Apple finally announced the followup to the popular iPad 2. This new device, simply called the new iPad, boasts a slew of features and specs that are pretty great. And while there’s no denying that Apple’s latest iPad is an awesome gadget, is it really that much better than its predecessor?

Let’s start by taking a look at the chips that power each tablet. The iPad 2 is rockin’ the Apple A5 processor. This dual-core chip contains 512 MB RAM clocked at 533 MHz. You’ll also find one of these in the iPhone 4S, and it’s definitely fast… just not as fast as the A5X.

Apple’s latest custom chip is all about the graphics. It offers quad-core graphics performance that’s reportedly double what the A5 offers and quadruple what the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip can provide.

Apple has a tendency exaggerate claims like this, so that may not be entirely accurate, but one thing’s for sure – the A5X chip is fast. It’ll take gaming on the iPad to a whole new level.

Next, we have the display. The iPad 2 has a respectable 9.7-inch screen with a 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi). The screen on the iPad 2 is bright and clear and, honestly, I’ve never had an issue with it.

That being said, it’s no comparison to the Retina display on the new iPad. With a 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch, this screen is sharp, bright, colorful and the clear winner here. Seeing as the screen is the defining characteristic of the gadget, the Retina display is the new iPad’s greatest appeal.

Moving on, the next major difference between the iPad 2 and the new iPad is the camera. The original iPad has a back camera with a resolution Apple doesn’t even want to publish. It takes photos at 1280 by 720 pixel resolution, but the images are grainy and pretty low-quality. As far as video is concerned, the iPad 2 can record in 720p HD at 30 frames per second.

The new iPad, on the other hand, boasts a 5-megapixel iSight camera on the back that utilizes the same technology in the iPhone 4S to maximize photo quality. What’s more, the new iSight cam can record in full 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second and it also features video stabilization. Both devices also feature front-facing FaceTime cameras that take VGA-quality stills and video at up to 30 frames per second.

The design of the new iPad is virtually identical to the iPad 2, with a few minor exceptions. Both devices feature the same 9.7-inch screen size, they’re the same hight (9.50 inches), the same width (7.31 inches), and both come in black or white.

The new iPad is slightly thicker than the iPad 2 (9.4 mm vs. 8.8 mm) to accommodate the components required for the upgraded features. It also weighs about 50 grams more, with slight variation based on which models you’re comparing.

As far as networks go, both iPad generations are available on AT&T, Verizon, or Wi-Fi only. The big difference here is 4G LTE. The iPad 2 runs on the 3G network of whatever carrier it’s on. The new iPad marks Apple’s first entrance into the 4G game, which is the next generation in mobile network technology.

Basically, all you have to know is that it’s much faster. This has been one of the most-requested iPad features for quite some time. If you’re interested in a 4G model, you should know that it does require a monthly fee with the price depending on how much data you sign up for. But, unlike the iPhone’s data plan, you do not have to sign a contract and can cancel your 4G service at any time. Check out Apple’s website for full pricing details.

Battery life is identical on both devices. You’ll get up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music, and up to 9 hours of surfing the web using cellular data network. No matter which way you look at it, that’s impressive. Not to mention the standby time is approximately a month. Battery life on the iPad 2 was incredible, and the new iPad continues with that tradition.

So there you have it. The new iPad does offer some clear advantages over the iPad 2, most notably the beautiful Retina display and the super fast processor and network. It’s really up to you to decide if those features are worth upgrading for.

If you decide that they are, the Wi-Fi only new iPad starts at $499 for 16 gigabytes, then jumps to $599 for 32 gigs and $699 for 64 gigs. If you opt for a 4G model, add $130 to each of those prices. It’s also worth noting that the iPad 2 is still available at $399 for Wi-Fi only, and $529 for 3G (both are 16-gig only).

What do you guys think of the new iPad? Share your opinions in the comments section below

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