Apple iPad '4' Review Round-Up: New Features Worth The Price, But iPad '3' Owners Need Not Apply, Critics Say

  @redletterdave on November 01 2012 11:42 AM

Apple didn't wait very long to make its iPad '3' obsolete. Just seven months after Apple unveiled its third-generation iPad in March, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer company announced the release of its fourth-generation iPad on Oct. 23 at its media event in San Jose, Calif., which also saw the unveiling of a new 8-inch iPad Mini, among other devices.

The new iPad “4” has all the same basic features and specs as the third-generation iPad -- the only real aesthetic difference is to the bottom of the iPad, which now features the 8-pin Lightning connector instead of the traditional 30-pin dock connector -- but this fourth-generation model is significantly faster than its predecessor in every way. The iPad 4 is essentially an iPad 3 on steroids.

Thanks to the A6X chip, the iPad 4 has double the chip speed and graphics performance of its predecessor, and the new custom-built Apple chip also powers enhanced features in the new tablet, including picture stabilization and face detection when snapping photos or shooting videos. The iPad 4 also features "ultra-fast" Wi-Fi  that doubles the connection speed of the iPad 3, and for LTE customers, Apple has also expanded the number of LTE frequencies supported by the iPad to include more carriers in Europe, Australia, and even here in the US, including Sprint-Nextel.

But even with all these new features, is the iPad 4 worth buying over the cheaper and more portable iPad Mini? Or perhaps the better question is, should iPad 3 owners consider reselling their tablets to upgrade to this speedy new tablet?

We at IBTimes haven't been able to procure a new iPad 4 to compare against the iPad 3, but a number of other critics and reviewers have. Here's what they had to say.

David Pierce, The Verge (9.3 out of 10):

"The fourth-generation iPad is the very definition of an iterative change: Apple made important things better, but neither overhauled nor revolutionized anything. If the iPad's history is any indication, the fourth-generation iPad's advantages over the third-gen model will be most apparent two years from now, when apps are designed for the better processor and the Lightning connector has spawned a much larger universe of accessories. Then you'll want the extra power and the adapter-free lifestyle.

"For now, if you're within your return window you should probably swap for the newest iPad, but if not? Rest assured you're not really missing that much. Not yet, at least."

Tim Stevens, Engadget:

"At the time, the third-gen iPad was the fastest we'd tested. The new iPad skips directly past its predecessor's Ludicrous speed and goes directly to Plaid. Where the last iPad scored 720 on the Geekbench benchmark, the new iPad blows that out of the water with a 1,763 average score. GLBenchmark's 2.5 Egypt HD test ran through at 42 fps. The SunSpider JavaScript benchmark completes in an average of 865ms, more than twice as fast as the last iPad and both these benchmark scores best even the iPhone 5, which, for a short time, was Apple's fastest mobile device.

"This is all thanks to the new A6X, a retooled and more efficient version of the A6 processor running in the iPhone 5. Here, it's clocked up to 1.39GHz from the 1.05GHz in the phone version, both having 1GB of RAM. In case you were wondering, yes, it still got quite warm when running through the gamut of tests. We don't consider this to be a concern by any means, but if you found the toasty nature of the third-gen iPad distasteful, you're likely to encounter the same heat here.

"Twice as fast, better battery life, same cost. What more do we need to say? The new iPad is a hit on all fronts -- but it of course won't be received that way by all. Those who just made the investment in an old, new iPad are likely going to feel a bit burned, and we feel for you. Meanwhile, those still voicing their dissatisfaction with the Lightning connector will surely lament its presence here, but to you folks we say the world is moving on and now is as good a time as any to jump on board."

Scott Stein, CNET (4.5 Stars out of 5):

"Should owners of the now "old" third-gen March 2012 iPad be upset? Should new buyers be wary? The answer to the first is yes. The answer to the second is no. The new iPad (technically just known as "iPad" at the Apple Store) has a few upgrades, two minor, one significantly major. A Lightning connector replaces the old 30-pin, just like all other new iOS devices this fall. And while the rear iSight camera remains the same (5 megapixels), the front-facing FaceTime camera has been upgraded to HD status: 720p video recording and sharper self-portraits. The LTE versions of the new iPad also work with a wider range of international carriers.

"Biggest of all is the new processor lurking beneath: an A6X processor, replacing the third-gen's A5X. The previous iPad was no slouch in the performance department, but as we remarked when we reviewed the iPad in March, its speed gains weren't such a huge quantum leap compared with what we got from the iPad 2.

"The A6X speeds up the iPad back to levels you'd expect, and it handles Retina Display graphics even better. This is the iPad 3S, so to speak. Considering that the iPad still has the same price as before, starting at $499 for 16GB, it's an even better buy than it was seven months ago.

"You may be concerned to buy this iPad: could Apple surprise us with more frequent updates instead of yearly cycles? I think that's unlikely. Plus, the important point is that this iPad is the best one. It's polished. It's improved over the third-gen model. If you were on the fence about buying one before, now's the time to go ahead and do it. And it's still a better product than the iPad Mini...this year, at least."

Vincent Nguyen, Slashgear:

"Day to day, there’s not a significant difference in usability. By its third generation, the iPad was already smooth and showed little in the way of lag, and that same polish is evident here on the A6X powered model. There isn’t the obvious swell in performance that we’ve seen before in, say, stepping from the first-gen iPad to the second, however.

"One place you do get a useful boost is in the browser. We turned to the SunSpider test of JavaScript performance, and were mighty impressed by the iPad 4th-gen’s score of 879.2ms (faster is better); that’s near desktop browser level (286.1ms on MacBoook Pro 13” Retina core i5), and a significant leap ahead of the iPad 3rd-gen’s score of 1,688.9ms.

"The third-generation iPad arguably didn’t need refreshing; in fact, if Apple hadn’t opted to change to Lightning, it could realistically have held off changing its largest tablet until early 2013, as per its typical yearly refresh cycle. That makes for a reasonably straightforward upgrade decision if you’re a 3rd-gen iPad owner. Unless you’re desperate for Lightning – perhaps you’ve also got an iPhone 5, and want to use all the same accessories rather than buy the adapter dongle – then we’re yet to see apps that really demand the potent A6X chipset.

"On the other hand, it widens the distance between the iPad 2 – which remains on sale as the “budget” full-sized iPad – and the iPad with Retina display. Tomorrow’s battle is the decision between the speed and glorious graphics of the iPad with Retina display, or the portability and convenience of the iPad mini. The incredible, high-resolution screen was already enough to justify the $100 premium over the iPad 2 to our mind; the future-proofing of the speed increase (and the new iPad mini, undercutting the iPad 2 by $70) is simply the coup de grâce."

What do you think of these reviews? Do you plan on buying a tablet this holiday season, and if so, will you buy an iPad 4, an iPad Mini, or perhaps another tablet (maybe Google's new Nexus 10)? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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