Apple's New iPad: Initial Impressions Positive

SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) - At first glance, the new iPad looks and feels a lot like its predecessor, the iPad 2, but there are plenty of cool new features lurking within Apple's ( AAPL) latest tablet.

TheStreet got a demo of Apple's latest product after the gadget giant's much-hyped launch event in San Francisco on Wednesday, and the initial impression was positive. Like the iPad 2, the new version of the tablet has a 9.7-inch diagonal screen, and is a virtually identical size and weight as the earlier model.

One of the first things you notice about the new iPad, though, is its crystal-clear display. Apple has extended its Retina Display technology from the iPhone to the iPad with the launch of the new tablet.

Retina Display gives the new iPad offering four times the number of pixels of an iPad 2, and the images I saw on the demo model on Wednesday were certainly super-sharp. Apple also increased the color saturation on the next-generation iPad by 44%, making the display even more vivid.

One of the most impressive things I saw on Wednesday, though, was the new iPhoto for iOS app, using my fingers to retouch photos on the iPad screen. By tapping and holding my finger to the screen I could adjust image brightness and contrast, a strange sensation that felt almost like reaching into the iPad's display. Another iPhoto feature, called "brushes," lets you saturate an image with color or even fade it, sort of like taking an eraser to a digital image (all via my finger, of course).

I also got a quick look at the new version of Garage Band, specifically the Smart Strings feature, which lets users play string instruments by tapping the iPad screen.

The biggest selling point of the new iPad for most users is likely to be its support for 4G LTE, opening up high-speed networks from AT&T ( T) and Verizon ( VZ) to iPad zealots. The device's 5-megapixel iSight camera with 1080p HD video, similar to the one in on the iPhone 4S, will also be a welcome addition to the iPad family.

The third version of the iPad also comes with a new quad-core A5X chip, which is said to offer double the graphics performance of the iPad 2's A5 processor.

Clearly, Apple hopes to continue its phenomenal tablet momentum with the third incarnation of the iPad. The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm sold a record 15.4 million iPads during its recent fiscal first quarter, up from 7.3 million in the same period last year. The tech giant has sold more than 55 million iPads since launching the tablet in early 2010.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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