iPad 4 Review: Untapped Power Under the Hood

The iPad 4 is a worthy upgrade to the iPad 3, but have we tapped into all of its potential? Not in the least. Is it still a workhorse tablet that sets the standard? Absolutely. Should you run out and grab one? Well that depends. In this iPad 4 review, I think you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve had the weekend plus a couple days to use the 4th Generation iPad (aka iPad 4) and I can absolutely say that using it is a faster, smoother, and cooler (temperature wise) than my 3rd Generation iPad (aka iPad 3). My old iPad 3 is waiting patiently to be erased and be turned into my wife’s iPad, so I’ve been using the iPad 4 exclusively since I unboxed it on Friday (with the exception of reviews etc).

You all know by now that in every aspect, with the exception of the lightning connector, the iPad 3 and iPad 4 look the same on the outside (okay I noticed that the size my iPad 4—32 GB—wasn’t on the back like it is on the iPad 3), it’s what’s under the hood that is the big difference.

Here is a video of my review of the iPad 4 (think of it as a hands-on overview):

iPad 3: A5X, iPad 4: A6X. And that jump isn’t just processor oomph, it’s graphics power too (of course there are few apps that are taking advantage it).

iPad 3 Geekbench


iPad 4 geek bench


Can you tell the difference?

I think it’s safe to say that unlike the iPhone 4 to iPhone 5 or 1st Generation iPad to following ones, you can’t tell the difference between the iPad 3 and the iPad 4…until you look at the bottom with the lightning connector:

Just like people and books it’s what’s on the inside that counts for the iPad 4.

Faster pussycat! Load! Load!

Today I spent time doing a bunch of things on the iPad 3 and iPad 4, same things, both tablets, just to see the differences. Here’s what I did:

  • Played Real Racing 2 HD
  • Played Infinity Blade II (badly)
  • Edited photos in iPhoto
  • Played Smart instruments in GarageBand
  • Edited a video clip in iMovie
  • Surfed a bit in Safari
  • Doodled in Paper

Not a lot of tasks, because I already had a good sense of things from making the switch and reviewing the iPad mini on Sunday, but I wanted to have a few things fresh in my head for comparison. Bottom line: all apps load and respond more quickly and are “more fun” to use. I found iPhoto particularly awesome on the iPad 4 (compared to a little sluggish on the iPad mini). Photos opened, enhanced more quickly, and edits were nearly instant. Compared to editing photos on my agin MacBook Pro and my iPad 4, I’d pick the iPad 99% of the time.

Game play, as expected, was smooth and responsive. Faster, better graphics? Not yet. The apps aren’t tapping into that, yet but getting into playing the games is faster.

Bottom line: Yes the iPad 4 is noticeably faster than the iPad 3 and blows older models out of the water, but we don’t have apps that can really test the iPad 4’s limits.

It’s all cool baby

One of the complaints or comments about how warm it got after you’ve been using it for a while, never “ouch” warm but certainly enough to warm a cold pair of hands. After putting the iPad 4 through its paces (iPhoto, games, iMovie) it didn’t seem that much warmer, certainly not as warm as my iPad 3 got during the same tests today.

Buying Advice

This is what it’s going to come down to isn’t it? Should you buy the iPad 4 when the iPad mini is getting everyone’s gleeful attention?

  • If you have a 1st Generation iPad or iPad 2, the iPad 4 is a great upgrade, but…just look at the mini first to see if that catches your eye.
  • If you have an iPad 3, and you’re happy with it, I’d hold off until a) there are apps that can really take advantage of the A6X or b) spring when Apple could announce another iPad refresh.

Does the iPad 4 appeal to you? Are you waiting for the next thing? Chime in…