can probably guess based on past models, Apple has decided to once again use a micro SIM on the iPad 3 – we think you should probably get used to the format, as it seems to be the popular choice for most manufacturers going forwards.
When it comes to Apps, you'd think there's nothing much to worry about if you're using an Apple device. And you'd be mostly right: the new iPad 3 offers up over 200,000 apps, with a greater number than ever designed for the iPad specifically.
However, there's a slight worry about those meant for the Retina Display, although probably not to the levels that some in the media are trumpeting at the moment. Sure, there are some that are pushing nearly half a GB in size (iMovie, we're looking at you here) but we still need to see how other upgraded apps fare.
We really don't want to see 400MB-500MB apps becoming the norm on the new iPad 3, as even with a 32GB model once you've chucked in a couple of HD films you'll be having to think about which apps you want on there… and that's never a good thing on a device – just ask HTC Desire owners.
But we'll wait until we pass judgement on this, as past performance has shown us Apple's headline apps always seem to take up more space that those from the average developer.
Until then, let's take a look at the apps Apple is telling us just look sooooo great on the new iPad 3 Retina Display:
If you're a budding filmographer... well, chances are you'll want something that's a little more high power than the iPad and will want a little more effort when it comes to the program used to cut it all together. But for the average Joe Schmo making a couple of videos of his dogs and deciding it would be fun to make a mini movie of them, you know, professional-like, this is a decent addition.
At £3, it's a little pricey, but once you've made a couple of movie trailers, you'll see why it's more fun than functional - we had a blast once we'd thought about the footage we wanted to chuck in.
The main project option can be really well exploited by putting together some nice interstitials to give your home movies a bit of flair - but be warned, it's a little limited, despite how awesome the films some people seem to be managing.
We will say one thing: it's much easier to cut together a decent-ish film with a better looking screen, and the speed with which the A5X processor is able to keep things running is a plus to us.
iPhoto is another app that really takes advantage of the Retina Display on the new iPad 3, and it makes editing that much easier thanks to it.
We were quickly applying saturation effects left, right and centre to make our pictures look a little cooler - it's basically the same as the editing tools already in the photo gallery (where you can auto fix, crop, enhance etc) but made 50x better, with a large amount of effects on offer to play with.
You can export the images to things like Twitter, Facebook and your own journal - for those that love to document their life through the iPad 3 (you know who you are) they'll love this option on the larger tablet.
iBooks, the Newsstand is a much improved version of the previous tablet
app - the Retina Display is a real winner in our eyes for making your
publications look that much slicker, and the magazines and newspapers
that have embedded video really stand out when it comes to showing off
the multimedia advantages of a digital publications.
Google Maps on the iPad 3 is really upgraded over the iterations we've seen in years gone past. There's still nary a hint of inbuilt sat-nav, but there are some really nice options in there that make the new iPad a clever navigation device.
For instance, you can activate traffic mode to see where the problem areas are in the major cities, helping you plan around any live problems. You can also get directions between two points, and can specify walking, driving or public transport to achieve the trip.
Plus a pseudo-Streetview mode is also included - this is available when zoomed into a certain level or if you've dropped a pin on a location to look around.
It's a decent mapping service, and can locate you very quickly when asked... something iOS devices have always been pretty adept at doing.
However, it's not quite got the clout of the Google Maps for Android offering, which gives you free sat nav and uses that traffic information to give you up to the minute journey times, plus more impressive 3D graphics when moving around the big cities.