Two years after: a brief review of my iPad 3

iPad 3 unboxing

The first thing I thought the other day, when I found the receipt from my iPad purchase and saw it was from June 2012, was: It’s been two years, really? Because you see, this device doesn’t feel aged one bit.

The third-generation iPad ended up to be the unlucky member of the family: short-lived (both the iPad 2 and the iPad 4 have lasted longer), and quickly unappreciated (It’s slow! – It gets hot! – etc.). Well, it turned out to be a great device and a great value for me. It never had a single issue. And, as I said, it doesn’t feel old at all, both from a hardware and software perspective.

Of course I was a bit bummed when Apple announced the fourth-generation iPad just three months after I purchased my iPad 3, but then again, I was already enjoying the most important feature I wanted in an iPad — the Retina display — so the initial delusion of holding in my hands what had just become an ‘old device’ rapidly vanished.

Battery life

The second great feature of my iPad 3 after the display is its battery life. When new, Apple claimed that one charge would last “Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music,” and in my experience it was a rather conservative estimate. I’ve been using my iPad 3 (Wi-Fi only, 32 GB, black) a lot every day since I bought it and, with moderate-to-heavy use, a single charge lasts two, sometimes three days. What eats up the battery is the occasional graphics-demanding game or app, but for the rest there’s really nothing to report.

Most importantly, though, is that in two years I haven’t really noticed any worsening in battery performance. My iPad usage patterns haven’t really changed, nor have my recharging habits: when I get the 10% Battery Left warning, I plug the iPad in until it’s fully recharged or at least past 85% if I need to take it with me and can’t wait until it’s at 100%.

Slow? Hot? Your mileage may vary

Back in November 2013, Marco Arment wrote in “Significantly hotter” that the iPad 3 had a “lopsided performance and it ran noticeably warm even under normal loads.” In a footnote, he further explained the reason of such performance:

Its A5X [processor] had more GPU power to drive the increased pixel area, but it had the same CPU cores as the iPad 2’s A5. So, while most purely-GPU operations performed decently, any CPU-bound operations on pixel data could perform much worse, as they were processing data for four times as many pixels with the same CPU power.

For developers, the iPad 3 remains one of the hardest iOS devices — possibly the hardest — to support for games and custom animations.

My impression as a user is that this technical explanation paints a grimmer picture than a direct, continued experience with the device itself. In two years of use, I never noticed any particular struggling in the iPad 3’s performance. Perhaps many developers have done a great job at supporting it, because even graphics-intensive games such as Asphalt 7 never felt slow or choppy. In my household we also have an iPad 2 and I’ve tried many times to compare the two devices by making them run similar tasks, but I never found any particularly striking difference in their performance.

In other words, the iPad 3 may be an underwhelming performer from a purely technical standpoint. In use, it doesn’t feel slow. (Of course, if you own an iPad 4 or an iPad Air and you need to borrow my iPad, it will feel slow to you, but that’s expected.)

And from where I stand, I also think that the whole matter of the iPad 3’s hotness is a bit exaggerated. In use, my iPad 3 does feel warm after a while, but not ‘annoyingly’ warm, and definitely not hot. Granted, I use it with a case, but it’s a thin Belkin case: if the device got very hot, I would notice.

Another thing that has never bothered me about the iPad 3 (and seems to have bothered other people, Arment included) is the weight. Perhaps I’m just accustomed to lugging portable devices that aren’t exactly lightweight (12-inch PowerBook G4: 2.1 Kg; 15-inch Titanium PowerBook G4: 2.4 Kg; 15-inch MacBook Pro: 2.49 Kg; 17-inch PowerBook G4: 3.1 Kg; Newton MessagePad 2100: 640 g; eMate 300: 1.8 Kg), so the 650 grams of the iPad 3 don’t seem such a big deal after all.

32 GB was wise in retrospect

Maybe 16 GB makes sense if you’re on a very, very tight budget. But while I usually manage with 16 GB on an iPhone, a 16 GB iPad felt already cramped in 2012. Admittedly I had a tight budget and was tempted to make an impulse purchase and get the 16 GB model right after the iPad 3 was announced in March 2012, but I decided to wait a bit more and go for the 32 GB model. It was a wise decision: looking in Settings → General → Usage, at the moment I have 2 GB available, 25.8 GB used, and the majority of the space is occupied by apps, their data, and documents, since Music and Photos together take up only 4 GB or so. I have a lot of apps installed.

Conclusion

I’m still very happy with my iPad 3. Its battery life is still great, the device handles iOS 7 rather well, it doesn’t feel slow or obsolete, and for now I’m not feeling a particular urge to upgrade to a more recent model. This iPad 3 has handled satisfactorily any task I’ve been throwing at it for the past two years. The 579 Euros it cost me have been one of my best investments in recent times.

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!