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Apple iPad 4 review

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Verdict:

Relaunched as Apple's 10in budget tablet option, you'd have to be on a tight budget to consider the iPad 4 over the iPad Air.

Review Date: 18 Mar 2014

Price when reviewed: £329

Buy it now for: £319
(see more store prices)

Supplier: http://store.apple.com

Reviewed By: David Ludlow

Our Rating 4 stars out of 5

User Rating 4 stars out of 5

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Updated on 18th March 2014: The Apple iPad 4 is now back on sale as a budget option to the iPad Air.

Apple has just announced that the iPad 4, now known as the iPad with Retina Display, will replace the iPad 2 as the company's budget tablet option. Unlike before, the A6X-powered iPad 4 will only have one storage option (16GB), but will still be available in Wi-Fi only and 3G/4G variants (4G only available through EE). It will now cost £329 for the Wi-Fi version and £429 for the cellular version. This is £70 cheaper than either model at their original prices of £399 and £499 respectively.

However, the relaunched iPad 4 is also only £70 less than the current 16GB versions of the superior iPad Air, which come with much quicker A7 chips and are considerably thinner and lighter than their fourth-generation predecessors.

Going back to the iPad 4 now almost feels primitive compared to the slim dimensions of the iPad Air and we're surprised that Apple has stuck with the thicker, chunkier iPad design for so long. The iPad Air is a huge improvement over the iPad 4, and we don't think the price difference of £70 is enough to make the iPad 4 a good value option by comparison.

We'd say that even the latest iPad Mini with Retina Display is better value than the relaunched iPad 4, as this is £10 cheaper and comes with the same A7 chip as the iPad Air. You may be getting a smaller screen with the Retina iPad Mini, but when it's also nearly half the weight the iPad 4, it's far more comfortable to hold in your hands.

If you want a truly budget iPad option, we'd recommend the £249 original iPad Mini over the iPad 4 in a heartbeat.

For a full breakdown of the differences between the iPad Air and the iPad 4, head over to our definitive iPad Air VS iPad 4 article.

ORIGINAL REVIEW

The Apple iPad 4 came as something as a surprise. Everyone was expecting an iPad Mini, but as the new iPad (or iPad 3) had only been out since March, we really weren't expecting a replacement.

There are bound to be people that bought an iPad 3 feeling a little annoyed that a new version of the tablet is out soon. They shouldn't worry. if you've got an iPad 3, you've got nothing to worry about and the iPad 4 isn't worth upgrading to. If you've got an older iPad or want to buy a new tablet, then it's a different story.

LIGHTNING

Comparing the specs for the iPad 3 and the iPad 4, it's clear that this new model is more of a tweak than a brand-new product. It's a tweak that makes a lot of sense, when you look at what Apple's done with its other products. For starters, it means that its product line from the iPhone 5 to the new iPods, including the excellent iPod Touch, all use the same Lightning connector, rather than the old 30-pin Dock connector.

A new connector might seem a bit annoying, but the fact of the matter is that it's a change that needed to happen at some point. The old Dock connector was rather unwieldy and large, whereas Lightning is smaller allowing for thinner designs in the future and the connector can be plugged in either way round. Apple sells Lightning-to-30-pin adaptors, too, so you can easily use all of your old peripherals. On top of that, there's the usual range of add-ons, including a Lightning-to-SD card reader and Lightning-to-USB adaptor.

Apple iPad 4 Lightning
A Lightning connector replaces the old 30-pin connector and brings the iPad into line with the other iOS devices

PROCESSOR

While the iPad 3 used a slightly tweaked version of the Apple A5X processor, with quad-core graphics to handle the tablet's high-resolution screen, the iPad 4 has the brand new Apple A6X processor. This is the same model used in the iPhone 5, although the 1.4GHz model used here also has quad-core graphics. Again, this move makes a lot of sense, as Apple can concentrate on a single processor for its iPad and iPhone lines.

Apple was promising that the A6X processor was double the performance in games and 2D tasks as the old A5X, which is a bold claim. Happily, we're pleased to report that it's completely true. In our tests, we saw the iPad 4 complete the SunSpider JavaScript benchmarks in just 888ms, while the iPad 3 took 1,508ms. Similarly, the BBC News website rendered in 3s on the iPad 4 and 5.6s on the iPad 3.

For graphics we ran GLBench, which showed similar results: 25.6fps on the iPad 3 and 50.7fps on the iPad 4. All of this isn't to say that the iPad 3 is slow, as it isn't, just the iPad 4 is, impressively, even quicker.

As we've come to expect from an Apple product, iOS is incredibly smooth. Every single transition and operation happens incredibly smoothly and there's none of the inherent jerkiness you get with an Android device. Web browsing is an absolute pleasure, with even the most complex sites rendering quickly, while pinching to zoom is incredibly smooth. In terms of day-to-day performance, the iPad is still the tablet to beat.

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