The new iPad 4 comes just six months after the release of the third-gen iPad 3. But is it a modest update or a whole new machine?
Update: The iPad 4 has now been replaced by the new, slimline iPad Air. Launched alongside the iPad Mini Retina, the new model is 20% thinner and sports Apple's new A7 processor. The 16GB iPad 2 will continue to be sold.
First up, don’t call it the Apple iPad 4. Even though that's what we're all calling it on the internet, Apple stopped numbering its iPads after the iPad 2, probably to open the way for the naming of the iPad Mini. The official name of the Cupertino brand's latest tablet is Apple iPad with Retina Display.
If it hadn’t, then the last one would have offcially been the iPad 3 (which is what we all called it anyway) and this would have been, well the iPad 3S, perhaps because this is a machine that looks near-identical to the last one, but with a big speed boost built in.
iPad 4: Size and build
Size-wise, this the fourth-generation iPad with retina display is the same as last time – same thickness, height, depth and weight. Nothing has changed visually, either, apart from the charger. If you’re not looking at the bottom edge, this machine is the same as the third-generation tablet.
None of which is a bad thing – the worst you can say about this year’s iPads is that they’re heavier and thicker than last year’s because of the bigger battery required to service the Retina Display. That charging port will be more controversial. It’s small and neat, but it means your old charger or iPad dock is no longer compatible.
This is the Lightning connector that first appeared on the iPhone 5 and is present on the iPad mini, too. There’s nothing wrong with Apple updating its connector when it can do the same job better.
And the new connector goes in either way up (this may sound trivial but you’ll know from trying to connect the old-style cable to an iPod or iPhone in dim light, it almost always seemed to take two goes).
What’s less good is that for your old docks and charging devices that don’t have the new connector, you’ll need an adaptor and that costs £25. Of course, if your dock is AirPlay compatible, there’s no problem.
iPad 4: Screen
The 4th-gen iPad has the same immaculate and beautiful Retina display as the last model. It’s pin-sharp and gleams with every detail. On the other hand, since the iPad Mini arrived with its cute thinner bezel, the frame on the full-sized iPad does look a bit hefty. Who knows, maybe the next iPad will feature a slimmer bezel.
After all, this iPad has the same thumb rejection technology that made that thinner bezel possible, as does the 3rd generation iPad. This is a handy addition as even with a wide frame it’s easy to brush the screen unintentionally.
iPad 4: Features
The latest iPad has faster connectivity – if you opt for the wi-fi and cellular model. Actually, the third-gen iPad had the same 4G connectivity, just not compatible with UK frequencies.
This new model comes with different bands and will work with the new EE 4G LTE connections available in the UK. Note that it won’t work with the other 4G frequencies that the UK will have next year (850MHz and 2.6GHz). Let’s hope the iPad will be updated again by the time those frequencies arrive.
The new iPad has two other internal changes from last time: the CPU and the front-facing camera. We’ll come to the CPU under 'performance'. The front-facing camera is beefed up to 1.2Mp so that you can have better video calls on FaceTime. Picture quality is definitely improved.
iPad 4: Performance
The chip has been upgraded from the A5X of last spring to the A6X here. That means it’s an upgrade from the A6 chip in the iPhone 5 with its graphical capabilities enhanced.
Since the A6 is already faster than the A5X, this means for a decent general speed boost and hugely improved graphics. Well, potentially, as it will take app developers time to come up with games and other apps to make the most of this extra power.
For now this new processor means that apps open fast, web pages build instantly, internet connection permitting. It’s a dual-core 1.4GHz chip which it’s claimed doubles the performance speeds of the third-gen model. It certainly seems much faster than any previous iPad, including the Mini.
iPad 4: Battery
When the first iPad arrived, we were impressed to find it had extensive battery life. You could leave it in a drawer for three weeks and more and it would still have enough charge to get you through a morning. That’s still the case.
However, where the third-generation tablet had battery life unchanged from the iPad 2, the cell here doesn’t last as long. That said, it’s easily enough to get you through a full day when it’s completely charged.
iPad 4: Verdict
The iPad 4 is definitely the best full-size iPad yet, but if you have a third-gen model, you may feel that six months is too soon to upgrade. Perhaps Apple thought the same, so it delivered a gentle rather than a killer upgrade, though the speed improvement over the last model is evident.
If you have an iPad 2 or earlier, there’s no need to hesitate – though remember that there could be another iPad along in the spring. If you want 4G connectivity now, this is a no-brainer.
Overall, though, we’d still have to recommend the iPad mini as the best tablet out there, because it’s lighter, smaller and cheaper. But this has that great Retina display and there are times where bigger is what you need.
iPad 4 release date: Out now
iPad 4 price: £399 (wi-fi, 16GB), £479 (wi-fi, 32GB), £599 (wi-fi 64GB), £499 (wi-fi plus cellular, 16GB), £579 (wi-fi plus cellular, 32GB), £659 (wi-fi plus cellular, 64GB)