By Eric Zeman | October 24, 2012 09:06 AM
Apple stunned by announcing a fourth-generation Retina Display iPad along with the iPad Mini. No mere refresh, the iPad 4 sports significantly improved specs.
You know the amazing third-generation iPad with the Retina Display? It's gone. Apple replaced it Tuesday, a little more than six months after launching it, with a significantly updated model.
The iPad 4 uses the same chassis and overall design of its immediate predecessor, but makes a lot of changes under the hood. The Retina Display is the same, the software is the same, and the dimensions/weight are the same.
Looking at the differences, it has an A6X processor, which Apple claims is twice as fast as the outgoing model's A5X chip. The iPad 4 has new Wi-Fi radios, which Apple also claims are twice as fast as the outgoing model's. It supports dual-band 802.11n (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) in addition to 802.11a/b/g. It is compatible with Sprint's LTE network, where the outgoing model was only available for AT&T and Verizon. The iPad 4 loses the 30-pin port for the Lightning port. The FaceTime camera has also been improved.
Pricing for the new iPad 4 is the same as the outgoing iPad, starting at $499 for the 16-GB version. In case you're curious, Apple still sells the iPad 2 (no Retina Display) starting at $399, giving Apple tablets with prices at $329 (new iPad Mini), $399 (iPad 2), and $499 (iPad 4) for the base models. That's not a bad spread to have.
The iPad 4, however, makes choosing between the larger iPad and the iPad Mini even more difficult than it was before. Here are the key points to consider.
Display -- The iPad Mini's display measures 7.9 inches and has 1024 x 768 pixels, giving it a PPI of 163. The iPad 4's display measures 9.7 inches and has 2048 x 1436 pixels and a PPI of 264. That's a significant difference in quality between the two.
Size/Weight -- The iPad Mini measures 7.87 x 5.3 x 0.28 inches and weighs 0.68 pounds. The iPad 4 measures 9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37 inches and weighs 1.44 pounds. Clearly, the iPad Mini will be easier to hold and use with its smaller, thinner, lighter design.
A5 versus A6X -- Without benchmarks or clock speeds it is difficult to compare the performance of the processors, but the fact remains that the iPad Mini uses an older A5 processor and the iPad 4 uses the brand new A6X processor that is twice as fast as the outgoing model's A5X processor.
Pricing -- The pricing is one of the biggest differentiators. The entry-level iPad Mini starts at $329 and the entry-level iPad 4 starts at $499. That $170 is a big gulf, bridged only by the presence of the $399 iPad 2. Spend less money to get the smaller, less-spec-rich iPad or spend more to get the top-of-the-line hardware.
Moot -- Options that are identical between the iPad Mini and iPad 4 include storage options, LTE 4G options, platform/software, Lightning port, and FaceTime/iSight cameras. (Read more about Apple iPad)