IPad 4
Despite boasting twice the storage capacity of the 64 GB iPad, the new 128 GB iPad 4 only costs $100 more than the previous highest-end iPad, starting at $799 for the Wi-Fi-only model. Courtesy/Apple.com

Just seven months after Apple unveiled its third-generation iPad, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer company announced the release of its fourth-generation iPad at its media event at the California Theatre in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.

The new iPad “4” has all the same basic features and specs as the third-generation iPad, but this fourth-generation model is significantly faster than its predecessor in every way. The iPad 4 is essentially an iPad 3 on steroids.

The iPad 3 ran on a dual-core A5X chip to power its brilliant 2048 x 1536 Retina Display, but the “power house” iPad 4 features an all-new A6X chip, which performs twice as well as the A5X chip in almost every way.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior VP of marketing, showed media attendees on Tuesday just how fast the iPad 4 really is. 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. Furthermore, the A6X chip makes the iPad 4 extremely efficient to give tablet owners the typical 10 hours of “all-day” battery life.

If double the chip speed and double the graphics wasn’t enough of an improvement, Apple has also increased the speed at which the tablet connects to Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

Apple gave the fourth-generation iPad a big boost to Wi-Fi -- Schiller said iPad owners will experience “ultrafast” Wi-Fi that doubles the connection speed of the older model -- and for LTE customers, Apple has expanded the number of LTE frequencies supported by the iPad to include carriers in Europe, Australia and even here in the U.S., such as Sprint-Nextel.

The only physical difference iPad 4 owners will notice on the outside is Apple’s new 8-pin Lightning connector, which replaces the traditional 30-pin dock connector. Customers may be irked that they must buy new cables for their iPad accessories, but the new Lightning connector is clearly Apple’s dock choice for the next decade, installing the port into the iPhone 5, iPad Mini and its family of new iPods.

iPad 4: Worth The Upgrade?

Apple is reportedly offering anyone who has purchased an iPad 3 within the last 30 days to switch out their recent purchases with a brand-new iPad 4, but customers who own an iPad, iPad 2 or an iPad 3 from back in March would all have to trade in or sell their old tablets to upgrade.

What customers want to know, however, is whether or not the iPad 4 is actually worth the price of upgrading.

Besides the Lightning connector, the iPad 4 looks and weighs exactly the same as the iPad 3, and it even costs the same, too. Apple sells its cheapest iPad 4 at $499 for 16GB, and its cheapest LTE-supported iPad 4 for $629 for 16GB.

There are no software features unique to the iPad 4, so instead, iPad owners need to decide how important speed is to their daily routines. The iPad 3 is no slouch, but the iPad 4 is an absolute speed demon. With the A6X chip and enhanced Wi-Fi and LTE, Apple has even further separated itself from the lackluster competition in the 10-inch tablet space.

The way to decide whether or not you should upgrade to an iPad 4 is to figure out what you would use the iPad for the most, and how much power you need to get your work done. If you use your iPad for graphics-intensive applications or a lot of video streaming, audio and video editing, music recording or Web surfing, the iPad 4 seems like the clear winner. With newly updated internals, the iPad 4 can easily handle as much as you throw at it.

However, the best way to decide whether or not to upgrade is to visit an Apple Store. Take your iPad along with you and test yours against Apple’s latest iPad. If yours consistently loses in a speed test, and you can’t stand the thought of wasting precious seconds, you may want to shell out the extra cash to buy the latest and greatest tablet. With processing, graphics and wireless connection speeds all doubled, there’s no reason you won’t love this iPad.