Apple Announces New iPad with ‘Retina’ Display, Same Old Name

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Apple today announced its newest iPad, with a 2048-by-1536-pixel “Retina” display as the featured attraction. And it’s simply called the new “iPad,” not the iPad 3 or iPad HD as rumored.

This year’s iPad update is mostly about speeds and feeds–raw hardware power, that is–in a device that otherwise looks similar to last year’s iPad 2. (It’s actually a bit thicker and heavier, at 0.37 inches and 1.4 pounds compared to the iPad 2’s .34 inches and 1.33 pounds.)

(MORE: Apple iPad Event Live Coverage)

The new iPad’s display has a pixel density of 264 ppi (pixels per inch). That’s lower than the 326 ppi of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, but Apple argues that it’s still a “Retina” display because the eyes can’t distinguish individual pixels at about 15 inches away, where people are likely to hold the tablet.

Inside the third-generation iPad, there’s a dual-core A5X processor with quad-core graphics capabilities. According to Apple, the A5X offers four times the performance of NVidia’s quad-core Tegra 3, which has begun to appear in some rival Android tablets. The iPad’s rear-facing camera also got a spec boost to 5-megapixels, with a 5-element lens, IR filter, auto exposure and auto focus.

The iPad will be Apple’s first device with 4G LTE, from both AT&T and Verizon. Theoretically, 4G LTE speeds can reach 73 Mbps, compared to 7.2 Mbps for 3G, but that’s unlikely to happen in the real world. Apple didn’t announce an iPad for Sprint’s network.

(MORE: Techland Explains 4G)

The iPad’s biggest advantage over the competition may have little to do with new hardware. During the demo, Cook compared the Yelp and Twitter iPad apps with their Android tablet counterparts, noting that the Android versions are nothing more than blown-up smartphone apps, while the iPad versions have been designed for the larger display. Later in the event, Apple brought out game developer Namco to show off a 3D air combat game called Sky Gamblers. Design software creator Autodesk to demonstrate an app Sketchbook Ink.

“Competitive tablets aren’t gaining traction,” Cook said.

(MORE: PHOTOS: Apple Announces New iPad)

The only oft-rumored feature that Apple didn’t bring to the new iPad is Siri, the virtual assistant that debuted in the iPhone 4S last year. However, the new iPad will include voice dictation via a microphone button on the software keyboard.

The new iPad will launch on March 16. Prices are $499 for a 16 GB model, $599 for 32 GB and $699 for 64 GB. All 4G models will cost $130 extra. The 16 GB iPad 2 will stick around for $399, or $529 with 3G.

In addition to third-party apps, Apple is updating its iMovie and GarageBand apps for iPad, and launching a version of iPhoto. Apple also announced a new Apple TV, with 1080p video streaming and an updated user interface.

(MORE: Tablets: ‘Why Should Somebody Buy This Instead of an iPad?’)