The new iPad: A perfect fit for research, teaching and learning?

new iPadApple announced the new iPad today, and it might be the best iPad ever for research, teaching and learning. Especially two features will make the iPad even more useful and popular among researchers and college students: the Retina Display and the 5-megapixel iSight camera. Read on for more details on how these two features will improve your academic workflow.

The Retina Display will make you think your new iPad is a printed book

The most exciting feature of the new iPad is its screen resolution. Instead of a 1024 x 768 resolution found in the original iPad and the iPad 2, the new iPad boasts a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels. What does this mean?

This means that the new iPad has a Retina Display, which is Apple’s fancy way of saying that your eyes won’t be physically able to distinguish between the different pixels on the screen under normal use (holding your iPad about 15 inches away from your eyes). In other words, text will appear much sharper and crisper on the new iPad.

With the current iPad/iPad 2 screen, smaller text is often blurry and pixelated, causing eye strain and fatigue due to the lack of cripsness. With the Retina Display, you will hardly notice a difference between the iPad screen and a printed book or journal article.

To get an idea of the Retina Display effect, you have to click on the following picture in order to see it in full size:

Comparison between display of iPad 2 and Retina Display of the new iPad

Apple has a demo on its website that lets you compare the display of the iPad 2 and the new iPad.

If you have access to an iPhone 4/4S (these guys already have a Retina Display) and an iPad/iPad2/iPhone 3GS (no Retina Display), you can compare the difference a Retina Display makes at home. Simply open up the same webpage on the iPhone 4/4S and on the other device and compare text between the two devices. If you are comparing an iPhone 4/4S to an iPad, make sure to zoom in on the iPhone so that the size of the text is roughly the same on both devices.

If you read a lot, you will love the new iPad

Since most things researchers and students read – journal articles, books, newspapers – tends to be printed in small letters, the new Retina Display is an absolute treat for everybody in university and college.

Patrick Thornton, who has written an excellent piece on what the new iPad’s Retina Display means for news organizations, nicely sums up the benefit of the Retina Display:

“The new iPad doubles the pixel density of the iPad 1 and 2, making individual pixels indiscernible from a normal operating distance. All of the sudden text pops like printed text, making reading more enjoyable and easier on the eyes.”

Use your new iPad as a mobile ad-hoc scanner

The second feature that will make the new iPad the star in your academic workflow is its improved camera. With 5-megapixel, backside illumination sensor, and other cool stuff that is already found in the iPhone 4S, the iSight camera of the new iPad is actually quite a decent one.

Just to be clear here: I don’t suggest that you run around taking snapshots with your iPad. That looks silly with an iPad 2, and even though the photo quality will be much better, it will also look silly with the new iPad. Proof:

Follow academiPad on twitter
Follow academiPad on twitter to get the freshest tips on boosting your workflow, and get the latest academiPad articles delivered right into your email inbox. [more info]

Taking a photo with iPad looks sillyI rest my case.

However, the iSight camera of the new iPad will be a great tool for your research workflow and for your studies, because you can use your new iPad as an ad-hoc scanner. For example, imagine you are reading a book for your latest research project, and page 66 is the most important part of that book. The camera quality of the new iPad should be decent enough to take a picture of that page, which can be then stored in your free Evernote account. Evernote will even make this page searchable, so you can always find it sometimes later.

Yes, you could do that with your iPhone as well, but chances are that you are already working with a note taking iPad app (e.g., Penultimate or NotesPlus). Having a decent camera on your new iPad therefore smoothes out your workflow.

Other features of the new iPad

Of course, there are other features that make the new iPad a great product: faster processor, more RAM, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and so on. You can check out the following video for more infos (Note for North-American readers: the pricing of the new iPad starts with the usual $499).


These other features are all nice to have, but if you are thinking about buying an iPad for university or college, then the Retina Display and the iSight camera of the new iPad are the most interesting ones. Especially the crisper text on the Retina Display will make the new iPad the perfect device for reading PDFs, books, and news. The new iPad is therefore finally the device we in academia have been waiting for!

My really only complaint with the new iPad is about the storage. Apple decided to stick with the 16, 32, 64 GB options, although many would have liked to see a bump here. Check out this article on how to select your new iPad model to read about my take on storage size, WiFi/4G capabilities, and even color.

UPDATE: I received my new iPad and experienced the heat issues you are hearing about first-hand. Is it an issue? Yes, it is. Read more about why I am returning my new iPad over the heat issue here.

Disclaimer: Retina Display comparison image by Apple. All videos by Techradar. Please consider sharing this article if you found it useful.

academiPad RSS feedDid you enjoy this article? Please join academiPad's RSS feed to get free updates with even more tips on research, teaching and learning! Here are six reasons why.


  1. Elora says:

    You mean I don’t have to pay for expert advice like this aynomre?!

  2. Raj says:

    I teach classes once or twice a semester. I was thinking of using the iPad as an interactive whiteboard along with my macbook. Any suggestions on how to go about it? The only thing meaningful I found so far was the Splashtop suite of apps.

  3. Wren M. says:

    Very interesting – thanks Jo! I am curious if you have heard any feedback on the quality of the dictation function yet? Specifically, would it be suitable for recording and/or transcribing interviews?

    • Jo says:

      Hey Wren,
      I can only report on what I have seen in the keynote. There, the dictation demo looked quite underwhelming: You would first say your sentence, then it would process, and a second later it would spit out the written text. It was not the live transcription that you know from the movies and (I believe) from Dragon/MacSpeech.
      So I don’t think you could transcribe the interview live as you go along, because it would be way too disruptive. How much it will be a useful tool for after the interview is done, for example whether you can playback or re-speak the interview and let the iPad do the transcribing, remains to be seen.

Join the Discussion