iPad Air vs iPad 4: What's the difference?
Posted on 23 Oct 2013 at 12:28, by Tom Morgan
UPDATE: 23/10 with more information on the wireless and 4G LTE standards
To get all the news and hands-on reviews from the October Apple event, see our Apple October event.[/b]
The iPad Air is official - Apple's latest tablet improves on the previous generation iPad 4 in a number of ways, but are they enough to make it a must-have upgrade? We've compared the headline specifications to work out which you should buy.
With a sleeker, more streamlined design that borrows heavily from the original iPad Mini, the iPad Air is definitely a thing of beauty. The iPad 4 is positively bulky in comparison; the iPad Air is thinner (7.5mm vs 9.4mm), smaller (240x169mm vs 241x185mm) and lighter (469g vs 652g). This is only in part down to the thinner screen bezels, with Apple refining the design to make the most of every last millimetre of internal space.
Both models are available in a choice of Space grey or Silver colours. There will be no Champagne gold edition like their was with the iPhone 5s, but in our opinion that's definitely a good thing.
winner: iPad Air
Apple's push towards Retina displays saw the iPad 4 launch with the same 2,048x1,536 resolution as the iPad 3. With a 264 pixels per inch (ppi) density, it's impossible to see individual pixels from an average viewing distance.
With no need to increase the resolution any further, Apple has stuck with the same sized panel for the iPad Air. It's still a 9.7in panel, with a 2,048x1,536 resolution and 264ppi pixel density, which should look just as good in the new model as it does in the old one, although we'll have to wait until we get our hands on one to see if colour accuracy or contrast ratios have changed.
Apple introduced the A6x processor with the iPad 4 - it was an evolution of the chip found in the iPhone 5, with dual CPU cores but four graphics cores to better render the huge Retina resolution display. It's still a potent combination, even running iOS 7, but there was clearly still room for improvement.
With the iPad Air, Apple has brought the Apple A7 processor from the iPhone 5s. It's a 64-bit processor, paired with the M7 motion coprocessor that doubles CPU performance over the previous generation. It will comfortably run anything the iTunes App store has to offer, including the latest games, at Retina resolutions.
The iPad Air can be configured with either 16GB, 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of internal storage, in either Wi-Fi only or 4G LTE variants. This matches the iPad 4, which also launched with the same choices. However, the iPad Air has dual antenna MIMO Wi-Fi, which may not make it any faster but will improve signal reception over the iPad 4.
winner: iPad Air
The iPad 4 cost £399 when it first launched, firmly putting it at the high-end of tablet market. As Apple tends to keep its prices consistent, it should come as no surprise that the iPad Air will also start at £399 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only model.
Add extra capacity and 4G networking and the price quickly jumps, reaching as high as £739. However, seeing as you get more for your money, we're giving this one to the new model.
winner: iPad Air
WIRELESS AND 4G
Although the iPad Air uses 802.11n (dual-band) rather than the newer 802.11ac standard, Apple has fitted it with a Multiple In Multiple Out (MIMO) system. This helps improve both range and throughput compared to the iPad 4, which uses 802.11n with a single antenna.
In addition, Apple has overhauled LTE support for the iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular version. With the iPad 4, the product didn't support any of the 4G networks in the UK, with 3G the only option. A new chip means that the iPad Air now works with all of the UK networks.
winner: iPad Air
Unlike the iPad Mini, which will continue to be sold even in the wake of the iPad Mini 2's reveal, the iPad 4 has now been discontinued in favour of the iPad Air. That means you won't be able to pick one up from an Apple store once the new model goes on sale, although there are likely to be third-party retailers with stock left for the foreseeable future. The iPad Air doesn't go on sale until the 1st of November, so if you're looking to buy directly from Apple both models are losers (for the time being).
The iPad Air is a significant upgrade to the iPad 4 in terms of looks and performance, but with no change to the display or camera performance, we don't think anyone that bought a tablet in the last year should feel too short-changed. Once the new model goes on sale though, anyone still on the fence should definitely pick the iPad Air over any remaining iPad 4 stock.
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