After months of speculation and endless rumors, it’s official: Apple has unveiled the next iPad. Simpley dubbed “iPad,” the third generation of Apple’s post-PC device will be hitting stores on March 16th at prices Apple consumers are already familiar with. But what’s in the iPad 3, and more importantly, why should it matter to gamers?

Before we get too far into the discussion on the new iPad, it’s probably important to look back at our thoughts on last year’s iPad 2 announcement. At the time, we weren’t too sold on the new set of features that the device had to offer, and sort of worked with the assumption that developers wouldn’t make games exclusively designed for the A5 chip for fear of losing out on first gen iPad install base. As it turns out, we weren’t totally correct on that. Over the last year a handful of great games have debuted exclusively on the iPad 2, and now, with the new iPad’s chipset unveiled, we can’t help but think that the same will happen for this third iteration.

So what goodies has Apple decided to deliver us in the third gen iPad?

  • Retina Display – 2048 x 1536 pixels. 44% greater color saturation. 3.1 million pixels. “The most ever in a mobile device” according to Apple’s Phil Schiller
  • A5X processor, quad-core graphics
  • Improved camera, 1080p video recording (pretty much what’s in the iPhone 4S)
  • Voice dictation
  • 4G LTE wireless, can be a hotspot if your carrier allows it

There’s no doubt that we’re excited to see the Retina Display – the lack of one was our biggest gripe at the iPad 2 launch – but more important is the A5X processor that’s going to be able to power some amazing visuals on it. During the presentation, it was described as being “twice as fast” and having “four times the? performance” of Tegra 3 devices. Bold claims to be sure.

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image via Engadget

Namco’s James Shelton took to the stage to show off their upcoming Sky Gamblers, telling those in the audience that “the extra graphics performance lets us increase the level of detail of everything in the game.” Between the demonstration of his title and the showing off of Epic Games upcoming Infinity Blade: Dungeons, it seems that few at the show would disagree with that.

The feature that may end up being a real gaming star in time, though, could be iPad 3’s new voice detection. Nothing has been confirmed about this working in any fashion other than as a replacement for the on-screen keyboard, but still – the potential is there. Games that incorporate the use of voice have never really been all that mainstream, but that hasn’t stopped titles from Seaman to EndWar from offering up a neat take on a typically unexplored niche. If the technology powering this gets opened up to developers in some way, just imagine how many weird and wonderful projects developers could dream up.

Our speculation about the dark horse potential of voice detection aside, Apple seems to have packed more than enough under the hood to make this one a worthy upgrade for gamers – especially those still sporting a first gen post-PC device. Same prices as before, folks; 16GB $499, 32GB $599, 64GB $699; and the same sizes with 4G LTE are $629, $729, $829 respectively. The third iPad will be available on March 16th, but as usual, you can pre-order on Apple’s website right now.

Oh Appleā€¦ Will you ever take a year off and let your faithful save a few shillings?