By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
The 4th Generation iPad was the most unexpected Apple product of 2012. While everyone was predicting and pining for an iPad mini, it seemed inconceivable that Apple would update their flagship tablet just months after launching the impressive iPad with Retina Display A.K.A iPad 3.
At first glance, the 4th Generation iPad looks and probably feels like a minor upgrade. It is physically identical to its predecessor save for that new Lightning connector which replaces the Dock Connector. Outside of this, the dimensions, colours, size and weight are nearly the same.
iFixit did a teardown of the iPad 4 and compared it to the previous verion on a component level. While most consumers don't really bother with how the sausage is made, there are still some interesting variances.
According to iFixit, the iPad 3 had a Samsung LCD panel while the iPad 4's Retina Display is made by LG. Also, the new Lightning connector didn't free up any space and sits in a frame where the old dock connecotr stood. Check out iFixit's fascinating teardown of the iPad 4.
To get a clearer and more in-depth look at the general functionality and experience of the 4th Generation iPad with Retina Display, check out my iPad 3 review which puts the earlier model through its paces. Performance is really the area where the iPad 4 separates itself.
Fire up the 4th Generation iPad and that’s when the differences become more obvious. Overall performance speed is notably increased, switching from app to app feels more instantaneous and you realize where the big overhaul has taken place
The iPad 3 had a 1GHz A5X processor, 1GB or RAM and a formidable quad-core PowerVR graphics processor which gave it tremendous speed required to push pixels on the Retina Display.
The iPad 4 gets a new A6X dual-core processor clocked at 1.4GHz and an improved quad-core graphics that Apple says is twice as fast in most use cases than the previous model.
I confirmed this, at least with load times on some games like Batman: Arkham City Lockdown.
That game loaded two to three seconds faster on the new iPad instantly making the previous version feel slower in relation.
The speed increase is also notable when loading complex websites with the new iPad a good step ahead of the older model.
Consider that the iPad 3 is so much faster in most tasks than many competing tablets and you understand that the new iPad 4 has just put a tonne of distance between itself and the competition.
So, overall performance is impressive and something owners of older iPad will quickly pick up on.
The other upgrades are in the front-facing FaceTime cameras which are now 1.2MP replacing the previous version’s 0.3 MP.
This makes for a better video experience when using FaceTime or Skype. Less ghosting and pixelation and an overall better looking picture.
The rear camera also receives a nice upgrade as well. It is now a 5-megapixel camera with the ability to shoot 1080p HD video plus brings the 5-element lens and f2.4 aperture. This is a similar camera to what was on the iPhone 4 and the iPad mini which should generate better pictures than previous iPads.
Not that it is advisable to use the iPad as your main camera (people do it all the time) but at least you’re guaranteed better photos and more stabilized video should push come to shove. The newer iPad is faster when it comes to editing video or images.
This makes the newest iPad an even more viable portable media editing solution for most consumers who don’t want to carry a notebook and who don’t mind buying all the dongles needed to I/O ports and interfaces into the iPad’s single Lightning port.
That said, the iPad with Retina Display remains as one of the most powerful options in terms of tablets today. The added horsepower, improved cameras and still superb 10-hour battery life are notable differences. Apple managed to maintain pricing on this iPad as well.
We’ve seen the Microsoft Surface and some of the newer Windows RT tablets as well as the latest Android tablets. While some of these will attract certain types of users and others offer unique pen and keyboard based experiences, it remains to be seen if they can take anything away from the latest iPad.
It seems that it is the iPad mini that is the big iPad’s biggest threat, as users realize that the smaller form factor (and more modest price point) may be more attractive for an iPad that can run most of the 275,000 iPad specific apps already in existence. This probably suits Apple just fine at the end of the day. 100 million iPads have been sold in two and a half years, we can safely surmise that Apple will continue its leadership position in the tablet space.
As someone who has been using the iPad 2 and later on the iPad 3 as a notebook alternative (when partnered with the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard), I feel the iPad is creeping ever closer to becoming a truly viable post-PC computer and not just a cool consumption device. The 4th generation iPad with Retina Displays is the best 9.7-inch iPad yet but it isn’t the only iPad option.
Users on a budget can still find refurbished iPad 3’s with great performance and the same Retina Display. The iPad 2 is still for sale and while only available in 16GB is still a better tablet option than what is available in competing platforms. Then, there’s the iPad mini for users who fancy the more compact version of the iPad 2.
The most impressive aspect of the new iPad with Retina Display is how Apple was able to improve performance so dramatically in a matter of months while maintaining the great battery life and not adding any bulk or weight. Will Apple go back to yearly upgrade cycles or should we expect to see two huge iPad releases each year? That really remains to be seen.
As for the newest iPad with Retina Display, it is certainly a sign of great things to come as these features trickle down the line.
Apple's iPad with Retina Display is available now for a suggested retail price of $499 for the 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB model and $699 for the 64GB model. 4G-LTE models start at $629 for the 16GB mode, $729 for the 32GB model and $829 for the 64 GB model.
Rating: 4 out of 5