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Months of fevered speculation about what Apple might have planned for its new iPad model ended last week, with the launch of a new model.

Although it looks much like the model it’s destined to replace, ‘the new iPad’ (as Apple calls it) brings a handful of new features, the most notable being an extremely high-resolution screen.

The new iPad’s screen is four times the resolution of the iPad 2’s (2048 x 1536, compared to 1024 x 768).

In Apple’s parlance, that means it has the same kind of ‘retina display’ as the iPhone 4 and 4S — the pixels are too small to be distinguished when the screen is held at the normal viewing distance, in other words.

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How much practical difference this makes remains to be seen (no pun intended), but it will make small text on web pages significantly easier to read and make the iPad much more suited to viewing high resolution photographs.

In fact Apple also launched a version of its Mac iPhoto application designed specifically for the iPad, which means the new model could be used instead of a laptop for viewing and editing photos on the move.

Although the iPad is a little on the large side for taking photographs with, Apple has also improved the digital camera on the new model and it now sports a 5-megapixel snapper.

The new iPad is also more powerful than the previous model, but battery life is reckoned to be the same at around 10 hours from a single charge.

The other major addition is support for 4G mobile internet, a technology that delivers home broadband-like speeds on the move. The only catch being is that 4G isn’t available in the UK yet.

Mobile phone network operators are still at the testing stage for 4G in the UK and it’s unlikely to be widely available until at least 2015 — just in time for the iPad 6.

Fortunately, the new iPad will still work with 3G networks when 4G isn’t available.

Prices for the new iPad are unchanged from the iPad 2, with the 16GB Wi-Fi model costing £399 and the 16GB Wi-Fi + 4G model £499.

It goes on sale this Friday, but expect long queues in high street stores and a few weeks’ wait if buying by mail order.

Tablet buyers on a tight budget, however, might be more interested in the iPad 2, since Apple has lopped £80 off the price with the launch of the new model.

That means the 16GB Wi-Fi model costs just £329, which makes it a bit of a bargain and well worth considering if the extremely high-resolution screen of the new iPad isn’t a major concern.

[The new iPad]