By Ben Bowers
on 3.7.12
Photo by Apple

Right on schedule, Apple has announced their latest iteration of the new iPad. Yes, that’s its official name and it was the biggest surprise of the entire announcement. You can guess that the most important upgrade to the third generation of Cupertino’s market-dominating tablet lies in the ridiculous 2048 x 1536 retina display packed with 3.1 million pixels — the most ever in a mobile device – and a 40% boost in color saturation.

Otherwise, the noticeable external changes from the last iPad are slim. The device is slightly heavier at 1.4 lbs and is roughly 1 mm thicker with more tapered curves on the back, which is good news for those of you invested heavily in iPad 2 accessories since they’ll still fit. Additional internal hardware changes are more incremental. The new A5X chip set with quad-core graphics is a beefed-up version of the original found in the iPhone 4s / iPad 2. A gig of ram (doubling the previous gen) also amps up the snappiness, while a new camera setup — if you’re one of the 3 people into tablet photography — is basically identical to that of the iPhone 4S. Specifically, there’s a rear 5 megapixel camera with a backside illuminated sensor, complete with 1080p video capture and built-in image stabilization, as well as an improved front-facing camera.

We’ve got more details after the break.

Free spirits living the untethered lifestyle will also appreciate the addition of 4G LTE capabilities (73Mbps) with models available for both Verizon and AT&T. More impressively, the new iPad will still offer roughly the same 9 hour battery life current iPad users have taken for granted. There’s also a world-ready 3G (HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA) version for globe trotters, and all cellar data models will feature new hotspot capabilities. Storage tiers remain the same, with 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB options available.

On the software side, you won’t find Apple’s Chatty Cathy, Siri, in iOS 5.1, but the iPad has now at least been equipped with voice dictation, activated by a new key on the on-screen keyboard. A variety of new retina-enabled apps were also announced at launch, including the iWork trio of app and a totally reinvented iPhoto for iPad that supports up to 19 megapixel photos. No small feat.

Overall, feature-crazed fan boys may develop a case of the Cupertino-let-downs, but we still think the latest iPad will maintain Apple’s stranglehold on the tablet market at least until this time next year. All models go on sale March 16 with pre-order starting today, though, so we won’t have to wait long to see how that prediction pans out.

Editor’s Note: As an exercise, we decided to write up this article last night based on the leaks, rumors, and speculation that monopolized tech publications over the last month. The Apple-zealots did a fairly thorough job of sucking the raw excitement out of a major product launch. Only a few minor mysteries, like the official product name, were still left up for Tim Cook to reveal during today’s announcement.

We love gadgets, but the obsession over breaking Apple news has officially depressed us. Whatever happened to the joy of surprise or the thrill of suspense? It’s fantasy we know, but we can’t help pine for the days when dissecting one company’s supply-chain and code ad nauseam wasn’t considered news. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Buy Now: Wi-Fi Only $499 (16B); $599 (32B); $699 (64GB) | 4G LTE $629 (16B); $729 (32B); $829 (64GB) (Available, March 16. Pre-order starting today)

ADVENTURE IS ONE CLICK AWAY

Subscribe to GP for a daily dose of the best in gear, adventure, design, tech and culture. 5pm sharp.