The best high-definition display on the market today will not be found on any large, expensive flat-panel television. It is on the third-generation iPad, which starts selling in Hong Kong and nine other markets from today.
People, however, will need to see the device in the store to fully appreciate the 9.7-inch HD display.
Apple's latest media tablet costs the same as the iPad 2 did when it was rolled out last year, with prices for the Wi-fi-ready version starting at HK$3,888. It is also simply called 'iPad', eliminating any numerical or physical brand distinction.
The new iPad offers practically the same design, size and weight as the previous version. Its most striking feature is the 'Retina display', a screen technology that Apple first introduced on the iPhone 4 in 2010.
A side-by-side comparison of the new iPad and the iPad 2 - in an unlit room - playing the HD trailer for upcoming computer-animated movie Despicable Me 2, showed the updated device delivers crisper and more vibrant colours. The blue outfit, yellow skin and brown eyes of movie villain Gru's minions appear richer and somewhat more lifelike.
When reading the electronic version of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations on the iBook application, the text and graphic icons appear sharper on the new device. Photographs on the South China Morning Post's iPad app are also shown in finer detail.
That performance would buttress Apple's claim that the Retina display offers 2048-by-1536 resolution, more than the 1920-by-1080 resolution on a typical HD television. The new iPad also delivers 3.1 million pixels, a million more than a HD television and four times that of the iPad 2.
Market research firm IHS iSuppli said most of the initial shipments of the new iPad would have displays built by Samsung. Smaller quantities would have displays from LG Display and Sharp, but these suppliers were expected to ramp up production in the second quarter to meet demand.
The other key feature of the updated iPad is the Apple-designed A5X chip, with so-called quad-core graphics, that drives the 3.1 million pixels in the display. It also makes the iPad incredibly responsive in playing 3D video games, editing photos, or simple things like swiping, scrolling and pinching on screen.
It also has a new 5-megapixel camera on the back that supports full HD video recording, a front camera for video-conferencing via Apple's FaceTime app, a dictation function, battery life of up to 10 hours per charge, and fast wireless connection, including on high-speed 4G networks based on the standard called 'Long Term Evolution' (LTE). The new iPad is available in three capacities - 16 gigabyte, 32 gigabyte and 64 gigabyte - and two models: Wi-fi and Wi-fi plus 4G, which also supports existing 3G networks. The Wi-fi version is the initial model available in Hong Kong.
Stephen Chau Kam-kun, chief technology officer at 3G operator SmarTone Telecommunications, said: 'The current LTE-ready iPad being launched in the US only supports either 700-megahertz or 2100- megahertz LTE bands, which means it will not work in any LTE network in Hong Kong.'
Rival operator CSL, which runs an LTE network on the 2600-megahertz band, said users of the Wi-fi iPad could still access its fast 4G network through a service called '4G LTE Pocket Wi-fi'. The 4G-ready iPad supports a maximum, theoretical internet download speed of up to 73 megabits per second.