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Fourth-generation iPad is faster, stronger, better

Dan Moren | Nov. 9, 2012
The release of the fourth-generation iPad so soon after the third-generation iPad may have come as a surprise to even diehard Apple watchers, but the device itself won't. By now, we all know what an iPad looks like, and the fourth-generation iPad looks nearly identical to a third-generation iPad--which itself looked more or less like the second-generation iPad.

In the story of the new iPad, the main plot point is the device's A6X processor. It's a dual-core chip with quad-core graphics, which, in layman's terms, is a whole lot of cores. The "X" appellation debuted with the third-generation iPad's A5X chip; there, as here, it denotes the addition of the quad-core graphics.

In sheer horsepower, the A6X is no slouch; it clocks in at 1.4GHz, a hefty 40 percent increase over the A5X's 1GHz. Apple advertises the device as having "twice the speed" and "twice the graphics performance" of the A5X. In our benchmark tests, we found this to be pretty accurate. The fourth-generation iPad doubled its predecessor's score in the Geekbench suite, as well as offering impressive performance in graphics benchmarks. Surprisingly, though, it did find itself beaten by a half a second in webpage loading tests to the iPad mini. That's even more impressive given that I found the fourth-generation iPad beat out the third-generation iPad in webpage loading.

In my more anecdotal tests, the fourth-generation iPad took anything I threw at it, up to and including high-performance games, like Real Racing 2 HD, Infinity Blade II, and Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy. All played very well and looked great, though my untutored eyes saw little in the way of difference between the third- and fourth- generation iPads.

I did notice on occasion some stuttering and skipping in the game while playing Real Racing 2 HD via AirPlay, but I experienced the same with the third-generation iPad, leading me to believe it was related to my network rather than the iPad itself. I saw no such issues while playing only on the iPad's display.

Of course, all the current games for the iPad are designed with the third-generation model's specifications in mind, so it's going to be a little while before companies truly start shipping apps that can take advantage of all the horsepower the fourth-generation iPad brings to bear.

Battery life: Fourth-generation iPad

You might think all of this power would take a toll on battery life, but Apple says the fourth-generation iPad's built-in 42.5-watt-hour battery (the same as its predecessor) delivers the same 10-hour life as previous iPads. In our lab's test, the battery didn't perform quite as well as the third-generation iPad's, coming in at 42 minutes shorter, but it did just outlast the iPad mini. In my anecdotal experience, which involves charging the iPad every night, I had no problems at all with my battery life lasting through a day.

When I asked for questions online, some asked if the fourth-generation iPad got unreasonably hot while performing processor-intensive tasks. In my experience, I've certainly found it gets warm, especially while playing games, but I never noticed it becoming uncomfortably hot.


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