Whereas the iPad Mini is a surprisingly original and unexpectedly fresh device, the iPad 4th generation is sort of the opposite.
That's not to say it's bad. It's just that it's virtually identical to the previous generation, except for a few key features - and there is not much here which should leave you wanting to upgrade from a 3rd generation device.
On the basics, the iPad 4 (not the official name but we'll use it for convenience), is outwardly almost identical to the iPad 3. It features the same 2048x1536 pixel, 9.7-inch display, with beautiful colour reproduction and stunning viewing angles. It runs the same version of iOS 6 as updated older iPads, and comes with the same aluminium-back form factor. It still looks great, if a little heavy, basically.
Battery life is still awesome at 10 hours, although it takes a long time to charge (again, as ever). The Facetime HD camera makes video calling look very good, and the 5-megapixel back camera is as solid - and baffling, who's taking photos on their iPad? - as usual.
Price remains the same - starting at £399 for 16GB, with more for higher storage and 3G/4G.
In fact there are only three main upgrades.
First, the iPad 4 is running on a brand new A6X chip, which Apple says is twice as fast as the A6 running in the iPad 3. It's not obvious until you play an intensive 3D game - we had a sneak peak at Real Racing 3 to demonstrate the benefits - but when it's forced into life, it's stunning. Graphics on the new iPad really are equivalent in most respects to those on a current-generation console. It runs games better than almost any Mac ever has. If developers support the boosted capability, it could make a subtle but important difference to some top games in the months ahead.
Secondly, the iPad 4 comes with Apple's new and faster Lightning connector. Much was made of this on the iPhone 5's launch, but now it's pretty much standard and we like the benefits of a smaller, reversible connector. There are also a host of new cables - Lightning to USB, Lightning to SD Card - which work as you'd expect.
Finally the iPad 4 has improved wireless capability. It works on EE's 4G network - so far the UK's only next-generation mobile data connection. It also boasts 802.11n WiFi with download speeds up to 150mb/s - if your network is good enough.
Clearly the iPad 4 is a wonderfully made, market-leading machine that benefits from the best apps in the business. But if you've recently purchased a tablet - especially an iPad - we can't recommend upgrading any time soon. Which is fine - Apple isn't making a big play for new users here (that's down to the mini). And it's ahead of schedule, Apple usually announcing new iPads in February/March.
So in a vacuum, it's a five-star product. Anyone buying an iPad for the first time is in for a treat. But still, it's a bit disappointing. Like having a birthday right after Christmas. You want to eat cake, but you're full of turkey. Burp.
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