Apple iPad (Gen-4) Review
The fourth iPad is here, and is a solid contender for any consumer.
The second iteration of the venerable Apple iPad in 2012 was released Nov. 2nd with a juiced-up A6x dual-core CPU (Quad-core GPU), which promises better load times and processing power over the older A5 chip. Taking the reigns from the now-discontinued 3rd generation iPad, the newest model offers very similar performance across the board, but with better guts.
Design & Usability
Sleek design, standard usability options.
If there's a design hallmark of Apple tablets, it's a uniform metal casing with very few obvious features. Really, the thing that draws your eye the most is going to be the screen, and considering that's what you buy a tablet for, it's not all that surprising. Due to the nature of capacitive touchscreens, there is very little need for lots of buttons on the device, and Apple has done away with all but a sleep/wake button and a somewhat vestigial volume rocker.
For those of you that haven't used or owned an iPad before, the first thing you'll notice about holding one is the weight. A bit on the hefty side, the new iPad can cause fatigue over long periods of time, but it could be a lot worse. The edges of the casing are rounded to a degree to fit the crook of your hand without digging into it too much, or putting focused pressure on the softer parts of your palm. Due to the weight, it's difficult to hold with one hand for any extended period of time, so avoid this if possible.
The beautiful thing about the iPad and other tablets with capacitive touchscreens is that 99% of all your interactions with your tablet occur directly through the screen. There are a bunch of gestures that you can perform to control your tablet quickly, and overall, the iPad seems to have the best stable of gestures like pinch to zoom and multi-touch support. One thing to look out for is that the main system controls are not app-agnostic, meaning they change location/aesthetic depending on the app. Sometimes this can get confusing, but for the most part you shouldn't have any problem at all figuring out the main functions of any app.
While most things are the same with the new iPad from its previous iteration (802.11n wireless card, GPS connectivity, Bluetooth 4.0, etc.), Apple did replace the proprietary USB port on the bottom of the tablet with their own Lightning connector, which has caused much consternation among fans, given that the replacement cables are not only expensive, but made in a way that prevents reliable 3rd party knockoffs and peripheral devices made for previous generations of iThings from being usable.
Fantastic screen, great app ecosystem
A screen size of 7.5625 × 5.875 inches and a resolution of 2046 × 1536 nets the Apple iPad (4th Gen.) a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch (PPI), enough to appear like the tablet isn't using a matrix of pixels to display an image—you won't be able to see where one pixel stops and the other begins. Not only does the Apple iPad (4th Gen.)'s resolution put it very close to being a retina display, but it still has the best color performance of any tablet tested so far.
Like other tablets with a huge PPI, the screen resolution is so large that a lot of the content you view may still look like it’s pixelated since it was made with a smaller display resolution in mind. Even though text looks incredible on the iPad, the illustration still has hallmarks of resolution issues because the source material is not optimized for an appropriately-sized resolution. You will run into this problem over and over again until new content is shot in a higher resolution or released in a format that makes the best use of the screen. Currently, video bought from iTunes does not do this, as it is 1920 × 1080, not 2046 × 1536.
The Apple iPad (4th Gen.) seems to manage its power consumption about as well as the previous version of the tablet. Able to read an eBook for 5 hours, 31 minutes, and play video back for 5 hours, 38 minutes, the iPad has middling performance in terms of battery life. All of our tests are run with the backlight cranked as high as it can go, and all wireless and extra services disabled, so you can expect using alternate settings to give you differing results.
A fantastic tablet all-around: it has a great screen, great apps, and great features.
After kicking the tires on the fourth iteration of the iPad, it's easy to see that, although it's an incremental update, the newest iPad is the best one of the bunch. Not only does the new processor make the experience much more rewarding, but the Lightning dock connector saves a bunch of hassle when trying to jam your cable into the tablet.
While the battery tests revealed only a middling performance, if anything bad is to be said about the Apple iPad (4th Gen.), it's going to be about iOS 6, and not necessarily about the unit itself. Maps are terrible, iOS still doesn't have app-agnostic controls, and many parts of the control scheme are now starting to show their age.
Editor's note: iOS now has Google Maps back, and Google has updated their GMail app to be functional across multiple accounts again, though they do not have the whole Google suite of apps/services available.
It should be noted that the iPad is still king in many respects, as not much has changed with the new update: Everything that scored well last time is still fantastic. If it sounds like we're down on this version of the iPad, we're not, but where other manufacturers and developers are innovating quickly, Apple seems to be content in the short term with only incremental updates.
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