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Third-generation iPad: What you need to know

Macworld Staff | March 9, 2012
With Apple’s Wednesday introduction of the third-generation iPad, many of the questions people and pundits have spent the past few months obsessing over have been answered—but not all.

How much RAM is in the new iPad?

Apple’s tech specs webpage doesn’t include information about the amount of RAM in the new iPad, although we’ve heard through the tech grapevine that it has 1GB, compared to just 512MB in the iPad 2. We’re sure our friends over at iFixit will take apart a new iPad soon enough, and will be able to give us a definitive answer.

What’s new about the processor? What about improved graphics?

The iPhone 4S and iPad 2 are both powered by a custom-designed A5 system-on-a-chip processor. The new iPad gets a significant bump in power thanks to a new, dual-core A5X processor, which also contains a quad-core graphics processing unit (GPU). Apple claims the A5X’s graphics performance is four times that of the Tegra 3 chip used in many competing tablets, although the company doesn’t indicate the metric it’s using.. In addition, that improved graphics capability lets app developers increase the level of detail in their apps—and take advantage of the new Retina display.

Does the new iPad offer 4G/LTE wireless, or is it still just 3G?

Like its predecessors, the new iPad is available in versions with just Wi-Fi and versions with both Wi-Fi and cellular networking capabilities. But this time around, the cellular models include 4G/LTE wireless, along with additional 3G-network compatibility. The AT&T model supports AT&T’s 700 and 2100 MHz LTE networks; The Verizon model supports Verizon’s 700 MHz LTE networks.

Both models are 3G capable, supporting 850, 900, 1900, and 2100 MHz UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA networks and 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz GSM/EDGE networks. The Verizon model also supports Verizon’s own 800 and 1900 MHz CDMA networks.

That may not mean much to the average person, but the main differences from the previous iPad are the additions of three faster wireless technologies: LTE, HSDPA, and HSPA+, which offer theoretical maximum download speeds of 73, 42, and 21 Mbps, respectively, compared with a maximum HSPA download speed of 7.2 Mbps on the iPad 2.

We don’t yet have details about all non-U.S. carriers, but Apple has announced that the new iPad also works with LTE on Bell, Rogers, and Telus in Canada.

Are there still different versions for Verizon and AT&T’s networks?

Essentially, yes. As we said, AT&T and Verizon are using the same 4G technology, LTE, but the two carriers have different frequency bands, meaning that you still need to choose whether you’re going to go with Verizon or AT&T at the time of purchase. The Verizon version can fall back to either CDMA (in the U.S.) or GSM (overseas) for 3G, the AT&T version can only fall back to GSM.


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