8 things you need to know about the new iPad  Get ready for a brand-new iPad—one with an eye-popping display, faster performance, and support for speedy wireless data. But if you were hoping for a thinner iPad, well … bad news. Also: don’t call it the “iPad 3.”

Read on for 8 things you need to know about the latest iPad, starting with…

1. It’s called, er … the “new” iPad

At first, everyone assumed the new iPad would be called the iPad 3; after all, last year’s iPad was the iPad 2, right?

Then, in the days leading up to Apple’s announcement Wednesday, there was heavy speculation that the next-generation iPad would be called the “iPad HD,” referring to its gorgeous new display. (More on that in a moment.)

But when Apple CEO Tim Cook finally unveiled the new iPad, he called it … well, “the new iPad,” plain and simple. Huh.

2. It’s a little thicker and heavier than the iPad 2

At first blush, the new iPad (or the “iPad New,” perhaps?) looks practically the same as its predecessor.

With a girth of 0.37 inches, though, the next-gen iPad is a tad thicker than the 0.34 inch-thick iPad 2—and at 1.4 pounds, it’s a bit heavier, too.

3. It boasts a new, razor-sharp “retina” display

With a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels—for a total of 3.1 million pixels, or a million more pixels than on a 1080p HDTV screen—the new iPad’s new display is four times sharper than the iPad 2’s 1024-by-768 screen, and it promises to look just as sharp as the “retina” display on the iPhone 4 and 4S.

(For the record, the iPad’s version of the retina display packs in 264 pixels per inch, or a little less than 326 “ppi” for the iPhone 4S’s screen. Still, good luck telling the difference with the naked eye.)

8 things you need to know about the new iPad

The new iPad: brighter, faster, but also a little thicker.

Of course, powering a 2048 by 1536-pixel display takes quite a bit of horsepower—and indeed, Apple announced a new chip, its so-called “A5X,” complete with quad-core graphics (think four graphics processors on a single chip) to make it all happen.

4. It connects to speedy 4G LTE data networks

Yes, the new iPad does 4G LTE data through both AT&T and Verizon Wireless. That’s the good news; the bad news is that there’s still no iPad for Sprint or T-Mobile. Also, you’ll still have to buy a specific iPad model depending on which carrier you go with, at least as far as AT&T and Verizon are concerned.

5. It doubles as a mobile hotspot

At last, you’ll be able to share your iPad’s data connection with other nearby gadgets via Wi-Fi, just as you can with the iPhone. Expect to pay extra for the privilege, though.

6. It comes with improved camera

The new, 5-megapixel “iSight” camera on the back of the latest iPhone now boasts features like 1080p video recording (versus 720p for the iPad 2), image stabilization for steadying your video clips, and face detection for zeroing in on smiling mugs.

7. It won’t cost any more than the iPad 2 did

The new iPad will still start at $499 for the 16 GB version, same as the iPad 2. A 32 GB “new” iPad will go for $599, while the 64 GB iPad sells for $699. If you want an iPad that does 4G and Wi-Fi, expect to pay $130 extra—think $629 for the 16 GB verision, $729 for the 32 GB model, and so on.

8. It’ll land in stores March 16

And pre-orders start today, although Apple’s servers already seem to be buckling under the strain of eager customers.

And one more thing… 

Looking for a bargain? Apple is now selling last year’s iPad 2 with a $100 price cut—meaning the cheapest iPad is now the 16 GB iPad 2, for $399.