In preparation for tomorrow's iPad debut, some lucky techies got to test the thing out for more than just a few seconds, finding that the iPad is (SPOILER ALERT!)  just as great as they'd expected. The latest in Apple's tablet series looks just like its predecessor, but Apple claims to have jazzed up the insides with a better A5 dual core processor, retina display and 4G LTE capabilities. A few hands-on moments with the iGadget left the impression of a faster, sharper product. And, now, the more in depth reviewers confirm all of that.

Retina Display

Expectations: Sharp. This got the highest of reviews after Apple's announcement. Reviewers called it "drop-dead gorgeous," "transformative," and "absolutely stunning."

Actual: The 3.1 million pixel screen is sharper than one can even imagine, say the reviewers. 

  • "It’s hard to illustrate on a Web page or in print how brilliant this new display is" -- Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg
  • "It’s four times as sharp as the iPad 2 — in fact, it’s the sharpest ever on a mobile device ... In principle, that avalanche of pixels (and their increased color saturation) means that photos, videos, maps and text should look jaw-droppingly good — and, in apps that have been rewritten for the new screen, they do. Apple’s own apps, like Photos, Maps and iBooks, are just incredibly sharp and clear." -- The New York Times' David Pogue
  • "Yes, this display is outrageous. It's stunning. It's incredible. I'm not being hyperbolic or exaggerative when I say it is easily the most beautiful computer display I have ever looked at." -- The Verge's Joshua Topolsky
  • "Perhaps it’s unfair to say the older iPad screens look “blurry” compared to the new iPad. It’s more along the lines of 'fuzzy'." TechCrunch's MG Siegler 
  • "Reading on the big retina display is pure joy. Going back to the iPad 2 after reading for a few hours on the iPad 3 is jarring." Daring Fireball's John Gruber

Speed

Expectations: With a faster chip, the iPad felt "blissfully zippy," but it was unclear how it would hold up over longer periods of time. 

Actual: Fast, but not much faster than its predecessor. 

  • "The new iPad is just as buttery smooth to use as the iPad 2." --Mossberg
  • "In my testing I see no evidence that the processor in the iPad isn't every bit as powerful as it should be. While there's not some obvious speed boost in comparison to the previous generation iPad, there's certainly no stutter, stagger, or delay when using the tablet." -- Topolsky
  • "In terms of speed, the new iPad feels very fast. But the iPad 2 felt very fast." -- Siegler 
  • "But the A5X processor that powers the third-generation iPad doesn’t really offer more processing power than its predecessor. In all our processor-based tests, the new iPad ran about as fast as the iPad 2. (Which is not to say it’s slow—they’re the two fastest iOS devices ever.)" -- MacWorld's Jason Snell

4G LTE

Expectations: Apple didn't let anyone test this out before launch, but it, in theory should run faster than the iPad with just 3G.

Actual: Very fast compared to the 3G network, still not fast enough to run HD videos.

  • "On Verizon’s network in Washington and Austin, Texas, I averaged LTE download speeds of over 17 megabits per second, faster than most home wired networks. A colleague using a new iPad on AT&T’s LTE network averaged over 12 mbps. My iPad 2 running Verizon’s 3G network averaged just over 1 mbps." -- Mossberg
  • "Being on LTE flavor of 4G is really, really nice. Apps download quickly. Web pages appear fast. You don’t have to wait for videos to load before they start playing." -- Pogue
  • "Especially in these early days, when the networks aren’t crowded, LTE can deliver thunderous performance. On my test model, which runs on the AT&T network, I’ve clocked speeds over 40 megabits per second, which is faster than most home cable- modem connections." -- Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky
  • "On the data side of things, at least on Verizon's LTE network, this thing (unsurprisingly) screams." -- Topolsky

Battery Life

Expectations: All this power and beauty would suck up battery, even though Apple promised the same 9-10 hours as the iPad 2. 

Actual: Apple didn't lie, the battery lasts almost as long as the iPad 2, still within that range. It just makes the iPad heavier. 

  • "The new iPad logged 9 hours and 58 minutes, compared with 10 hours and 9 minutes for the iPad 2. Other tablets died hours sooner in the same test. In more normal use, the new iPad lasted more than a full day, though not as long as the iPad 2 did." -- Mossberg
  • "Apple, however, was determined to keep the iPad’s battery life unchanged from the last model: nine to 10 hours on a charge. In my all-day nonstop-usage test, it did manage nine hours ... To pull that off ... it incorporated a heavier battery." -- Pogue
  • "In a week of using the new model, I found battery life to be quite comparable to the iPad 2. That doesn’t sound like big news -- but it is. That’s because the new edition introduces support for the power-hungry 4G data networks known as LTE that are being rolled out in the U.S. by Verizon (VZ) Wireless and AT&T." -- Jaroslovsky
  • "As far as the battery life of the new iPad is concerned, I can say that the device pretty much lives up to Apple's ambitious claims. I ran our battery test on the device using both Wi-Fi and solely on Verizon's LTE network, and in both tests the rundown ended almost (but not exactly) where Apple says it should." -- Topolsky

Overall

Exepectations: Better than the iPad 2 and still the best tablet out there. 

Actual: Better than the iPad 2 and still the best tablet out there. 

  • "Since it launched in 2010, the iPad has been the best tablet on the planet. With the new, third-generation model, it still holds that crown." -- Mossberg
  • "If you’re in the market for a tablet, here’s the bright side: For the same price as before, you can now get an updated iPad that’s still better-looking, better integrated and more consistently designed than any of its rivals." -- Pogue
  • "If you’re at all interested in LTE in an Apple product, obviously, get a new iPad. If you read a lot on your iPad, get the new iPad. If you take a lot of photos and videos (yeah you, the joker in the front row of the concert with your iPad in the air), get the new iPad. If you play a lot of games on the iPad, get the new iPad. If you don’t yet have an iPad, get the new iPad." -- Siegler
  • "The retina display is amazing, everything in the UI feels faster, and the price points remain the same. What’s not to love? It’s that simple." -- Gruber