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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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SCREEN

We're pleased to say that the screen is the same 9.7in model, with its huge 2,048x1,536 resolution, used on the iPad 3. This was far ahead of the competition when it was first unveiled, although the Google Nexus 10 now has a slightly higher resolution 2,560x1,600 screen. While Google's tablet might have more pixels, the iPad 4's screen is still a thing of beauty.

Its 264ppi is what Apple terms Retina: you can't see the individual pixels. Technically speaking, then, there's no point in having more resolution on a screen this size, as you wouldn't see the difference. Besides, when you're talking about resolutions far in advance of Full HD, the differences become less and less meaningful.

Apple iPad 4 front
It's no longer the highest-resolution tablet display, but it's still one of the best quality

What is important, that as well as having a high resolution, the IPS panel used is of the highest quality. Excellent colour saturation and contrast really brings images to life. Viewing angles are superb, so it's clear to see no matter how you're holding the tablet. That high pixel density has another advantage: even the smallest text looks incredibly sharp and easy to read.

So, the iPad 4 may not have the highest resolution tablet screen, but it still has a very high-resolution display and its quality is still the best.

iOS 6

One of the reasons that the iPad is so smooth to use is because of iOS 6. It may lack the Widgets of Android or Live Tiles of Windows, but what it gives you is slick interaction and a smoother interface than on any other device. We also love the multi-touch interactions that mean you can use it without so much as touching an onscreen button: pinch with your hand to go back to the home screen and slide up with four fingers to get the task switcher.

IOS 6 has several important updates in it, including Siri for iPads and iCloud Tabs in Safari, where you can view what websites you have open on your other iOS and OS X devices. Photo Streams has also been updated and we like the way that you can share Photo Streams with people on iOS 6 devices or, for everyone else, via a public website.

Apple Maps is still a big disappointment, though. It struggles to find some locations, jumps to businesses rather than towns and some of the satellite photography is quite bad. We'd have much preferred Google Maps. That said, on a tablet of this size, it's arguably less of an issue, as you're unlikely to carry around a 9.7in device for navigation and the Wi-Fi iPad doesn't even have GPS - you have to buy the Cellular version for that. There's also no Passbook - Apple's app for handling loyalty and discount cards, and tickets - on the iPad, but as this is arguably much more useful on a phone, it's not a problem.

Apple iPad 4 Maps
Apple Maps isn't as good as Google Maps, but it's arguably less of an issue on a tablet

When it comes to Apps, the iPad is still way ahead of the competition in terms of breadth of applications, with support from big companies. There's also more applications specifically written for tablets in Apple's store. The competition may be catching up, but Apple's still the leader.

UPDATE: iOS 6.1

New to all iOS devices is iOS 6.1, which is a free automatic update that can be downloaded over a wireless connection. While iOS 6.1 fixes some bugs in the previous OS, its main improvement is to add new 4G networks for the Wi-Fi + Cellular version of the product.

In order to ensure its customers get the best performance and service, Apple controls which LTE networks its 4G devices can connect to. The new updated expands that number, but not if you live in the UK, where the only supported network is Everything Everywhere. That's to be expected, as EE is, at the time of writing, the only 4G network in the UK.

With 4G services from other operators coming later this year, though, we'd expect a new update from Apple to support the new networks. We'd expect that update to come shortly after the launch of the services. Until then, if you want 4G on your iPad, the only choice is to buy one with an EE contract. You can see which LTE networks the iPad supports by keeping an eye on the Apple iPad LTE page.

BATTERY LIFE

The only area where we saw a slight decrease was in battery life in our video playback test. On the iPad 3 we saw just over 11h of playback at 50 per cent screen brightness; on the iPad 4, at the same brightness setting, the battery lasted for 9h 54m. Considering the faster processor, this slight decrease in our tests is actually impressive and the iPad still stands up well against the competition.

WIRELESS

Apple has overhauled the wireless chips inside the iPad, adding dual-band 802.11n, just as it did on the iPhone 5. Given the increasing number of routers that support 5GHz wireless, with its faster speeds and less interference, it's good to see another device that supports this technology.

For the Cellular version, Apple has updated the chip so that it will work with 4G networks in the UK, with support for Everything Everywhere already announced. While the iPad 3 had 4G as an option, it didn't work on the correct frequencies for the UK.

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