The wait for the new 3G iPad is finally over. I have my hands on the new 64GB Wi-Fi 3G model as I write this, complete with a $30-a-month data plan from AT&T.
After month one of hopping in and out of Wi-Fi hotspots using the Wi-Fi only version, I can safely say the 3G functionality dramatically changes the way I use this device. Let there be no doubt, the new 3G is superior.
For an extra $130, not much is different from the Wi-Fi model. The screen looks the same, the speakers just as loud, and finger prints just as smudgy. Although I couldn't tell, Apple says the 3G model is about a tenth of a pound heavier than its older cousin.
The only obvious design difference is a black plastic bar along the backside instead of the previous all-aluminum enclosure. I'll give you one guess what that's for. You guessed it. The plastic area lets the cellular antennae work its cell magic. There's also a barely visible micro SIM card slot along the side.
Before surfing the Internet, I was prompted to sign up for an AT&T data plan. There are two choices: a 250MB plan for $15-per-month and an unlimited data plan for $30-per-month. There's no contract so I can switch my plan each month or cancel altogether without a penalty. This is the biggest selling point of the 3G model; you can always cancel the plan and still use the Wi-Fi functionality, but you can't do the reverse and add 3G to the cheaper Wi-Fi model.
I've covered the features of the iPad in another review. While I won't repeat myself, I do want to highlight video streaming. I was impressed with the video playback streaming over AT&T's cell network. After launching the Netflix application, it took 8 seconds for a two-hour Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie to start streaming.
The video quality wasn't Wi-Fi streaming quality, but it looked just fine. I watched an hour of the video without it stopping or buffering. In case you're wondering, the episode was called "Laserblast." And yes, it was terrible, as it should be.
Apple has delivered on battery life too. The Cupertino, Calif., company claims 9 hours of battery on the 3G model and 10 hours on the Wi-Fi version. With heavy Internet use and video streaming, I clocked in just under 10 hours on the 3G iPad. Not bad for a large cell phone!
The bottom line, if you're considering an iPad purchase and you plan to take it outside of your house for any length of time, be it the park, the bus, the train, or the Internet free zone at the grandparents' house, the always connected 3G is the sure way to go. Without the Internet, the iPad is a severely handicapped device. Trust me, you're going to want the Internet. After all, this is the best Internet browsing device I've ever used.
Clayton Morris is a Fox and Friends host and the tech godfather behind the Gadgets and Games show. Follow Clayton's adventures online on Twitter @ClaytonMorris and by reading his daily updates at his blog.