It’s not often that a product upgrade press conference rates the full live-blogging treatment, but Apple has once again achieved that rarefied status with today’s unveiling of its third-generation iPad.

Here are the basics. There are no earth-shattering advances, but the latest iPad (no numbers, suffixes or other name qualifiers) will be able to connect to the Internet on 4G LTE networks – something the market-dominating tablet’s devotees have been dreaming of – via a Verizon Wireless or AT&T subscription in the U.S. and Rogers, Bell, and Telus in other countries. It will be even more capable of taking advantage of that bandwidth too, being faster and with improved graphics thanks to Apple’s own A5X chip with quad-core graphics.

One of the fun new capabilities this makes possible is that Apple’s GarageBand music software now enables up to four people to play in a virtual band with wirelessly connected iPads.

On the visual side, the iPad now boasts an even better screen than its predecessors, one that Apple is calling a Retina display. It also has a 5 megapixel still and video camera that faces both front and rear, and it comes with an improved version of iPhoto for editing those pictures.

For those outside of the U.S. or of a geekier nature, the iPad connectivity supports LTE  (up to 72Mbps), HSPA+ (21Mbps) and dual carrier HSDP (42Mbps), and now both CDMA and GSM. It can also be used as a personal hotspot with up to five other devices.

Pre-orders are available starting today, with the official release set for March 16. Prices will start at $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model, with 4G LTE versions starting at $629. The company said it will continue to sell the year-old iPad 2 for $399 and up, a price drop of $100.

Related links:

Apple – press release

Reuters – Apple’s Cook lifts lid on newest, 4G-powered iPad

New York Times – Apple Updates iPad With Modest Changes

Wall Street Journal – Apple Unveils New iPad With 4G LTE

Mercury News – Live blog: Apple’s new iPad will start at $499, be available March 16

Ars Technica – Apple’s iPad with retina display, quad core graphics ships March 16

The Register – The new iPad revealed: Full specs, rumor scorecard

USA Today – Live coverage: Apple unveils 4G iPad