Third-generation iPad has retina display, LTE and quad-core graphics processor

Apple CEO Tim Cook attempts to balance a giant iPad on his head. Photo: Robert Galbrath/Reuters

Apple's third-generation iPad, announced today in San Francisco, has an ultra-HD 2048×1536 display, an A5X chip with "quad-core graphics", HD video recording at 1080p, and access to LTE cellular networks operated by AT&T and Verizon.

"Everyone's been wondering who will come out with a product that's more amazing that the iPad 2," Apple CEO Tim Cook told gathered reporters. "Stop wondering. We are."

The new screen meets the requirements of what Apple describes as a "Retina" display: pixels so small and dense that the eye cannot distinguish them individually at a normal viewing distance. Cook, presenting the new gadget, said that the new display offered 40 percent better color saturation.

With a new 5-megapixel sensor and a custom image processor, the iPad's camera matches the specs of the iPhone 4S's 4's (the 4S's camera is 8 megapixel). On the software front, Apple pitched a new voice dictation service; part of iOS 5.1, released today.

More exciting to iPad-toting photographers is mobile iPhoto, which has a swipe-driven interface, photo journals, editing brushes, filters, and a tool to "beam" pictures between devices. Musicians can now collaborate in Garage Band over Wi-Fi, too, and gamers will get faster, more detailed 3D titles–demoed was the new version of hit beat-em-up Infinity Blade.

The new iPad's design is superficially similar to the last model. Though a fraction thicker than the previous generation–perhaps due to the LTE chipsets and increased battery requirements–it remains less than a centimeter thick. Pricing was largely unchanged: a basic 16GB Wi-Fi model with no cellular radio will cost $499, as before. The 4G models, however, start at $629.

The last-gen iPad drops in price to $399: though the machine is old news, the bargain price will be painful for rival tablet-makers like Samsung and Sony, already struggling to catch up.

Also announced was a new version of Apple TV, the hockey puck-sized box that streams movies and shows over iTunes. Improvements include 1080p and a new user interface. The price remains $99.

Earlier, Cook highlighted changes in Apple's business over recent years, illustrating a trend away from personal computers and toward portable gadgets. "Post-PC" devices, such as cellphones and tablets running iOS, now account for 76 percent of Apple's revenues. It sold more than 172m of them last year, many at Apple's expanding chain of 362 retail stores.