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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.

So, what if you're upgrading from a previous version of the iPad? For owners of the original iPad or the iPad 2, I think the fourth-generation iPad offers a pretty compelling package. Not only do you get a quite substantial performance increase (and, in the case of the original iPad, the ability to run iOS 6), but you also pick up a Retina display, improvements to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and--optionally--LTE. That's an improvement across-the-board.

Of course, if the 9.7-inch screen size of the fourth-generation iPad is a turn-off, the iPad mini is a solid upgrade from either of the first two iPad models as well. While I think size is the primary reason to choose the 7.9-inch mini over the 9.7-inch fourth-generation (or vice versa), the major differentiation right now is that the fourth-generation has a Retina display. When it comes to text, especially, that's a meaningful differentiation between the two.

In horsepower, the fourth-generation is significantly higher powered than the mini, but in the same way that folks--myself included--have chosen a less powerful MacBook Air over the heavier MacBook Pro, I don't think that's necessarily going to be the major distinction for many.

Finally, what about the third-generation iPad users among us? As an owner of a third-generation iPad, I can't honestly see much of a reason to upgrade. The performance improvements are nice, no question, but I didn't run into any apps that were overtaxing the third-generation model and really required the fourth-generation iPad. If developers start building apps--and especially games--that take advantage of all the power the fourth-generation iPad has to offer, that equation might change. But right now, there's no rush unless you need to have the latest and greatest, or you want to move your household over to Lightning-only.

Bottom line

Given that the fourth-generation model surfaced just six months after the third-generation, it makes sense that this iteration is a more modest improvement on its predecessor.

Yes, the fourth-generation iPad may have been overshadowed by the announcement of its svelte new sibling, but that's no reason to look down your nose at the more zaftig model. It may look more or less identical to the third-generation model, but make no mistake, it's the most powerful iPad yet, and a harbinger of things to come. Simply put, the fourth-generation iPad is a case of Apple putting its best iPad forward.


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