Apple (Nasdaq:  AAPL) announced a new version of the bestselling iPad 2, dubbed the iPad HD, priced from $499, CEO Tim Cook announced Wednesday.

The new tablet features high-definition TV reception, EVP for Marketing Phil Schiller said, a retina display similar to that on the iPhone 4S with 1,298 by 1,536 pixels or more than 3 million pixels, or picture elements, for HD viewing.

It is amazing, Cook said of the new iPad. We've taken it to an amazing new level, the new Apple CEO said at a product introduction. Apple has sold more than 55 million iPad tablets in only two years.

Apple executives said the iPad HD will be priced from $499 to as much as $829.

Schiller claimed that with the improved display, TV reception will be better but readers of character-based languages, especially Chinese and Japanese, will find it easier to use for reading.

The improvement is an obvious ploy to extend Apple's sales reach into the fast-growing China market.

The new product will be available March 16 in the U.S., Britain and some other countries and 25 more countries in March 23, Schiller said.

The new device, whose name hasn't been officially announced yet, uses a new A5x chip from ARM Holdings with a new iSight camera.

In addition, because it will use new 4G long-term evolution (LTE) services, its initial telecommunications partners will be Verizon Wireless and AT&T, officials said.

Apple also announced a new version of Apple TV device, which will be available next week, will also connect with the company's iPhone 4S using the iCloud.

The Cupertino, Calif. company sold only about 1.5 million Apple TVs last year.

Cook and other senior executives are conducting a product introduction in San Francisco, where they are expected to announce the successor to the iPad 2 tablet.

Apple shares are up $3.02 at $533.55  in afternoon trading.